Spotlight

Psychic Dancehall

“Coupling an ultra-San Diegan scuzz with bygone ’70s West Coast romanticism, Psychic Dancehall’s take on reverberant, semi-retrograde noise pop is drenched in a holed-up/tucked-away love that Serge Gainsbourg might dig.” – Altered Zones

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Psychic Dancehall is not a rock band. They are not two people who set out to make music for people to hear. Psychic Dancehall is a look into the lives of two people making sense of the world they inhabit—sharing the dark and seedy world they live in with a sonic honesty and emotion that can only be expressed through whispered lyrics; slow, smooth drum beats; pulsing keyboards and the back and forth of a man and a woman in love.

With every relationship comes the creation of a brand new world. Be it the physical space you inhabit, the little jokes only the two of you understand, or your favorite places to go because they are completely yours, relationships rely and are built on the creation of space. When Dorian Wartime and Sylvia Innocent met in 2006, they “immediately fell insanely in love,” says Wartime. Years later the two took an apartment in a run-down section of San Diego and set about creating their world together. Little did they know that fate and the weather would conspire to make their world not only unbelievably romantic, but also worth sharing.

Their apartment was adjacent to a drag bar where Sylvia and Dorian would go every night to take in the world. January of 2010, when they moved to San Diego, was the rainiest period for the city in history, and so their mobility was limited. Trapped in their little house all day, venturing down to the drag bar, as well as to the Red Wing, the lesbian bar down the street, was really their only escape. The two felt welcomed and safe by the communities there, felt excited meeting interesting characters and relating the vignettes of their nocturnal adventures back to one another when they went home.

These experiences transformed into songs when Dorian and Sylvia would go home at night. Both being musicians, communicating by tinkering away with samples and keyboards was the most natural way to share their moments together and make them into something whole. “A Love that Kills,” a slightly sinister toe tapper with a Serge Gainsbourg twinge and a reverb-heavy, breathy chorus, was written after a trip to Lips, a drag club on a street that Wartime describes as “dirty and prostitute ridden.” The girls at Lips had performed a show sharing its name with the song, about a serial murderer who would beat her victims to death with a dildo. Like all the tracks on the “Dreamers,” “A Love That Kills” is a play between dark and light. Both Sylvia and Dorian have wonderful voices, but the crack and hiss of whispers and breaths reminds the listener that these are two people together, and that there are sweet parts and there are the darker parts of exploring both the world together, and exploring one another.

Sometimes other people have to be included in on the journey, as well. “White City” was born from a fortunate mistake. The couple’s next-door neighbor Lexus, a transexual that they knew from the local lesbian bar, was locked out of her apartment one night, and came over while waiting to get her keys. Lexus was famous for her karaoke skill, and together the three wrote the song’s hook.

The music is timelessly emotional, akin to the experimentation of Arthur Russell or Scott Walker, and like those artists, Psychic Dancehall could have come from any era, year, or decade. It’s music that translates feeling into sound, takes away the particulars of experience so that you can maybe make a little sense of the many parts of life.