Elena Setién (US)

Multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Elena Setién uses her sweeping vocal range and delicate arrangements to create a universe where dream worlds converge with reality. Her compositions, grounded by her remarkable voice and her guitar or piano, ripple with textures and thoughtful details. Setién’s masterfully allegorical songs are both emotionally immediate and provoking. A musician’s musician, Setién has drawn collaborators from far and wide, from her improvisational duo Little Red Suitcase to more recent collaborations with Steve GunnMary Lattimore, and fellow Basque musicians Xabier Erkizia and Grande Days. For Moonlit Reveries, a hallucinatory promenade of mood and rhythm, Setién is joined by renowned drummer/percussionist Glenn Kotche of Wilco.

At the core of Moonlit Reveries is the inspiration that Setién and Kotche found in one another. The two met while Kotche was touring Spain with Wilco, Kotche having been a fan of Setién’s 2022 album Unfamiliar Minds. Immediately the two started discussing collaboration which Setién began by using a series of unique drum patterns from Kotche’s “A Beat A Week” series as the basis for tracks like “Surfacing” and “Asking”. Kotche then sent in fresh drum takes for select pieces that embellished the frameworks set by Setién. Though not every piece features his drumming, his presence on the album invigorated Setién’s desire to delve further into rhythm as an avenue of expression, incorporating more Latin-influenced rhythmic architecture to her music than there previously has been. Says Setién, “Funnily enough, I, being a Spanish artist, sought inspiration in the rhythms of a Chicago drummer to reach something with a Latin feel to it. A somehow surrealistic way to get there.” The songs of Moonlit Reveries also make use of more guitar than Setién previously had ever explored, which Setién traces back to Steve Gunn introducing her to the music of Bridget St. John“What fascinated me right from the beginning, was the calmness in her voice and her low register. Her music inspired me to try to write songs with a guitar rather than a keyboard: there’s more space for the voice and the sound qualities of both voice and guitar kind of melt into each other.”

Moonlit Reveries is an embrace of wonder, an ode to the alluring beauty, and glow of dream states. For Setién, dreams are to be appreciated, “I remember my dreams very often and they are part of my everyday life, as much as other everyday things.” The compositions are speckled with ethereal embellishments, from ghostly harpsichords to cavernous echoes to reverberating kalimba. Like the frosts of winter melting away, the darker textures of her previous albums give way to flashes of brightness. The twinkle of “Coloured Lizards” lilts with its delicate breeziness. Title track “Moonlit Reveries” revels in a playful mystique, Setién’s words carried by the wind across the night’s sky. For the gentle “Hard Heart” and the waltzing “Strange,” Setién kept things relatively unembellished, valuing the potency of their simplicity. “Mothers” captures the hopeful embrace of parenthood, letting go, and the cycle of life; it was written in the wake of Low’s Mimi Parker’s premature death. A mother and artist herself, Setién was deeply saddened by the loss while drawing strength from what Parker accomplished in her short time.

The winner of several Basque music awards, Elena Setién’s beautiful voice, creative arrangements, and both improvisational and compositional experience make for sophisticated songs with singular textural approaches. Her otherworldly sounds are perfectly complemented by Kotche’s light and agile syncopations throughout. Shading her parables with impressionistic hues, Elena Setién’s Moonlit Reveries is a touching embrace of the mysterious, a sparkling revelry of light dancing across a horizon, lifting the darkness from above.

No shows booked at the moment.

Label: Thrill Jockey

Available: Feb 2025 with Black Duck

Territories: GAS