Faster Than Sound: Sanctifying Saliyah

The electronic producer focuses inward on a striking sophomore EP


Saliyah (Photo by León Ozuna / Courtesy of Saliyah)

As emerging electronic experimentalist Saliyah, Austin's Tommy Jammer wants to rebrand the word "selfish."

"I thought about myself and the things I needed, and this EP really reflects that devotional process," says the Dallas-raised trans musician. "I literally felt like I was being reborn, coming out of this 21-year repression."

Sanctification arrives Dec. 4, the final Bandcamp day of the year, via exploratory local imprint Growth in Decay. Following February bow Intuit, Friday's release surveys an immersive range of styles with natural ease. Meshing Oneohtrix Point Never's urgency and Kelela's alt R&B, "Crush" proclaims its elevation: "I live in a better place now/ You live in my dreams."

After a tumultuous period of couch surfing, Jammer found stable housing just before the pandemic's onset, during which all of Sanctification manifested. A bedroom allowed a stockpile of synth hardware to underpin driving soundscapes. Meanwhile, its creator navigated hormone replacement therapy.

Support from trans housemates and coffee shop co-workers helped the multi-instrumentalist begin taking testosterone – a goal since around age 12.

"It's really nice to go through it together, because it's such an isolating experience, especially during quarantine," adds the producer. "It's like your mind is in one place, and you're waiting for your body and physical image to catch up. I'm finally feeling a lot more comfortable with myself."

Jammer enjoys hearing changes throughout the longing, ethereal vocals of "Sleep," begun earlier this year and completed after a DM from Growth in Decay founder James Harcrow, who accelerated the project.

"I can't really sing that song anymore, which is funny because it's my lead single," explains the lighthearted vocalist. "You can tell some songs were made more recently, because my voice is deeper. I'm a very sentimental person, so it's beautiful to create musical memories of different chapters of my life, like a journal."

After studying classical guitar and attending punk shows while at Austin's McCallum High, Jammer entered the electroverse at Elysium and Cheer Up Charlies Nite School. The first show as Saliyah occurred at the latter residency, with encouragement from Somatic label co-runner Michael Cockrell (Deep Cross), who released the act's debut. Performing Intuit pushed the soloist into brighter techno and house spaces for new work.

"I was playing shows, and people were really into it, but there was no movement," they recall. "It wasn't what I was envisioning for my future self, so I was like, 'I just want to make fun stuff.'"

Try "Connected" for six minutes of inviting bass and dizzying echo. Dance floors closed, Saliyah practices DJ'ing at home in the living room. More recently, a Halloween mix appeared on Instagram along with a new selfie.

"It was definitely nerve-racking, because I've changed so much, but I've been accepted with open arms," Jammer enthuses. "At least within my friend circles, everyone's taken this time to really think about themselves. I wanted to tap into that with Sanctification and create a way for people to feel comforted."


Angel Bat Dawid & Sistazz of tha Nitty Gritty perform Friday at this weekend's virtual Interference Fest.

Interference Fest: Women Making Noise

Over a decade in Austin, curator Tara Bhattacharya has constantly invited performance and sound artists from around the globe. Not until recent years did she realize most were men. That launched Interference Fest: Women Making Noise in 2019, named after works by Italian electronic pioneer Teresa Rampazzi.

The multidisciplinary festival takes place virtually this weekend, Friday through Sunday.

"I want this festival to be a resource to encourage women and people of color to be as creative as they want to be," says Bhattacharya, raised in London by Bengali parents. "I really, truly believe in encouragement and optimism. Experimental music shouldn't be exclusive. I don't think anything should be a secret."

Tickets, $10 daily, are available on the Antumbrae Intermedia Events + Installations Eventbrite. The unhindered festival promises sound, video, poetry, and performance swirled into a lengthy lineup full of gems. Nightly headliners reflect Bhattacharya's eye for career creatives untapped by Austin audiences.

Friday, Chicago artist Angel Bat Dawid brings spiritual jazz with her new trio, Sistazz of Tha Nitty Gritty. Saturday, Russian-born UT multimedia professor Yuliya Lanina explores trauma through animation and movement – now with an added Zoom dimension. Sunday, Amanda Gutiérrez and Norman W. Long stream from Chicago, where they promote awareness of urban communities and gentrification through "Soundwalks." Rescheduled from a canceled April date at the permanently shuttered North Door, Interference Fest mixes prerecorded and live content as supported by the Austin Cultural Arts Division.

"I'm used to dealing with physical spaces, not cyberspace, so it's going to be a trip," adds the organizer. "I've never been one for perfection, so I don't mind if someone's cat wanders in. It's all human. We're all disembodied, but all the feelings are there."

Texas acts fill out the bill, like Houston free jazz artist Sonia Flores and local Thor & Friends composer Sarah La Puerta. Austin post-punks Chronophage continue irresistibly energetic earworms from last week's second album, Th'pig'kiss'd. Local Jana Horn brings reliable folk mysteries from September debut Optimism. Look also for psychedelic ATX trio Suspirians with collaborator Raquel Bell (Galecstasy).

In addition to primetime fare, daytime programming stretches outside sonics. Saturday works in film selections co-curated by Ukrainian avant-documentarian Anna Kipervaser, who Bhattacharya met during past work with the Experimental Response Cinema collective. Sunday focuses on self-care, with yoga from Chronophage bassist Sarah Beames and massage with Suspirians drummer Lisa Cameron.

"Care, consideration, and concern – those are the three words in my head for this festival," states Bhattacharya. "I want to give people a space where they can see themselves and connect. We'll all look at each other like, 'Are you okay?'"


Black Pumas performing at Mosaic Sound Collective in October. (Photo by David Brendan Hall)

Crosstalk

Black Pumas landed three Grammy nominations Nov. 24, following a run for Best New Artist last year. The deluxe edition of their eponymous debut LP contends for Album of the Year, while "Colors" is up for Record of the Year and American Roots Performance. In her fourth Grammy nod, Ruthie Foster joins the Contemporary Blues Album category for Live at the Paramount. Other local affiliates include banjoist Danny Barnes and Wimberley native Sarah Jarosz.

Black Austin Musicians Collective launches with goals of "growing community, developing professional sustainability, and building political power for Black people in Austin's music industry." As presented by Mobley at a past Music Commission meeting, the organization hosts an online census to assess the needs of Black musicians and link work opportunities. Follow @blkatxmusicians on Twitter and Spotify for monthly playlists.

Red River Cultural District accepts applications for Banding Together ATX until Dec. 18. The fund awards H-E-B gift cards for up to $100 to local creative, music, and service industry workers. Previous recipients are also eligible for this round of aid; visit redriverculturaldistrict.org.

The Fiesta Gardens Complex, home of the Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival, held its first community open house on renovations last month. Architects Clayton Korte oversee rehabilitation of the 54-year-old facility, including updates to the lagoon-facing grandstand risers. Construction likely won't begin until 2022.

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