8. Dolphin Midwives (29.5 points)
SOUNDS LIKE: Mystical meditations from the digital underworld.
NOTABLE VOTES: Variform Gallery owner Patricia Wolf, Amenta Abioto.
Sage Fisher is aware of how you may feel about her moniker, Dolphin Midwives. In fact, she welcomes any unease it might conjure.
"I feel like the name 'Dolphin Midwives' makes people uncomfortable," the harpist says of her experimental solo project. "Sometimes I wish I would've gone a more classic route, but I like that it's both flowy and also super visceral and grotesque."
That same balance of delicacy and intensity is reflected in her music. Fisher weaves together ethereal harp, reverb-drenched vocal manipulations and fractured electronic noise. Breaking the stereotype of pretty, classical songs plucked in concert halls, Fisher unleashes her darkly ambient creations in intimate lounges and indie clubs.
"I've always been put in a box of being this small, delicate, fairy girl playing the harp," she says. "I'm not against that, but I also have other dimensions and want to be able to say something else with my music. I like the idea of challenging expectations and experimenting with sound."
Though she's been experimenting for the past decade, the harp wasn't her original musical weapon of choice. Under the pseudonym Nadine Mooney, Fisher strummed what she describes as "weirdo folk songs" on the guitar while going to art school. However, something never quite resonated until she got her fingers on a harp.
"I was like, 'Oh, this is what I've been trying to do with the guitar,'" she says. "So I took my life savings and bought my first harp."
While traditional harp lessons created Dolphin Midwives' sonic skeletal structure, the heart of her music took shape while exploring harmonic scales, abstract time signatures and island-influenced rhythms from playing with Hawaiian drum circles. Her first solo album, Orchid Milk, released in 2016, reflects the multiplicity of her influences. Intense electronic loops and serene harp melodies form an interplay between quiet traditionalism and bold experimentation.
Liminal Garden, her introspective follow-up, came out at the top of this year. What she had intended to be a softer, more classic-sounding harp album, manifested into a similar fusion of both light, poetic soundscapes and murky digital obscurities.
"[My music] is a response to all the aspects of myself," she says. "I realized that the real challenge, and the real experiment, is finding how deep I can go."
NEXT SHOW: July 19 at Beacon Sound.