Sorry For Your Loss, the debut album of the ‘occult electronic dance music’ duo A Place Both Wonderful And Strange, is like an eerie journey into a dark forest; it’s terrifying, yet beautiful, and you can only arrowope you’ll make it out alive. This duality in Niabi Aquena and Russ Marshalek’s music perfectly fits the duo’s Twin Peaks references. “Pedestal” prominently features longing vocals and mysterious whispers provided by Niabi, while the sounds of wind and static surround her. The song’s theme is echoed in the last track, “blue is like drowning and drowning is like this.” “DONT,” however, shrugs off beauty and is straightforwardly creepy, with a taunting, sinister voice and an accompanying music video that shows religious fervor in a darker light.
Though they have a lot of upcoming projects in 2016, Niabi and Russ took the time to talk to us about the occult, their love for dogs, and how they started their duo (you’ll find a stream for Sorry For Your Loss at the bottom of the page).
AudioFemme: How did you two meet?
Niabi: We’d begun the dialogue of wanting to work together after he booked my solo project for a Tori Amos covers night of her album “Under the Pink.” I covered “Icicle” and Russ covered “The Waitress.” We both gravitated, as individuals, to a more beat-orientated, abstract version of our covers, so when he asked if I’d be interested in joining him, it felt quite natural and logical.
Russ: When I moved to New York I was throwing shoegaze parties, and Niabi, ever the shoegaze aficionado, would come out. When my former band played our second 92Y Tribeca gig and were asked to curate a night of moody, Lynchian music, we booked Niabi’s solo project and she got a great response. We tossed around the idea of making music together for a long, long time, but we finally started poking away at it at the end of last year. The energy just felt right so we figured we should at least nail down the tunes we had made together.
AF: Where are you from originally?
Niabi: I’m from the Shenandoah Valley, in Virginia. We’re talking very rural here. I grew up on a dirt road and my address was a route number. We heated our home with a wood stove; my mother being the one, as a single parent, to chop the wood. There was no cable, no internet. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything though. I feel very lucky and grateful to have the upbringing that I did.
Russ: Atlanta, Georgia. I miss it at times. I sometimes wonder if I’d tried harder down there if I could’ve had the successes I’ve had in New York. Sometimes I fantasize about taking my band and my dog and my fiancee and running away back south.
AF: You call your music a “raw, visceral mess.” Can you expand more on this? How does it affect your art, and life in general?
Niabi: After playing in a bunch of bands, including my solo project, I got so tired of striving for perfection. I felt real dismay, not feeling like I could be more playful and experiment without major judgement from others and myself. So now working with Russ in APBWAS, it’s wild and I don’t really know how it happened, but I feel so free to be myself and be experimental without fear of failure. If something doesn’t stick, it’s okay, and when it does – holy hell how neat. So everything has gotten a lot more raw and a lot more natural,