Sarah Schonert’s new album Penguin Party has a sort of celestial steampunk vibe, if that’s a thing. The classically trained singer, songwriter and muti-instrumentalist combines electronic beats and synths with analog piano playing and her polished, operatic voice to create something definitely unique in indie music and electro pop, and with her skill level and high-quality execution, the indie scene may just have its next Kate Bush or Tori Amos on its hands.
The Bush/Amos comparison is easy to make when it comes to vocals, as Schonert has a pitch-perfect voice and could have easily sung opera. Her piano skills are also polished and technically almost perfect but Schonert has chosen a different route on which to take her training and skills. While the sounds and melodies she writes for her voice are quite often operatic or classical in nature, in their composition they have unconventional stops, starts and syncopation. It’s not all classical vocally, either. On songs like “Queen of Panels” Schonert indulges in some more raspy, rock-driven tones which will be a surprise for her classical audience.
The way each song on Penguin Party is somposed is also of a classical nature, with each part having its own tunes, tones and rhythms. This includes the electronic elements, though those vary drastically throughout the album and within some songs. Some have EDM beat structures to them, such as “Tree With Feet” and the afore-mentioned “Queen of Panels” but others use electronic instruments to more classical or even pop ends, such as in the title track. Still others are just completely wacky, more of an experimental bent. It’s clear Schonert enjoys playing with different types of electronic production equipment, as she uses wave synths and older equipment to create some of the interjected, phrase-ending sounds on tracks like “Glacier Drive” and “Get Thee to A Nunnery.” It stands to reason that Schonert would use multiple methods to create her electronic sounds. She’s a classical multi-instrumentalist; she’d used to the idea that different sounds come from different contraptions.
The overall sound of Penguin Party is tough to categorize, but with an artist like her that’s half the fun. Penguin Party is part EDM, part experimental, all very interesting and all extremely well-done. Schonert is one to watch on a number of fronts, including by EDM producers.