By Zachary Swickey
“Wow” was the first thing that came to mind upon my first listening to The White Sea’s debut five-song EP. It is clear the work has been meticulously crafted with sweeping soundscapes that will swallow you whole. The schizophrenic nature of the wide-ranging pop sound is a large part of its appeal. One moment you will be dancing and shouting along to “Ladykiller” (which is killer indeed), and you’ll be grinning along to the bouncing charm of “Overdrawn” the very next. But who is White Sea?
White Sea is the Alaska-born Morgan Kibby, who lists cheese, wine and analog synths as some of her favorite things and even used to have the rad job of restoring art. On her blog, she muses on the things that inspire her and truly connects with fans on a creative level, often providing short anecdotes and updates. Kibby’s lovely and mesmerizing voice works magically with her classically trained piano skills. She grew up on classical music and jazz compositions before she was exposed to other genres, particularly hip-hop, which further illustrates the wide range of her musical taste.
Eventually, Kibby landed a gig providing vocals for movie trailer songs that appeared on “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” and M. Night Shyamalan’s “Lady in the Water.”
Kibby truly made a name for herself when she collaborated with French electronica genius Anthony Gonzalez, known better in the music world as M83. The pair met when a French director friend of Kibby’s was set to work with Gonzalez on a film and made sure to introduce her musically-inclined friend to the famous musician. They hit it off and before Kibby knew it, she was working with an artist that she considered herself a fan of. Kibby soon provided her angelic vocals and piano/keyboard skills on several tracks off M83’s critically acclaimed ’08 album, Saturdays = Youth. She stepped into an even more collaborative role when the band hit the road, but upon the completion of the tour, Kibby needed something to keep her busy. Enter White Sea.
Deriving her moniker from her own name – in Welsh, Morgan means “White Sea dweller” – Kibby taught herself Pro Tools and how to produce her own songs. While she grew up on classical music, working with Gonzalez carried her toward the synth sounds of shoegaze and electronica music. She then enlisted some musicians to help flesh out her sound: Ray Suen, who is known to bang a gong with the Flaming Lips and has worked with the likes of the Killers and Mariachi El Bronx, and Jonathan Bates, who has done guitar work for M83 on tour in addition to his own projects, Mellowdrone and Big Black Delta. Other friends, Amy Wood and Jonathan Leahy of The Broken Remotes, tend to help in live settings as well.
Kibby’s hard work paid off with the release of her EP, This Frontier, on October 10 of last year. All five songs have a different appeal and sound, but are grounded together by the defining production style that Kibby already seems to have nailed down. She’s also a fan of doing remixes – her “reinvention” of Solid Gold’s “Synchronize” is a completely different, ethereal take on the song. We still have yet to hear a full length album from White Sea, and with M83’s new release imminent, it seems like we might have to wait a little longer. In the meantime, we’ll be enjoying White Sea’s delicate beauty “Mountaineer” on repeat.