Atlanta’s Suno Deko crafts wide-eyed, loop-based experimental pop

PASSAGE TO INDIA: “Vigorous sweetness” is a pretty good descriptor for the tunes on Suno Deko’s debut EP, Thrown Color. Soaring arrangements are elegantly paired with stream-of-consciousness reflections on large-scale questions of wonder and awe. The project of Atlanta-based musician David Courtright takes its name from two Hindi words. Photo courtesy of the musician

Even a fleeting experience with the music of Suno Deko will inevitably be a pleasant experience. The shimmering, experimental-pop project of Atlanta-based musician David Courtright takes the stage at The Mothlight on Sunday, Nov. 9. Building his songs primarily on intertwining, gently cascading electric guitar lines and sinewy vocal parts in the vein of Ben Bridwell or Wayne Coyne, Courtright strikes just the right balance between chugging momentum and tranquil majesty as his melodies gracefully unwind over the course of the song.

There’s a beautiful simplicity and peacefulness to the sound, something which pairs nicely with the spiritual lyrical themes that his moniker suggests. “The name came from when I was living in India in 2009 working for an Indian artist,” Courtright says. “The words ‘suno’ and ‘deko’ were thrown around a lot, and since I didn’t really speak Hindi, I assumed they were words of endearment since they were said with a particular vigorous sweetness. Turns out people were just telling each other to listen or look at something, but the sound of the words together stuck with me for some reason.”

“Vigorous sweetness” is a pretty good descriptor for the tunes on Suno Deko’s debut EP, Thrown Color. Soaring arrangements are elegantly paired with stream-of-consciousness reflections on large-scale experiences of wonder and awe. Even at just four songs, it is an expansive, wide-screen work that lives up to the epic proportion of Coutright’s vision. (The video for Thrown Color also references another tradition from India: Holi, a spring festival, during which participants throw colored powder and water.)

Translating these ambitious compositions to a live setting can tricky, however. As one of the increasing number of solo acts to use extensive looping to create a full-band sound on the fly, Courtright must perform a difficult balancing act. At best there’s a magical quality to this approach as the musician meticulously crafts the layers of an arrangement in real time; at worst, the process seems interminable and unoriginal.

This challenge, he says, is precisely why he loves it. “I wanted to construct songs that had to exist inside a particular structure,” Courtright says. “In a way, this is constrictive, and in another way, giving yourself limitations can actually be motivating, since you have a framework within which to work.”

The musician also takes pains to reproduce these songs without the help of laptops or sampling, something that he believes helps stave off deleterious effects of the looping approach. “I think it makes the live show more engaging, which can be difficult for a solo performer,” Courtright says. “Or maybe people are just waiting around for the song to really get going, I don’t know.” It’s unlikely many would be unmoved by these elegant constructions, particularly given the mesmerizing serenity and sense of spirituality that the compositions convey.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Courtright has been recording his music in a family cabin in rural north Georgia, another fittingly evocative connection. He hopes to have a full-length out by this spring, possibly featuring some of the material from the EP. “There’s a lot of exciting maybes in my future,” Courtright says. “I’m excited about where things are going.”

WHO: Suno Deko with Divine Circles, Elisa Faires and Alligator Indian
WHERE: The Mothlight, themothlight.com
WHEN: Sunday, Nov. 9, 9 p.m. $5

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About Kyle Petersen
Kyle is a Columbia, South Carolina-based freelance music writer and graduate student at the University of South Carolina. He's also in a sincere, long-term love affair with the city of Asheville. You can follow him on Twitter at @kpetersen.

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