In Greek mythology, it was the Greek priestess Pythia who served as the Oracle to Apollo and overseer to Delphi — a holy sanctuary. In order to channel the word of the god Apollo, a goat must be sacrificed and Pythia would bathe in the Castalian Spring before being lowered into a chamber far beneath the temple, where she would inhale a variety of herbs and leaves. It was then that Pythia would enter a trance where the truth would reveal itself to her and she, in turn, would share Apollo's word with the people.
Although Pythia is said to have served as an oracle during the 8th century, Detroit synthwave duo Torus Eyes (Gwendolyn Dot and Rho Solomon) turned to Pythia for their debut EP, Pythia, set for release at UFO Factory Oct. 17. Self-described as an "homage to a divinity based on intuition and chance," their debut effort is not unlike Pythia's trance, as Torus Eyes hopes to lure personal enlightenment through their brand of soaring, atmospheric electropop.
"I think we both know that what we're saying could affect someone, just as some darker or get more depressing music can really get you down," Solomon says. "We just understand the power of lyrics. So our idea is to not form any negative thoughts in the person, in the audience, or in the listener."
Dot agrees, adding they aren't interested in "talking about very depressive or complain-y things." Instead, she aims to be a vessel of encouragement when making art. "I think that's something else that I want to do with my art is to be a great grounding support for something, someone, some place, however it affects the earth, the world, but in an uplifting, realistic, and spiritually existential sort of way."
She also believes in making music that is a bit jarring. This is where her and Solomon's musical identities overlap.
Dot, a nurse, hails from a small town in southern Illinois and moved to Detroit earlier this year. Solomon, a Downriver native and Detroit resident, serves as a sound engineer at the Fillmore. Both grew up making music, and studying through listening. Both were in choir. Dot has played piano since the age of 7 and found herself manning the marimba in high school band, whereas Solomon cut his teeth in Greece and Europe, where he studied music in middle and high school, learning guitar, and, later, bass and drums. He says returning to the States and picking up where he left off musically was like "relearning a translation of a translation," because of how different music theory is between here and Europe. But, as he says, it taught him that there's "no end to learning," which has been of great benefit to Torus Eyes.
The two first met when Dot performed at Hybrid Moments, where Solomon was in attendance and hands-on in engineering her live sound. Shortly after, Dot revealed that she was working on a record and Solomon expressed interest in helping her mix and master at his studio. Their working relationship budded over emailed samples, demos, and poems, which would become the source material for the four songs on Pythia.
"So, we kind of became each other's collaborators, and then we just faced it and we're like, yeah, like this is working out great. And we both are helping each other with our creations," Solomon says. "I felt she understood my music and what I was going for. And also helped in being kind of critical. Like, 'Maybe that's too simple' or 'Maybe you could develop this more.'"
For Dot, it was a new experience to let someone into her process.
"I had never collaborated musically on my own work with anybody before, so that was a huge learning experience for me," she says. "And then I knew I needed someone who could very consistently help me mix my work. Cause I had more than one track ... and I wasn't sure if [Rho] was going to come through, but I really enjoyed meeting him. We had a great conversation.
"The great thing about working with Rho on mixing is that I would come up and I would be there with him. I was making electronic music as we're doing now and with electronic music, for me to not be there, it would be not done how I wanted it. So for me to be there, he was a great listener, took all of my feedback and listened to me. I've never experienced something like that before."
The experience Pythia takes the listener on is a 22-minute swelling and ethereal soundscape through space and time and calls to mind the sensation of beginning something new and unfamiliar, but comforting all the same. Not quite a dream state, though not fully awake, Torus Eyes accomplishes the equivalent of a pulsing torch amid traveling a dark and uncertain terrain. The opening track, "Mist of Serenity," feels every bit a call to a higher power to reveal itself, and on "Ancestors," Solomon begs repeatedly "Where are you now?" as if to conjure past lives and those who lived them.
"We also have been very interested in reading and practicing Buddhism in a way," Solomon says. "And a lot of these different spiritual traditions just use similar language for a lot of things, and we might want to separate them, but everyone talks about the same thing. All of these projections of these spiritual beings are kind of like manifestations and realities that exist in us. And so I feel like the source material and what we are singing about and the kind of immersive nature is what we're trying to portray. We also really want to do our part in terms of feminine power."
For Torus Eyes, though seasoned in their own right, may be taking it one step at a time (they're bringing Pythia on a mini-tour following their release show), they wouldn't mind manifesting a life where Dot and Solomon could commit to summoning their inner goddesses on the reg. But it'll take time.
"I mean, in my mind it's like only Beyonce can not have a day job," Dot jokes. "So I don't know the threshold, but maybe we'll get there."
Torus Eyes album release begins at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 17 at UFO Factory; 2110 Trumbull St., Detroit; facebook.com/ufofactorydetroit. Tickets are $7.
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