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Photay is Evan Shornstein, an electronic musician from Woodstock, New York who balances analog and digital recordings in a broader mix of organic and synthetic sounds. His acclaimed full-length debut, Onism, appeared in 2017 and featured an appearance by Madison McFerrin. Waking Hours, a mix of art-pop and dance music, followed in 2020, and Photay also produced ambient works such as the 2021 Carlos Niño collaboration An Offering. Shornstein additonally collaborates with Sam O.B. as Ensemble Entendu, and is part of the international collective WEMA, along with Msafiri Zawose and members of Penya. First inspired by exposure to the music of Aphex Twin at an early age, over time he took up the drums, turntablism, music composition, and experiments with field recordings and sampling. The project emerged from a trip to Guinea, West Africa to study African drumming that resulted in the self-released Photay. The six-track EP was given vinyl and expanded digital releases in 2014 by the Brooklyn-based Astro Nautico label as Shornstein was finishing a degree in music composition at Purchase College. His Sadie EP followed in March 2016. Inspired by the interplay of nature and technology in a time of climate change and social media addiction, Photay's official full-length debut, Onism, arrived in the summer of 2017 on Astro Nautico. Self-recorded in Brooklyn and Woodstock, it featured vocal performances by Madison McFerrin ("Outré Lux") and, in a rare appearance, Shornstein himself ("Aura"). The following year, he issued Onism: Remixed, featuring reinterpretations by Hubie Davison, Sam O.B., Phil Moffa, Yonsei, and more. Whereas Onism was recorded in the rural parts of upstate New York, his follow-up album, 2020's Waking Hours, saw Shornstein recording in the city; this was reflected in the album's themes of constant productivity as opposed to switching off and contemplating life at a slower pace. The following year saw the vinyl release of On Hold, a collection of songs derived from call-waiting music that was originally issued online the year prior to raise funds for New York City Food Bank. An Offering, an ambient collaboration with Carlos Niño, was issued as a limited cassette in October of 2021, then was given a proper release by International Anthem a year later. Also appearing in 2022 was the self-titled effort by WEMA, a remote-recording collective featuring Shornstein as well as Tanzanian musician Msafiri Zawose and London-based Afro-Latin dance group Penya.
© Marcy Donelson /TiVo
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