Photay is the solo musical endeavor of Evan Shornstein, a 23-year-old hailing from the lush and peaceful evergreen valley of Woodstock, NY.
Having been introduced to Aphex Twin at the tender age of 9, he quickly began to embrace music in all of its forms. This early inspiration provided a foundation for his musical growth in drumming, turntablism and eventually composition. Drawing on a wide range of global influences, he dove headfirst into the world of audio experimentation, initially through mixes recorded using his turntables, and later on through the use of digital audio software.
After an eye-opening trip to Guinea, West Africa, Photay was born. Combining his newly acquired knowledge of polyrhythmic percussion and years of experimenting with sampling and field recordings, he went on to create and self-release his first project under the alias. Seamlessly combining a variety of audio sources and techniques, Photay’s sound is a balancing act of analog and digital, of natural and synthetic. It is not designed exclusively for headphones nor the dancefloor, but is genuinely at home in both contexts.
Shornstein established himself as Photay while still an undergraduate at SUNY Purchase with his thunderous eponymous introduction to the world of music, 2014’s Photay EP on Astro Nautico. The music’s genuine emotional depth, unexpected sample flips and wild acoustic fictioning instantly caught the ear of tastemakers internationally from Gilles Peterson, Mary Anne Hobbes, and Mister Saturday Night to SBTRKT and Bonobo. Shornstein’s popularity skyrocketed as his music featured on Comedy Central (Broad City)and FX (Man Seeking Woman), Daedelus’s TEDx talk, and elsewhere. Shornstein himself took off, chasing opportunities to play in Hawaii, Austin, North Carolina, Vancouver, and the West Coast on a tour that included Decibel Festival and Low End Theory. Between shows, he spent a summer living in New York City for the first time and took a road trip across months traversing the American West.
Shornstein’s latest offering reflects a spirit of adventurousness cultivated during this important period. Inspiration came especially from times spent around big sound systems, when he could best appreciate the nuances of crowd dynamics and bass weight as a performer and an audience member, as well as the silences between these moments. Sadie’s four songs are each a narrative in itself, with intense low end pressure and respirations of absent sound forming syncopations that alternate like lights out the window of a moving highway. In this dance of forms, a human creative voice is constant, even in the most machinic passages. On lead single, ‘Monday,’ Shornstein sings on the record for the first time, betraying his confidence as both as a singer and an artist.