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You Are a Wave

by Briana Marela

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You are a bird that dives. You are a branch that breaks. You are a wave. You are a seam that rips. You are my anger in a rage. You are my voice raised. You are the earth that quakes. You are the dogs that bark all night. You are a morning call. You are the language I can’t speak. You are every pair of eyes. You are the dust on my shoes. You are every ripe fruit. You are the granadilla I took. You are my fixed zipper. You are the hurtful things I say. You are the family I barely know. You are the love for my friend. You are a blanket spread. You are a bowl of ripe strawberries. You are with us. You are missing. You are the stain on the floor. You are gone. You are missing. You are a missing phone. You are here with us. You’re not here. You are the locks that got changed. You are with us. You are missing. You are gone. You are here with us. You are not here. You are with us.
Another sunset, another view outside my window. I had so much more I’d planned to do, and so did you. Your heart couldn’t hold all the love you built. So many dreams are just dreams that won’t come true. Life is so unfair, but we must pursue. I want to live my life for you but I don’t know how to. I’m so scared in a world without you there. I don’t want it to be true. Everything is so unsure except the end of something. I want your trees to grow, I want the seeds you’ve sown to see tomorrow. It’s all out of my control. The uncertainty and the unknown. We can never know, we can never know, we can never know We can never know the uncertainty in the unknown.
Ascendant 01:42
Self 02:12
Oh good, this could be compost. So many fresh fallen leaves. Are you doing okay? Someone’s been biting you. Your roots look strong and deep, Not like mine, I’m still new here. I just want to help. I try to listen as best as I can. Their voices are so quiet.
Arc 05:58
Eclipse 05:12


released September 9, 2022

Composed and Performed by Briana Marela Lizárraga
Recorded and Mixed by Briana Marela Lizárraga
Mastered by Maxwell Citron
Album Art & Photo by Joel Skavdahl
Photo Edit by Nathan Kosta

Dedicated in memory to Juan Alberto Lizárraga Gutierrez

Thanks to Asenath Lizárraga, Daniel Lizárraga, Linda Erickson, Joel Skavdahl, Don Johnson, Maxwell Citron, Alex Somers, Andrew Hall, Michelle Moeller, Wesley Powell, Mitch Stahlmann, Michele Seippel, Chari Glogovac-Smith, Sam Regan, Tony Gennaro, Donggnuk Kim, Eclipse Quartet, Zeena Parkins, Laetitia Sonami, John Bischoff, and James Fei.

Uncertainty and the Unknown features samples recorded by Michele Seippel, Chari Glogovac-Smith and Sam Regan
In The Garden is an excerpt of a piece originally composed with Mitch Stahlmann
Eclipse features playing by the Eclipse Quartet
Two Colors features playing by Tony Gennaro on vibraphone, and Donggnuk Kim on violin

You Are a Wave isn’t the album Briana Marela thought she would make. Born from her time at Mills College and written in the wake of her father’s passing in April 2020, it is a statement of artistic rebirth, a reignition of her creative spirit, and a meditation in the face of profound grief and devastating loss.

After releasing 2017’s Call It Love on Jagjaguwar, Marela took time away from the world of indie music, relocating to Oakland to pursue her MFA.

In her own words: “My time at Mills was really special, and I think taking time away from the indie music world and getting dropped from my label for being commercially unsuccessful was ultimately the biggest blessing ever. I feel reconnected to my artistic practice in a way that I was starting to drift away from. I learned to not be so afraid to fail, and to take risks creatively.”

With a focus on her ever-gorgeous voice and the original Buchla 100 system that Pauline Oliveros brought from Don Buchla’s house that still lives at Mills’ Center for Contemporary Music (then known as the Tape Music Center) today. Marela’s new songs, pieces, and sound collages are equal parts sad, playful, and curious–a document of Marela’s growth in one of the darkest times in her life.

In April 2020, at the height of COVID restrictions, Marela’s father passed away suddenly in his home country of Peru. She and her family were unable to visit for over a year, separated by closed borders, and it took two trips over the course of 19 months to transfer and bury his body and find any closure in the wake of his death.

In the years that followed, these songs helped Briana process what had happened and let light in when she needed it most as she weathered a New York winter and time in her home state of Washington before her return to Oakland in early 2022.

The album opens with its title track, which takes its lyrics directly from the words she wrote in the depths of her grief. Over a minimal Buchla recording, she imagines him through the mundane and the magical, slowly revealing the state of her reality:

You are a bird that dives.
You are a branch that breaks.
You are a wave.
You are a seam that rips…. You are missing.
You are gone.
You are here with us.
You are not here.
You are with us.

Just one week after her father’s death, she wrote the lyrics to “Uncertainty and the Unknown:”

Another sunset, another view outside my window
I had so much more I’d planned to do, and so did you

Marela constructed the song using samples of homemade instruments by herself and Mills peers Chari Glogovac-Smith, Michele Seippel, and Sam Regan (who collectively released an album of these sounds as Background Noise Ensemble on Full Spectrum Records). Building from objects as simple as rubber bands and egg cartons, Marela crafts a collage that bubbles and springs to life, a new vision informed by the indie pop she wrote years ago.

“In the Garden,” excerpted from a live performance and collaboration with Mitch Stahlmann at Mills College, is almost an ASMR experience. Performed by two vocalists whispering into wireless headsets while rummaging around a literal garden, its lyrics are spoken by a caretaker as they tend to plants and try to nurture a fragile system. Through her words, Marela reveals that like these growing plants, she too is new to this place and finding her own way in the world. “Your roots look strong and deep, not like mine. I’m still new here.”

These songs are rich with sound, full of fascinating sonic details, and, more than ever before, a showcase for Marela’s unique voice as a composer. Working with the Buchla, Max/MSP, and manipulations of ensemble recordings by Mills’ Eclipse Quartet, she builds a universe from out of synths and systems she wasn’t able to access before, whether it’s the sequencer patches that animate “Turquoise and Amethyst” or the analog tape edits that turn “Eclipse” into a sonic labyrinth from its first Shepard tone.

Across all of You Are a Wave, Marela’s compositions are fluid, in motion, and bursting with life–a celebration of the act of creating and the power, joy, and freedom that comes with it. In many ways, it looks back to her first release, 2010’s Water Ocean Lake. “That album felt like a window into a certain period of time. This album too feels like a window into both the joy I experienced at school and the sorrow of unexpected grief.”

Words by Andrew Hall and Briana Marela.


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Briana Marela Oakland, California

Briana Marela is a Peruvian American mixed race composer/artist raised in Seattle, WA. Her music varies from experimental electronic and ambient to lyrically forward pop music.


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