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Album Review

Increasingly an outlet for the acoustic (mostly), downtempo side of indie über-producer Scott Herren, Savath & Savalas debuted in 2000 with an album for Symbiotic that was composed of softly processed guitar and textured effects. His second S&S record, released by electronic-dance mainstay Warp (courtesy of Herren's contract as Prefuse 73), is definitely a work from the same pen. As such, it will come as a surprise to fans of the usual Warp releases as well as those who know only Herren's Prefuse work: beefy breakbeats served up perfectly sliced-and-diced as though a robot DJ Q-Bert was manning the decks. Decamped to a new home in the electronic hotbed of Barcelona, Herren met Catalan singer/songwriter Eva Puyuelo. The two meshed over a love for the abstract melancholia of the Iberian diaspora — from Spanish folk song to Brazilian psychedelia to Afro-Cuban jazz — and recorded by themselves 14 songs utilizing guitar, concertina, bajo sexto, and harmonium. Herren then brought the tapes to John McEntire's Soma Studio in Chicago, where Apropa't was mixed and added to by a small group including Herren compatriot John Herndon on drums. Listeners who expect a batch of immediately compelling music from any Herren material will be sorely disappointed here; Apropa't pulls way back from his upfront Prefuse work and delivers a record of music so sparsely textured it barely raises off the surface. The soft strumming and whispered vocals of Puyuelo or Herren only occasionally make an impression, and Puyuelo's songs are insubstantial, nearly weightless. A song like "A La Nit" reveals so little of its original creators; in fact, it sounds as though it's entirely a product of the Soma Studios. (Perhaps a reel was misplaced and one of Stereolab's warm-up jams circa Dots and Loops was accidentally substituted for Herren's song?) Fortunately, Apropa't isn't entirely inconsequential. The second half reveals a lot of interesting work, music that successfully evokes the plaintive sadness of its sources — a beguiling interpretation of Brasil '66 under cloudy skies, reminiscent of brooding baroque soul from the Beach Boys to the Five Stairsteps to Milton Nascimento. (S&S even cover "Um Girassol da Cor de Seu Cabelo" from the Brazilian landmark Clube da Esquina featuring Nascimento and Lô Borges.)


Formed: 1998

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Started in 1998, Savath & Savalas was created as a way for left-field producer Scott Herren (best known for his work as Prefuse 73) to explore his more instrumental and acoustic tendencies. His first full-length, Folk Songs for Trains, Trees and Honey, an experimental, glitchy affair, came out in 2000, followed by the EP Rolls and Waves in 2002 and the much folkier Apropa't -- which featured vocals from Catalan singer Eva Puyuelo, who Herren met when spending time in Spain -- in 2004. In 2007 Golden...
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Apropa't, Savath & Savalas
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