After a long winter here, it's easy to be skeptical that there are places on Earth that aren't dismal and dreary as Cleveland, but listening to Savath & Savalas suggests otherwise. Apropa't, the group's new album, hits like a long, slow sea breeze, bringing the sun, sand, and Corona with it.
S&S began as a side project for Atlanta expatriate Scott Herren, known more for his work as Prefuse 73. Herren handled the beats and most of the live instrumentation on the first S&S release, Folk Songs for Train, Trees, and Honey, though he pulled in Tortoise alum John Herndon for help with the drumming and Barcelona native Eva Puyuelo Muns for her Catalan singing. With Apropa't, S&S has become a working partnership between Herren and Muns, and the two have recruited bassist Josh Abrams, trumpeter Dave Max Crawford, and clarinet/flugelhorn/harmonica player Paul Mertens to round out the live sound.
Herren conjures a slow-burning pulse with each track on Apropa't, patching together a frayed and frazzled collage of grainy samples that pulls listeners further into a hypnotic rhythm. Listening becomes like breathing, with each inhalation warming the soul a little more and each exhalation clearing out the mental detritus of everyday life. Muns sings at the level of a whisper, calling to mind the understated simplicity of Brazilian jazz legends. Just when the record hits a point of ultimate relaxation, however, a careful listen reveals that there is more than just sun, sand, and psychedelia contained within. There is also desolation, sadness, and an indecipherable sense of mystery. When the effortless rhythms recede and Muns's vocal mantra stops, they leave droning, jagged waves of gray noise, mournful harmonica riffs, and wistful piano lines in their wake. It's hard to decide whether it will be a blessing or a curse to hear Herren and Muns attempt to re-create this duality at the Beachland. If they succeed, it certainly won't do much to bolster the spirit of spring we're all struggling to grasp.