Savath & Savalas

Apropa't (Warp)

Shuffling between pseudonyms like Delarosa and Asora (currently retired), Prefuse 73 (most popular), and Savath & Savalas (now receiving the lion's share of recognition), Scott Herren has created a steady string of productions ranging from digitally flecked folk to frayed hip-hop. Yet he has simultaneously seemed to suffer from an identity crisis in the process. In the past, too, he has battled against being labeled as someone with a distinct agenda. Many critics, for example, mistakenly asserted that the stuttered vocal flow of his Prefuse 73 material was a rebellion against the convention(s) of rhythmic verse, a deliberate commentary on contemporary rap's loss of stylistic continuity, when in fact it was simply a fresh spin on instrumental hip-hop beats. The arrival of Savath & Savalas's Apropa't will not be without proclamations of Herren's supposed intentions, since his latest production appears to originate from a specific cultural perspective.

To begin with, Apropa't, Herren's first Savath & Savalas project since 2000's Folk Songs for Trains, Trees and Honey, results from a relocation to Barcelona, where Herren moved in 2002 in order to explore his family heritage. It is also a collaborative effort between him and Catalan singer Eva Puyuelo Muns, blending several elements -- Herren's musical idiosyncrasies, Muns's wispy vocals -- into a singular piece of art.

The overriding mood of Apropa't is of introspective twilight. It is an album imbued with reflections cast when day turns to night, when there is something to think back on and even more to look forward to. It embodies saudade, a semi-nebulous Portuguese concept of nostalgic homesickness, a feeling born of sailors reunited with missing loved ones. It incorporates these emotions while echoing its inspirations: tropicalia, the Brazilian psychedelia of the Seventies, and untouched castellano/Afro-Cuban folk music.

Eschewing Warp Records' penchant for exactingly austere electronics, Apropa't is a 40-minute concept cycle, leaving human "error" intact in a recording made with copious amounts of air. Sounds emanating from harmonium and harp spliced with serene unfolding analogues provide ethno-ambience. Within the gently reverberating steel-stringed web of multilayered guitars, accidents become artifacts of Herren and Muns's work, with only subtle processing incorporated by multi-instrumentalist John Herndon in postproduction. There is a discreet brush of beats, gentle as the soft sweep of a lover's hair under one's nose, seductive. Apropa't is a haunting work gracefully exercising and exorcising identity issues, in the process making Herren's artistic identity stronger than ever.

 
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