Saåad – Deep/Float (Hands In The Dark, 2014)

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Where to even begin; French duo Saåad have been a big part of my music consumption for the last couple of years, cranking out thick, heady and emotionally charged noisy drone ambient music tinged with field recordings. Over the years they’ve slowly been refining this cathartic sound, filled with grumbling bass drones and wailing vocals, to the point where they’re now sufficiently pleased with their work to finally release their first full length record on vinyl in Deep/Float.

And so we’re back in business once more with opener “Valley Of Quartz”, sweeping away the preceding silence with a deep drone thrum, a blaring but restrained wall of sound that not only does away with the darkness but feels like the darkness itself, mingling with soft pulses of noise and crushed synth fiddlings in the distant backfield. We’re very much stuck at the bottom of this chasm, these two sheer columns of rock rising darkly at our sides, a sliver of delicate light floating in through the slim crack at the surface giving us just the faintest amount of hope. It sustains this for some time, seemingly endless in its construction, but it does have a limit and that impenetrable drone bows out to make way seamlessly for “Alone In The Light”. Its namesake is only illusory, however, as the track still retains much of the crushing darkness of the opener in its growing drone fugue, slowly and calmly obliterating the sparse opening textures of metallic tinkling. But there is a metamorphosis in the sound, deceptively slow as it is, that transforms this menacing dull roar into something altogether more placid, a slight softening and edge rounding that adds a certain extra-dimension of emotional complexity to it.

“Giant Mouth” opens to echoic breaths and the scrabble of loose stones tumbling, the sharp and crisp juxtaposed against the ethereal as we’re silhouetted, poised at the mouth of this cavern. This is our escape, our breakthrough moment where we can start to leave behind those darker and oppressive moments behind us and crawl out into the sunlight once more, and as we catch those precious first few rays the track warms up exponentially, a crescendo of multiplying, euphoric synth drones finally breaking free of their restraints. There’s still a distant roar, like an eternal scream of happiness propagating through the background fabric of the track, reverbing and smushed and internalised, hidden away. But this elation is short lived as we’re reminded of our shortcomings and self-loathing once again in the truly stunning “I Will Always Disappoint You”, a track I scarcely know how to describe. It rises like a melancholic wave of sound, the ruinous drone of the opener returning  to centre stage  to be accompanied by aggressive and fragmentary guitar, the whole thing reverbed and empty, alone in a dark bubble of thought that just becomes increasingly sparse and more desperate, the core of the problem slowly coming into view. A piercing note cuts through the mix to signal the onset of the sonic abandonment and we’re left with nothing more than an echoic silence, filled with menacing sounds of unknown origin, thunderous in the silence but not unlike the much needed reorganisation of furniture, settings things right.

Pre-release single “New Helicon” is waiting on the other side of the chaos and misery, a new start waiting to begin. It’s light to begin with, but with a definite coolness and anxiety to the shimmering, oscillating tones that warble endlessly, but they get swept up in the surge of fresh guitar drone that carries the heart of the track along. a lush and curious sound that’s every bit as gentle as it is big and bold. There’s something totally indescribable about the quality of this track, its attitude and emotional presence, it’s hard to pin down. It’s like the early precursory flames of a larger fire, that of the all-to-soon closer “After Love”. I’m over it, Saåad seem to say with this piece, as we open the thick and dusty curtains to the world again after our period of reflection. Sunlight streams in on musty waves of luxurious and relieved guitar drone and faint, thankful voices in what is perhaps the best album closer of the year thus far, a gentle giant of a track that simply paralyses you in its gorgeous catharsis and sumptuously complex layers, now fully recharged and ready to open the door back to reality as the track spins out in an emptying, rising silence.

I realise I possibly say this about every release of theirs but Saåad really have pulled something out of the bag with this one. There’s a clear starkness, loneliness and alienation to the record, the sound of a man/woman fighting their way out of a depressive fugue and making their way back to normality, but it’s not harsh or forced, it’s dangerously relatable and utterly consuming in its simple struggle. The drones and the listener fuse into one body in a state of transcendental empathy, looking out with their own eyes but in with another. It’s a wholly original and organic album that will stir even the most heartless music listener. A must listen.

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