We last encountered French duo Saåad on Sustained Layers, a collaboration with like-minded artists EUS and Postdrome. We’ve since had the pleasure of reviewing the latter artist’s solo album, and now it’s Saåad’s turn. Confluences is a commissioned work first presented in front of the St. Michel fountain, which honors the spirit of two adjoining rivers. The sounds of these rivers are incorporated into the piece, lending it a welcome authenticity. On Side A the duo presents the finished suite, a hybrid of guitar drone and hydro recording; on Side B the recording is offered as an unadulterated field work. It’s hard to say which is more effective, as the overall effect is akin to hearing a rock band go acoustic; but the decision to offer both was wise, as the choice of which to listen to, and in which order, represents the tape’s most unique aspect.
The four movements of Side A flow together smoothly, imitating the confluence of the rivers. The water sounds are most apparent in the first, the quietude in the last. The suite expands and undulates in the center as the guitar chords are reverberated, creating a sense of contemplative calm. One can imagine the hypnotic appeal of the live performance, and hopes that the audience was attentive.
Subtract the electricity and the improvisations, and the mood grows calmer still. Listening to Side B is like sitting beside a brook, or in this case, two rivers, seeing and hearing the continuous visual and aural modulations of nature, while musing on the flow of existence and the constancy of both cycle and change. In many cases, one might consider Side B to be a bonus track, but “Spiritual Dilution” is integral to the set. The hums – which we are told are also field recordings, although they sound a lot like instruments – produce an “om” feeling, a meditative centering that draws the listener deeper into the track, curious yet unafraid. The title is misleading, as the sounds have been diluted rather than the spirit; in fact, in terms of spirituality, less is often more. By the end, one realizes that as much as the sculptor seeks to honor the confluence of rivers through clay, and Saåad through music, there’s nothing quite like the rivers themselves. The reflection of beauty honors its inspiration, drawing attention to the original source, yet adding nuance that in turn engenders further reflection and re-creation. On this tape, the confluence of nature and art works a sublime magic. (Richard Allen)
Release date: October 24