Savath and Savalas
he accolades pile up for Scott Herren as the rightful heir to the family tree of artists that skirt the line between electronic music and hip-hop with his moniker Prefuse 73. Herren has yet to ride the coattails of his success, releasing two full-length albums, a collection of b-sides, a pair of EPs and an ambient album in the last year and a half—not counting the various collaborations (with Diverse, Mos Def and others). Herren’s latest album, Apropa’t, released under his ambient/jazz Savath + Savalas moniker explores Catalan and Tropicalia—a far cry from the sound Herren is known for. But while this transformation may seem a reach for the talented artist, Herren’s musical style has fully crystallized within Apropa’t, despite the flaws within the album’s underlying form.
Much of Apropa’t’s sound can be traced back to earlier work—the ambient “Introduccion” follows directly from his tour-release Sleeping on Saturday and Sunday Afternoons and, similarly, an earlier Savath + Savalas motif (from “Rolls and Waves of Ignorance” and the Rolls and Waves EP) appears here on “Sol de Media tarde.” Herren’s musicality ensures a certain level of satisfaction from each of his releases, and it’s no different on Apropa’t. With additional help from John McEntire (and various Trill Jockey musicians), the album coalesces easily, deftly exploring a nice ground between a variety of genres. From the bare “Ultimo Tren” to the very Os Mutantes-influenced “A la Nit”, the tracks here use very crisp and clean production. At times, however the production feels too clean, and undermines the organic mood the album strives to maintain.
Apropa’t’s biggest flaw could be the use of Eva Puyuelo Muns’ vocals. Perhaps I’m accustomed primarily to Herren’s music as instrumental, but the use of Eva feels painfully forced at times. From the first track the pair appears together on (after the expansive “Introduccion”), Herren uses Muns’ voice as another element to a track, rather than letting her breathe and emote. Because the vocals are so clean at times and coupled with her understated delivery, some songs border towards a sort of faux-robotic manner.
Despite this precision, the songs still carry a real sense of intimacy. Even so, on songs like “Why She’d Come” is neither sentimental nor nostalgic, despite the evocation of both. After reading countless reviews that placed One Word Extinguisher’s power on Herren’s recent breakup, I hesitate to try to over-analyze the artist’s situations. Instead, despite the background of the artists involved, the tone of the album carries a hushed calm and reverie. Within this daydream, there are moments of true sublimity—most notably, “Um girasol da cor de seu cabe” which borrows just enough from “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” to produce a lost double take, especially with the reworked drumming which harkens back to the Beatles song.
Perhaps my disappointment with Apropa’t is that despite my interest in both the genres that Savath + Savalas explores and Herren’s production style, the album still feels noticeably underwhelming. There’s no element which incites my interest beyond merely pleasing me aesthetically. The whispered explorations instead appear to quote earlier work, rather than build significantly. While Apropa’t is “the story of two people finding themselves and each other in music” (according to the promo junket), I have yet to find where the listener fits into this storybook ending.
Reviewed by: Nate De Young
Reviewed on: 2004-01-30