Savath & Savalas La Llama

[Stones Throw; 2009]

Styles: psych-folk, post-rock, glitch-hop
Others: Juana Molina, Lola Cortes, Mice Parade

Guillermo Scott Herren, the controlling musical presence behind Savath & Savalas, can hardly be contained. Over the years, Herren has found multiple ways to channel his aesthetic inclinations, but his Prefuse 73 moniker, which came after both S&S and Delarosa & Asora, found him at his most prolific and warmly received by audiences and critics. That identity has allowed him the space to hybridize elements of IDM and hip-hop while remaining grounded in the soul, funk, and dance musics that have given rise to those genres.

Savath & Savalas persisted as his outlet for his more organic impulses. I can still remember tearing the shrinkwrapping off S&S's Folk Songs for Trains, Trees and Honey (2000), then oblivious to the role that the creative entity behind it would come to play in the indie-electronic, rock, and hip-hop communities over the coming decade. There were, however, indications that something bigger was going on: its tight post-rock sound fit well with my favorite musical cluster of the moment, but it also exhibited an obstinate, recurring fascination with the electronic glitch that set it apart. Bringing in the vocals of Eva Puyuelo Muns, 2004's Apropa't marked a distinct turn towards delivering on the "folk" aspects of the first S&S effort's title.

La Llama, S&S's fourth album, is in many ways a continuation of the trajectory initiated with Apropa't. Having experimented with other vocalists in the interim, La Llama is a reconnection with Muns that mines more deeply into the psychedelic territory hinted at before. Citing the small 70s independent folk scene based in Recife, Brazil as a guiding influence, this collection certainly deserves the psych-folk moniker, but how it achieves it ranges from the intimate breathiness of "La Loba" and gauzy, shoegaze aesthetic of "Me Voy" to the audio collage of "Intro" and the quiet cacophony of "Una Cura." All of these compositions are extremely loose, occasionally gelling into structured song, but at other times seeming content to meander, explore, and fade out.

For Herren devotees (a group in which I would place myself), this album will appear as a necessary, blissed-out, and relaxing installment in an ever-evolving musical saga. For others less familiar or only interested in the Prefuse aesthetic, La Llama may leave them feeling adrift. It simply won't get booties bumping, even in a sporadic or stuttering manner. Of course, that's the reason that Herren uses these separate labels to differentiate his work, and I'm glad that he finds such a range of purposes for his talents. While Prefuse has its time and place, S&S continues to resonate, providing a soothing complement to his more anxious efforts. With a recent prog-rock-influenced project (Diamond Watch Wrists) just having appeared and other pseudonymous releases planned for 2009, La Llama may be the perfect respite along the way.

1. Intro
2. La Llama
3. Las 7 Sendas
4. Carajillo
5. Una Cura
6. Pavo Real
7. El Colleccionista
8. Sounds of Bowery
9. La Loba
10. Pajaros en Cadaques
11. Me Voy
12. Untitled
13. Barceloneta
14. Postlude
15. No Despierta
16. Adeu

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