If you are a fan of the Gotan Project; if you like the sounds of the Brazilectro compilations and you enjoy the cheesy romantic Hollywood interpretations of Latin America or Spain in the 1950?s; if you have ever wondered what it would sound like if Lisa Ono, Compay Segundo, Air and UNKLE collaborated on a sorrow-tinged samba-lounge album, then this is something for you.
Listening to Apropa?t, I cannot help but have images rise in my mind of bark-strip furniture, green rainforest sidling intimately against the porch banister. An acclimatized 1930?s Ford Coupe in polished black sitting on a dirt road. The view stretches over the mountainside. A single lane road hugs the geography like a ribbon gently falling upon itself. An adobe city sits snugly in the crucible of the earth. Everything is seen through an orange filter, lending a sense of heat, siesta and the ending of the day.
One cannot begin to appreciate this album without first knowing a little bit about the fascinating story behind the 18 months that went into this album. Savath & Savalas is just one of three main aliases used by Scott Herren of Atlanta, GA. He is best known as Prefuse 73, a name under which he has produced critically acclaimed work in avant-garde hip-hop, mixing the precision cut and paste method with glitch-core characterizations.
Scott left Atlanta to live in Barcelona, to immerse himself in the culture and city of the father he never knew. While exploring his roots, he met up with the delicately attractive Catalan singer/songwriter Eva Puyuelo Muns. They soon discovered, to quote the website: ?They shared the same passion for South American music, especially early 1970s Brazilian psychedelia, the simple production techniques, the very sad melodies also found in Spanish folk music, Afro/Cuban/Puerto Rican/NYC fusions?.?
It is amazing how native this album feels. More amazing yet, it was a bedroom recording. The mastering was done back in Tortoise?s SOMA Studio in Chicago. There is some hint here and there of Scott?s other work. A particular piece of percussion here, a filter or glitch-core effect there. But otherwise it sounds like the album is really Eva?s rather than some hip-hop ambient producer from Atlanta! Native instrumentation is everywhere: accordions, guitars, horns. The vocals are like feathers on a breeze, with Scott himself occasionally doing backing vocals. I cannot tell if Eva is singing in Spanish or Catalan, but the emotion involved is communicated effectively regardless. One cannot help but feel the sense of searching for something lost, of that funny hollow feeling that cannot seem to be filled in the centre of us. But it is somehow dignified too. There is courage there, to keep looking for what fulfils us even as we lament.
The second track, ?Te Quiero Pero Por Otro Lado,? is the track that inspired my reference to UNKLE due to a particularly modern-sounding percussion arrangement that backs the bulk of the song. Here also, I find that dignity I described earlier in the delivery of the lyrics. With the help of Babelfish, I translated the title and I can best interpret it as meaning ?I want you but on the other hand?,? signifying some sort of important choice to be had. Perhaps this is part of that feeling of finding something that almost fits but not quite?
Following that track is ?Colores sin Nombre,? which translates as ?Colors without Name.? This track opens with some haunting anklet bells. An unmistakable hip-hop beat supports the surprisingly low vocals, an unexpected sound from one as fragile as she appears to be. An Indian tabla drum sample can also be heard, utterly out of place in terms of ethnicity, but sitting so well in the layers. Again, there is a dignity present in Eva?s vocals. The ending of the song has some of the most prominent backing vocals by Scott.
?Um Girassol Da Cor De Seu Cabe? has a French dream-pop sound to it, a la Air. That is, if Air ever decided to do anything Samba. It has a rolling rhythm that carries you along.
?Sol De Media Tarde? is the most native sounding of the tracks, sounding incredibly vintage, as if he?d picked it right out of the airwaves in the early days of Spanish radio and adjusted it for the modern ear. There are almost no lyrics, the vocals consisting mostly of Eva humming along with the music, becoming more like an instrument herself. It is the most prominently and dreamily melancholic.
Tracks that definitely betray Scott?s previous adventures in glitch-core are ?Radio Llocs Espacials? and ?Sigue Tu Camino,? which come complete with clicks and pops, and slyly placed filters and flanges.
Overall, I found this album to be growing on me and I feel that I am only barely appreciating the talent of Scott Herren. I personally must now seek out his other work and really make an effort to appreciate the craft of this fine young gentleman. I am flabbergasted knowing that this is an original work, created in a very modern way and yet somehow managing to sound decades old with the dust still gathering on it. If you are already a lover of the samba-lounge sound, particularly with a romantic sorrowful sound, I strongly recommend this as a modern alternative that can only add to the elegance of the old favorites you have sitting on your shelf. 7/10 -- Munir Remahl (25 May, 2005)