Saåad – Confluences (2012)

Recent LP from a new discovery Saåad, a French ambient and drone duo.

And no, I have no idea how to pronounce that.

Confluences is a concept album forged around the meeting of two French rivers, the Aríege and Garonne, as exemplified by a fountain (the St. Michél fountain). Naturally water and its many distinctive tones are a big feature in this album, which revolves around field recordings captured from not only the fountain but the water courses themselves. They are not alone however, as they are supplemented greatly by thick and complex drones and guitars, specific phases of sounds that last for 5 minutes apiece to separate the singular track into 4 parts.

It’s been raining all day here, that same kind of dismal, frustratingly consistent rain that has almost no variation in its velocity, rate or pitch, the kind of weather that keeps the sky an ashen grey and forces it to get dark at about 2 in the afternoon. It’s kind of appropriate (perhaps even ironic) that I’m sitting here listening to an album that mirrors these sounds whilst doing a hydrogeological project (or was at least); at the right volume I can scarcely tell the difference between the water running off the roof above my head and the rain pattering the ground outside, and the gurgling field recordings emanating from my speakers. It’s an album that follows a molecule of water or a mote of silt along the course of a river, from its underground beginnings as it wells up to form a trickle of a spring, to the development of a stable stream to a broader, slower river channel which merges with its sister course into a single entity, as demarcated around 10 minutes in as a rising tumult of churning water samples. The course then continues to its final destination, the sea, where it meanders and fragments into a myriad of channels as complex field recordings dominate before disappearing into the surf.

I like the way that Confluences is not confined to this idea of these two very specific river systems meeting, however. If I turn the lights off now and allow the music to blend seamlessly with the rain outside I can imagine a different kind of confluence, one of the natural meeting the deeply unnatural, the urban landscape. Water gurgles through guttering, small pools form in imperfections on the impermeable concrete surfaces, rivulets braid and wind their way down the roads towards culverts where they make their own rivers, human designed rivers. The samples on Confluences could have been taken out in the heart of the countryside or right here, outside my house, but what is important is that it makes no difference either way; water is water, wet is wet, the same rules still apply no matter if we are look at the river (macro) scale or the road (micro) scale, the natural or the artificial.

If you bought the limited edition cassette you’d be greeted by a bonus B-Side track “Spiritual Dilution”, which is perhaps even more transportive than the first; comprised solely of field recordings it’s difficult to describe how it can be both deeply meditative and relaxing yet somehow on edge and disturbing. Soft pulses of drone ebb and flow under the rushing water as generated by pitch pedals to create an unsettling atmosphere and things seem to puncture the water’s surface throughout; hands and feet, perhaps, or maybe also some unnameable creature wading and splashing through. Lying here in bed immersed, lights off, I wont lie to you it is extremely unnerving and chills me to the core, and I’m in love. I’m often thoroughly disappointed in Field Recordings albums but this track delivers everything I could ask for.

I’ve been listening to this album all day and I am deeply concerned for my 2012 Top10 right now, I seriously think we have a competitor near the top. It’s not often I say this about an album I’ve just met but I’m absolutely floored by this release. This is Drone and Field Recordings at their most refined.