Saåad – A Crimson Shore (Hands in the Dark, 2023)

Over the years, Saåad’s records have plotted various courses through arenas of darkness: older EPs and records found themselves grinding with excoriating rumblings and static washes, rocks in the tumbledryer. As time has passed a cooler, more abstruse sound has emerged, one of glassy depths and twinkling fears sliding by in the abyssal reaches beneath. That young, raw, immediate pain has been shed: the simmering memory remains in the aftermath, humming in revivifying potentialities.

There’s a language to loss, that which is spoken in A Crimson Shore, that’s difficult to describe. It shifts underfoot, keeps us unsteady, never certain of ourselves or our moods and wants. Sometimes we feel the anxiety of impending absence, its own brand of anticipatory feeling; other times we feel the violence of departure long after the moment has passed like the ground suddenly crumbling underfoot. The tracks here exist burdened with this threat in a state of open secret, at once filled with a desire to smother their feelings whilst also creeping out with a sort of shy expressive inevitability. Opener “I Can’t Push The Death Away” wails in wrought synthetics, briefly, before slewing into the tilting and unsettled ambiences of exposed “Open Wounds”.

After the first volley of tangible loss, “From All The Places I’ll Never See” hangs in leaden as well as shimmering tones that call, siren like, to untouchable geographies, mired in a sense of pining for spaces of beauty and fascination never to be experienced.

Then there’s “Stay”. Seven minutes of desire wrought into oscillating synths and heady crooning drones that yearn with a stretching of the heart that can’t be contained. Every inch, every fibre of its being surges with the same thought: don’t go, I need you, need this. It’s difficult to behold, and perhaps one of the most overwhelming moments of Saåad’s career, but what a singularly evocative moment it is.

Finally the Sword of Damocles dangles on closer “The Hanging Sword Over The Fainted Shadow”, reminiscent of some of Yellow Swans’ more cerebral moments, floating on distant chords mulched into a despondent greyness the drifts into resigned finality. Pain migrates beyond the horizon again, lingering just out of view as it does until the rise of a new day to be repeated again afresh.

There’s no singularly defined feeling here: the possibility or experience of loss here in the now stirs up those pained moments from our past as well as the thrumming anxieties we hold for the future. It’s because of this breadth that “A Crimson Shore” is difficult to describe concisely but, concretely, it examines a very human kind of pain. Pain in what is not, and what may never will be, locked together in a single, inseparable stream of hurt.