Saatsuma – Overflow (2017 LP)

Saatsuma is collaboration between Cesar Rodrigues and Memphis Kelly, and while they expand to a five-piece to replicate the production and dynamics of their songs on stage, one of the most immediate points about Overflow is how much of an evenly matched combination it is. It’s hard to tell how even the songwriting duties are, but instrumentally Rodrigues’ love for the sound of modular synths form a big part of the record, to the point that – although they do not by any means sound like they are from any other point in time – parts of the album could be read as an ode to vintage synths.

Against this backdrop of swirling, arpeggiating sounds and electronic beats of varying intensities, Kelly’s vocal is strikingly sparse in both delivery and treatment. Her recitation feels so naked and unaffected that it imbues the lyrics with an extra layer of emotion, and quite wisely she is mostly mixed to the front, leaving the extended reverb tails to her own backing vocals.

The album finishes with its standout track, Without U Again, a gorgeously atmospheric song with a mournful melody, Kelly’s unadorned delivery juxtaposed with pitched and effected backing vocals and a production that continues to build. At the three-minute mark the vocal begins to fade away and the snare clap that had been anchoring the song is replaced by the distant thud of an insistent kick drum. As the synths whirl around the stereo field, their pitch and pulse rising in intensity, eventually a chunky dance beat kicks in. At nearly nine minutes it’s an incredibly euphoric endorphin release that caps off an album that focuses on human emotions amongst electronic sounds. The balance of vulnerability in the vocal and lyrical content against the arrangements of synths and drum beats is part of what makes Overflow so special, and to bring it all home with a fairly straight dance moment is a stroke of genius.

Written for Beat Magazine.

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