Saintseneca Satisfies With “Dark Arc”
Thom Behrens | Thursday, April 3, 2014
Whether playing from under highway overpasses or with self-organized groups of teenagers in literal yurts found hidden in Midwestern cornfields, Saintseneca’s tour schedule is almost as unique as their rhythmically driven take on the sweep of folk music that has taken the mainstream in the wake of Mumford & Sons. Saintseneca’s sophomore album, “Dark Arc,” was released on ANTI- records Tuesday and has forever changed the depth with which I look at mustachioed 20-somethings — for the better.
Much like the attic it was originally recorded, at first glance “Dark Arc” seems quiet, small and somewhat uncomfortable. Instruments sometimes seem to dip below audibility, some progressions move slowly or seem almost stagnant. But a second, deeper (and louder) listen to the album reveals a quiet beauty in Saintseneca’s patient style of song writing. The band’s beauty is in their subtlety — they create crescendos, crests and winding verses over the whining of a saw, the vibration of an electric bass in Seinfeld tuning and singer/songwriter Zach Little’s intense and attention grabbing vocal sound — think “Grouplove starts taking themselves seriously” kind of voice.
Little’s musical style has a romantic way of leading the listener through the ebbs and flows of each of the 14 tracks on “Dark Arc” without any of the classical marks of verses, chorus or bridge; each song brings you on a journey through the writer’s reminiscences, musings and emotional perplexities, yet at the end of any track, you will undoubtedly be left humming some riff, some phase. The comforting banjo, pining vocals with roller coaster range and dexterity and hooting upright bass create a safe, almost familial sound — great for a day like yesterday.
Little possesses the mind power and linguistic flexibility to create such clever, intricately poetic verses as to keep a room of English majors perpetually high-fiving over the poetic value of this album as long as the record continues to spin. Lines like “I was only one good time away/False if I falsify the frame/Even if hit just now/The stinger lingers anyhow” (from “Uppercutter”) or “Rotted away the ides of your May/As far as falls from Grace are placed/I guess you’re graciously effaced” (from “We Are All Beads On The Same String”) get an eyebrow raise out of me, and I posit that it would at least get bronze at a linguistic gymnastics competition. Both extraordinarily beautiful and clever as all get out, Little’s lyrical input on this album makes a fantastic complement to their sincere and stripped-down sound.
This album is excellent for anyone who wants to celebrate the beauty of the ability to feel. Love, lust, longing, jealously and pure satisfaction are all shared over the rich texture of the bands multi-instrumental pieces, and leaves the listener intensely grateful for the ability to experience the feelings depicted in experiencing these songs. As witnessed by intense emotional imagery ranging from peace to outrage, such as “Your gut swallows the sharpened edge/as if pre-perforated/so tell me which one wears the worst?/Your sharper spade or harder earth?” (from the LP’s title track) or “Would you come down if I were to call your name?/Could I calm down if I could recall your name?/So how’d it taste to drink the light inside your name?/Smoldering molars and singeing trachea” (“Takmit”), Little repeatedly uses a wide range of instrumentation, intense lyrical style and an all-or-nothing approach to singing which makes “Dark Arc” a unique and emotionally moving experience.