Savath and Savalas
s Prefuse 73, Guillermo Scott Herren reflects on conflicting senses of musical history. His skittering, glitchy work could find a home in the hip-hop, rock, or electronic bin, paralleling Herren’s own mixed heritage. Either way, you have to admit the Atlanta artist with Irish-Cubano-Catalan roots is really good at rockin’ a sense of home outside of temporal space. In the last couple years, he’s taken up a working home in Spain, and it’s there that he’s been inspired once again by his Savath & Savalas side-project. Golden Pollen delves into Latin and Iberian music with Herren’s Prefuse agnosticism, always more holistic than cosmopolitan.
And as always, Herren is collaboration-happy. Never one to shy away from bringing friends into the studio, Herren has again chosen an eclectic supporting cast. Tortoise renaissance man John McEntire returns to co-produce. Argentinean-cum-Swede Jose Gonzales guests on the cut “Estrella de Dos Caras.” Those little hints of female chanting? That’s L.A. singer Mia Doi Todd. But more than anything, this is Herren’s record. For the first time, Herren takes the vocal lead on most tracks, stretching his own melodies over long orchestral swaths.
As with his Prefuse beats, Herren’s Savath payoffs come with subtle shifts. Herren expects a bit of patience and a good ear; otherwise, there’s a lot of dreamy chugging flutes, strings, and electronics here that’ll comes off as samey. Even so, I dare you to loop Golden Pollen on repeat, say during a long road trip. You’ll easily get lost in it, with only fleeting signposts like the trilling introduction, a memorable lyric here and there, or an out-of-context beep guiding the way.
Herren’s navigating down a dangerous path by expecting the dreamy concept to not only guide the album, but to shape the listener’s experience. It takes a couple of good close listens to appreciate Herren’s languid songwriting; a casual listener will likely enjoy listening to only a track or two before turning off. Hell, does fifty minutes of shapeless strumming, electronic manipulation, feedback, background-ish singing, and bare foundations of folk songs sound like a good time?
But those familiar with Herren know that he tends to let his audience connect the dots. Besides, Savath is obviously Herren’s most personal project and it’s hard for you to expect him to literalize an album that is both a pilgrimage to his father’s homeland and a reflection on his own Pan-American preconceptions. Microcosms of cultural dispersion rarely cohere this well, so enjoy it for what it is: Herren charting his cultural heritage like lines on a map, realizing that much like the lines dividing musical tradition, they don’t really exist.