Big Group Hug
By: Eric Greenwood
Why on earth would anybody name an album Big Group Hug? It smacks of emasculation and the ripple effect of the whole 1960"s zeitgeist. However languid the music may seem, Saso understands the dynamics of subtlety and substance. So, let"s try to forget what the album is called for now. Musically, Saso moves at a predominantly glacial pace- not as quietly or as slowly as Low does but similarly understated. The low-end of the title track almost drowns out the chiming guitars. Vocals are infrequent and indistinct, clouding the foreground with long, drawn-out notes that hover just above the den of noise.
Similarly on "Blood Bath", Saso explores more graying, repetitive guitar tones and rumbling low end. About halfway through the song, a strangely out of place and jarring soundbite interrupts the dreamy flow, complete with a laugh track. The band then shifts gears into a winding denouement. It"s foreboding yet serene. "Bird Brain" shows signs of a pulse underneath the colorless soundscapes. Is that a distorted guitar? Ah, yes. Saso is admitting to a subliminal affinity for My Bloody Valentine, if this brief instrumental groove is to be believed. The coldness of "Dripfeed" begins to thaw when the strained vocals follow a maudlin piano accompaniment, but, alas, it"s too short to be of consequence.
The tonal sustain of "Lazy Bones" is barely audible at first. Two minutes in and a dark arpeggio is all that surfaces. The guitars chug lightly, threatening to liven things up, but the best we can procure is an heavy-lidded rhythm supplement and a slow, anticlimactic fade. Pretty but uninteresting. Synthetics bubble at the introduction of "Dimwit" only to be replaced quickly by dual acoustic guitars and another aimless meandering. The vocals on "Somebody" are welcoming and melodic but do not approach anything resembling a chorus or a hook. They are truly unnecessary, serving merely as a lazy reminder that there is indeed a singer.
The piano sound on "My Brain Hurts" is so schmaltzy it"s subversive. Vocals are at the forefront for the first time on the album. The drums shuffle lightly in the almost-chorus. A light falsetto croons over the downtrodden melody- all minor keys, of course, but it fails to hold any more attention than the instrumentals wedged anonymously in between. This music is exquisitely packaged yet impersonal to a fault. The new age twinkling of keys and soft plucking of strings grows tiresome without any kind of climax or tension. Saso has its low-key sound down pat; now it just needs some songs to go with it.