Savath and Savalas | La Llama

Stones Throw (2009)
By GUSTAVO TURNER  |  July 7, 2009
3.5 3.5 Stars


As Prefuse 73, Guillermo Scott Herren has spent the past decade supplying the ambient scene with his impeccable blend of jazz and folk, a series of gentle psychedelic records that's accorded him a respected place alongside fellow one-man-band conceptualists Kieran Hebden (Four Tet) and Ben Chasny (Six Organs of Admittance). Herren has also been engaged in an ongoing experiment in Spanish songwriting: together with singer Eva Puyuelo Muns (a Catalonian, like Herren's father) and now also with the Ecuadorian Roberto Carlos Lange, the artist/producer has created in Savath & Savalas a parallel world grounded in the Spanish-speaking diaspora.

La Llama, the fourth full-length release by this "group" since their emergence in 2000 and the first on Stones Throw (after creditable stints at Warp and Anti-), continues Herren's strange sojourn into his linguistic heritage. Like 21st-century García Lorcas, this motley trio of Iberians — by birth, blood, or adoption — have re-created the songcraft of the motherland in a crowded room in New York's Bowery. The sonic touchstones are rediscovered gems of Latin American psychedelia mixed with the work of romantic cantautores (singer-songwriters) from the waning days of Franco in the '70s. Marked by the distinctive dentals of the peninsular accent, Puyuelo Muns's vocals illuminate updated ballads like "Coleccionista" and "Loba."

The title track, where the cadences of ancient folk songs suddenly turn into vintage psychedelic pop, hypothesizes an alternative land in which kids raised on pop flamenco go on to join the Elephant 6 or another animal collective. The rest of the album, down to the eerie "Postlude," populates that world with a whole wishful scene. The results are hazy, like the children of a month of Sundays fed by weed, opiates, and repeated visits to Other Music.

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