Sabre, WT 19 Sabre


Photo by Michael Wolf

[W.T. Records]


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Considering its members’ backgrounds in experimental music, Portugal’s Sabre are pretty smooth operators. It would be only too easy for the duo to cast their lot with faddish, merely adequate technoise: instead, the duo emerged earlier this year with “Bali,” one of the year’s bigger and more hygienic tracks. At times the euphoria they convey outshines the lightness of their touch. They can make it rain dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin seemingly without breaking a sweat or browbeating the listener, but the sounds themselves are carefully tailored and leisurely arrayed despite their tendency to pad the darker corners with imaginative scribbles. Following up their Tasteful Nudes debut is WT 19, a three-tracker for Willie Burns’s label that initially offers more of the same sun-dazed glow. But when the jet fuel burns off, we can hear a basic adaptability more clearly, a gift for psychedelic voyages as well as big-room yacht house.

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“Nightdrive to Bolland” opens with undulating fuschia pads that reference “Hyph Mngo” and proceeds to follow the endorphin-rush structure of “Bali” closely, even employing a similar gamelan-like synth sound when it explodes into peak time after a drop has landed us in a humid jungle canopy populated by toucans. Sabre have a talent for arranging atmospheric sounds that bleed into the background against crisp, businesslike rhythms — drum machines don’t play a central role on “Nightdrive,” they sculpt the technicolor ooze of its braided bass lines into a gently swaying, clap-heavy hustle, its kicks slight and peppery. “Honeyboob” is a transitional cut, deferring the endorphin rush to focus on the way dubby chords and glittery string swells drape over a choppy, antic melody and bass line that push forward with atypically terse determination. Flayed keys and aggressive hand drums arrive halfway in to make the waters choppier, the way a kid with a boogie board in a pool can be pretty effective as a makeshift wave machine.

“Cosmic Carlos” is the final and longest cut. It’s not distinctly the best on the EP, though the way in which it is good explores the less-examined side of Sabre’s appeal in great, and satisfying, depth by focusing on the long game. A staggered kick pattern swings serious lumber over a synth’s lumpy churn, then sprouts hi-hats and snares to establish a mutant rhythm that’s equal parts garage and beat scene — those ashy snares are maybe even a little post-punk. Sabre tops up the intensity with a majestic chord progression that glides by like an interstellar container ship, yet, in spite of its scale, you’d almost miss it if you weren’t listening for it. They’ve kind of made you hear it before actually playing it. That’s the thing about Sabre’s music: they prepare you to jump to satisfying conclusions, but breaking from the script and scrutinizing the surface is just as rewarding.

Trackbacks

Little White Earbuds August Charts 2013 | Little White Earbuds  on August 30, 2013 at 12:02 AM

[…] enough to take listeners to Bespin in their minds, relaxed and ready to let the good times flow.06. Sabre, “Cosmic Carlos” [W.T. Records] (buy) 07. DJ Rashad & DJ Manny, “Way I Feel” [Hyperdub] (buy) 08. […]

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