Saturnia - 1st ALBUM (self-released 1999)
Founded in Portugal late 1996 by multi-instrumentalist Luis Simoes, Saturnia are a fresh and inspiring duo who offer spacey organic drenched atmospherics, mixed with sitar induced ambience and ethnic drum and bass rhythms. They edge slightly towards the strange dancetrance than they do towards spacerock, but don't let that put you off because they offer their own brand of space on here that is reminiscent of early Pompeii Pink Floyd meets Portishead meets Anubian Lights meets Ravi Shanker. Certainly a new one on me.
On this, their first release, we have an interesting combination of Luis Simoes: Guitar- Sitar-Lapsteel Guitar-Vocals-Theremin-Gong and Loopings, and old time friend Eduardo Vasconcelos aka M.Strange: Organ-Synthesizer-Theremin-Gong and Loopings. The first offering 'Club Aquarium' is a six-minute trip through the doors of ambient Rick Wright style Organs fused with modern day dance beats and haunting effected Vocals. There is a great piece of Flute playing by Flapi Simoes on here as well, I guess he is the brother of Luis. His flute sends out signals as an ethnic vibe takes over, the flute sound is similar to Sphinx era Nik Turner in its progression and it makes a promising change to the song. It's a shame that this vibe is broke by the return of the Drum Loop and Vocals. It's a bit too dance orientated for me in the Beat department, but that did not stop me from enjoying the originality of their approach to this genre. 'Gemini' is more mellow and easier in pace; this four and half-minute track sound is very Portishead musically with its dreamy floating tune encased inside a slow hypnotic background beat. Vocally and Sound FX wise it has elements of early Pink Floyd and we can sample the Guitar to great effect with it's Gilmouresq picking patterns and its sublime textures. The Gong crashes broaden the structure and offer depth as Joao Gomes's stunning Moog leadline appears and takes you under its wing. Very ethereal due to the Beat leaning more towards trance/trip hop than it does towards dance.
I wasn't disappointed by my next installment, the seven and a half minute classic 'The Twilight Bong'. This is a very space induced number. It has a certain sound that captures your mind and takes it over. It is very eastern sounding with the beats and flavours; it is my favourite so far. I love it and find myself encased in ethnic serenity with the Gong and Sitar marking their territory with feeling and precision. There are hints of 'Darkness' by Mr Quimby's Beard perhaps in here, but this piece is more alive and it moves at a different pace and velocity. It is the first instrumental of the album, and to me Saturnia have touched upon a great spacey ethnic Sitar vibe that stirs the perception when stoned. 'Iris' and 'Interstellar Rainbow Lung' are both similar to 'Club Aquarium' in all aspects, but without the Flute and moog solo's. These are great songs if you love a more mellow approach to the in-your-face aspects of dance music. But as I said about 'Club Aquarium', too dance orientated for me. I'll say no more.
'Sculptress Sublime' offers what could be this bands interpretation of 'A Saucerful of Secrets'. It builds from a strange windy atmosphere into something very profound. The Drum Loop in essence is mainly Drum & Bass but sometimes it mimic's Nick Mason's manic style, and for much of the six minutes we have a great sound here. This is another totally instrumental piece and it stands out tall alongside 'The Twilight Bong'. I can see a lot of potential here for Saturnia who are most definitely talented musicians. All in all this album produces Dance orientated structures of an ambient nature, but in my eyes the best offerings are the instrumentals, and there are only two! But this album is a must for those who like Drum Loops and Jungle type rhythms worked into songs of a mellow vibe. Saturnia are very original and definitely offer something different. I have heard their Second Album from 2000/2001 and I would say that they have moved onto better places, probably due to line up changes in between. An interesting combination of old meets new.
Aural Innovations #16 06/2001 Albert Pollard