Blissful psychedelic rock from the heart of the sun
Today is the release-day of my favorite Portuguese multi-instrumentalist’s new album, ‘Stranded in the Green‘, on Sulatron Records. Luis Simões aka Saturnia, handles here all the Vocals, Electric guitar, Acoustic guitar, 12 string guitar, Acoustic sitar, Guitar pedals, Hammond organ, Philicorda organ, Rhodes Piano, Acoustic piano, Tampura, Bass guitar, Bass Pedals, Synthesizer, Sampled keyboards, Gong, Chimes, and Drums. Yup, all that, and on top of writing all the music and lyrics, he also took care of the production and mixing, and of the cover artwork along with taking some of the pics on this cover. Quite a versatile and inspired dude, isn’t it?
I fell in love with him especially on ‘The Real High’, a wonderful laid-back album full of spacey Floydian atmospheres, released in January 2016 (#8 in my top back then). I’ve been hooked ever since, spinning this album quite regularly, or any of the other releases he put out since his debut in 1999.
How’s The Sound?
The album opens with “Pan Arrives”, a sort of sonic portal helping us transit from our reality to Luis‘ esoteric universe, an introduction to what’s about to come. It also feels like a sort of invocation, the tension building up with bells and chaotic noises over the minute and a half, peaking with the incantation of Ana Vitorino just before the end.
Now that we’re in the mood, Saturnia dives fully into his classical trippy sitar mood with reverberated and enchanting vocals on “Keep it long”. Starting on spacey background swirls and the dual rhythm of Luis‘ drums and Winga‘s Djembe, the song takes off progressively with a really groovy bassline before the sitar comes in, the whole picture completed by the mellow chants shortly after. This song is full-on trippy tribalism, a perfect depiction of what you can expect for the next 55min. Of course, it’s not as simple as that, but full of variations, ups and downs, instrumental excursions, giving ‘Stranded in the green’ 1001 different flavors for your eardrums to enjoy over the course of this dreamy voyage.
With “Fibonacci Numbers”, a more nostalgic vibe spreads out, numbing you slowly in a contemplative and dreamier-than-ever state. Let it sink into your soul, release any control you could have tried to keep and follow your guide deeper down the rabbit hole. I guess that’s the purpose of this song, pulling the listener further, helping us get in the perfect mood to properly appreciate what’s coming. Compared to the rest, this one seems a bit more simple and raw in a way, as if stripped from any unnecessary frivolity, keeping it to the strict minimum, and thus, maximum efficiency. This only changes a bit in the last minute, where he melts several layers of voices and instruments, building up to a dreamy conclusion fitting the song perfectly.
Did you manage to fully let go? Good. You are now in the perfect mindset for the instrumental “Smoking in the Sun”. Drift away freely into space for the next seven minutes, alongside spaced-out mellotron and synthesizer layers, Gilmouresque reverb-drenched guitar intertwined over the steady beating of the drums and deep bass grooves.
The Floydian influence pursues into the 14min long centerpiece, “Super Natural”, through more Waters-like vocals this time around. It goes back and forth from this chaste and clear ambiance to more elaborate passages with lots of synths that could fit on some Archive or Morcheeba songs. This pattern breaks a bit around the 8min mark, spacing out gently with jazzy drums, cozy bassline, and smooth keys and synths, rounding off instrumentally in a beautiful dreamy jam.
Even more in the nostalgic realm, a peaceful piano melody launches “When I’m High”, picking up the kind of trip-hop passages from the previous song and pushing even more the dreamy feeling. Simoes incorporates other elements from his ethereal sonic identity, showing more, little by little, the spectrum of possibilities at his disposal.
Fully instrumental and ambient, “Perfectly Lonely” could actually be an interlude or alternative intro to the album (though it doesn’t appear on the record, as well as the last track, the album spanning a bit too long for the LP pressing). It somehow reminds me of the first seconds of ‘Jalamanta’, extended over 4min, and given the Saturnia dreamy special touch.
Staying in that super dreamy mood, “Butterfly Collector” also comes a bit back to the Floydian influences from earlier. The song alternates between mystic quiet instrumental moments and enchanting trippiness, backed up by the mantra-like vocals to soothe us away into space. Luis brings back the Sitar in the second half of the song, taking some time to explore his whereabouts, relating it to us in his typical mesmerizing style.
If you didn’t get it by now, “Just Let Yourself Go” makes sure you understood the message before letting you off the hook. I feel some Brant Bjork vibe in there again, though I’m wondering if it’s an actual influence or just similar in the particularly laid-back sunny feeling those two single-minded amazing musicians deliver. Fully instrumental again, this song completes the album perfectly, groovy melodies flowing freely, enveloped in the spacey synths layers, a sort of last wandering jam before dissipating slowly into the void.
Why is this album worth listening to?
- Luis Simões is a perfectionist, ever-prolific, and super talented multi-instrumentalist weaving blissful atmospheres like no one else since Pink Floyd.
- 25 years after starting this project, Saturnia keeps developing steadily his spacey dreamy eastern-influenced universe with impeccable mastership.
- “Stranded in the Green” is the latest of his esoteric journeys through space and time, a gentle, warm kind of euphoria, so welcomed in the morose times we live in.
In what situation should you listen to this album?
At the end of a sunny afternoon, lying in the grass, just waiting for the night to come and take you away in the starry sky.
Anything particular to note?
This album was recorded in the countryside, part of it outdoors in the beautiful Portuguese vineyards.
Keep it long
For Fans Of
Pink Floyd, Ash Ra Tempel, My Brother The Wind, Lamp of the Universe
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