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Saturnia - Saturnia CD (album) cover

SATURNIA

Saturnia

 

Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

3.81 | 15 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars Anyone who thinks that the flower power hippie movement ended when the odometer hit 1970 couldn't be further from the truth. While nihilism and cynicism crept back in to rain on the peace and love parade, the overall vibe of the 60s never really left. It may have taken a snoozer now again but the alarm clock inevitably chimes and new generations are attracted to its lost promises. Such is the case of the Lisbon, Portugal based SATURNIA which was the brainchild of producer and multi-instrumentalist Luis Simōes who alone covers guitar, sitar, bass, theremin, gong as well as vocals.

Thirty years after the 60s ideology faded like Vietnamese villages smothered by agent orange, the hippie vibe was resurrected in Portugal as Simōes planned on creating a communal band however despite his achronistic tendencies, he nonetheless failed to attract kindred spirits to carry out his intended plans. Thus he became a one man band with a few guest musicians helping out.

Over the years Simōes has worked with many such guests including Gong's own Daevid Allen, Hawkwind's Nik Turner as well as Colour Haze's Stefan Koglek however on this eponymous debut that emerged at the turn of the millennium in 1999, the guest roster is a little more mysterious with no reliable credits cited over the internet (unfortunately i do not own this fine pleasantry so perhaps liner notes exist to shed light on this nebulousness).

If one was to judge from the album cover, this could've sat in the vaults since 1969 when artists like Quietessence, Oriental Sunshine, A=mh2 and Ananda Shankar were following the trend set forth by The Beatles to incorporate everything Indian into their rock music paradigm. However, this was the end of the 90s and much had changed in 30 years and the SATURNIA project utilized the similar in vibe electronic and indie aspects that graced the 90s with impunity.

This debut album embraces not only the feel good Rancho Relaxo vibes of the Summer of Love years but also takes advantage of the wealth of technological advances that had resulted in the ensuing decades. Since this falls into the Raga rock camp it goes without saying that the sitar is a predominant sound encountered in this album's run however what's unexpected is that this is equally a space rock album with techno drum and bass percussive drive with lots of ambient electronic effects as well.

Sounding like something between the 90s bigbeat Prodigy and more downtempo Portishead, this could easily have been played at a more chilled out gig in Ibiza with all the spring break college students smashed on E dancing their asses off like there's no tomorrow. Add to that a serene and chilled out church organ that slinks alongside the hyperactive beat adding a smoothed out chill zone. Also predominant are erratic fluttering electronic effects, another 90s trait. The production and mixing are masterful.

The vocals are quite subdued and even buried beneath the mix and the album comes across more as a DJ's tribute to an era passed as it certainly sounds more 90s than classic Indo-raga from the heyday of its popularity. This is definitely party music here. Not the the unhinged raves where the cops bust down the door and break out the firehoses but rather the nice house parties where friends come over to chill out and perhaps play Pictionary!

While the fusion of electronica and ethnic influences is certainly nothing new and especially in the 90s when whole compilations such as the outstanding Buddha Bar series exhibit similar sounds, SATURNIA is quite unique in how the drum and bass interacts with the organ, theremin, piano and sometimes off kilter no wave type guitar runs such as on my favorite track "Sculptress Sublime." While one can chill out and pay no attention to this music, the subtleties are quite attention getting. Really only the last track is bombastic. The rest is a cloud ride through the skies on that magic carpet ride. Nice!

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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