Following an invitation to play Les Orgues festival, drone outfit Saåad gained access to the Puget organ of Church of Notre-Dame de la Dalbade. This organ, a Frankenstein creation of added features and rebuilt tidbits, functions as the centrepiece of their latest work, Verdaillon. Although designed to play French 19th and 20th century classical, Saåad carry this instrument, with its creaking tones and blaring resonances, into the 21st.
Saåad’s back catalogue is unapologetically gloomy and mournful. Descending from Toulouse, the duo specialise in billowing clouds of sound that engulf the listener. They also employ intriguing techniques to experiment with space. Most notably, their last record, Deep/Float, took inspiration from a series of experiments in which the duo played three giant horns against a cliffside in the Alps. This fixation on natural spaces follows right through their work, from muggy caves to frozen mountains and misty forests.
On Verdaillon, Saåad take the listener into the stony centre of church, a mysterious space where the air hangs dead and cool. The sounds inside possess an austere simplicity, as if made by dusty hurdy-gurdys and broken harmoniums. Even the album sleeve looks like a Victorian postcard from an antique shop. Moreover, nothing is erased or edited from the recording process. You can hear the squeak of floorboards overhead and distant tolling bells.
But as the album closes, Saåad reach biblical levels of grandeur. What sounds like an advancing army comes ever closer to the doors of the chapel. It’s as though Verdaillon documents the last days of a fallen hero meeting an inevitable end. And the end does not disappoint. The final stretch of the record, ‘Vorde’, is a spectacular onslaught of sound, nakedly displaying the harmonic scope of the mighty pipe organ. As Saåad destabilise the foundations of the church, its pillars begin to cascade.
Listen to Verdaillon in full here.