Friday, August 20, 2021

DIY duo Saturnine Sighs shine on their kaleidoscopic debut album

Saturnine Sighs explore a multitude of genres on their highly ambitious, self-titled debut album. The self-described DIY duo consists of Brenden McAuley and Brianna “Bree” Kane, who formed Saturnine Sighs in London, Ontario, Canada, after meeting online. 

Their debut record takes listeners on a sonic journey from alternative rock to dream-pop and psychedelic to electronica. 

Opening track ‘Alright’ erupts with the fast-paced twang of guitar strings and a tenacious drum-beat. The tight instrumentation underpins Kane’s accented intonations which add a country-folk tinge to the record. “I’m ok being alone, I’m ok, I’m alright” she sings, reassuring the listener. It is somewhat reminiscent of an early Sunflower Bean tune, namely 2016’s ‘Easier Said.’ 

The undulating rhythm suddenly transforms into an abrasive rock riff, which would certainly send concertgoers into a mosh-pit frenzy. It then returns to the subdued instrumentation with which it began.

Meanwhile, the lo-fi production of recent single ‘Swoon’ suggests inspiration from Mac DeMarco. Kane’s vocals float and flutter among sighs and the steady patter of percussion which evokes the sound of raindrops against a windowpane. Lyrically speaking, the song is imbued with romance and a sense of reciprocal love. McAuley’s soft croon provides a captivating contrast with Kane’s, sometimes whispered, higher register of singing. In its final moments, ‘Swoon’ boasts a synth-laced Tears For Fears-esque melody, sending the listener straight back to the 80s.

‘Slow’ provides a sombre soundscape built upon the marching beat of a snare drum. Kane channels Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval with quiet and breathy vocals on this track. Saturnine Sighs demonstrate their genre diversity here, as the track transforms into a decidedly psychedelic-rock offering. A groovy guitar melody slides effortlessly into the last minute or so, showcasing the duo’s musical prowess.

Acoustic fourth track ‘Alien’ is founded on its call-and-response verses and tongue-in-cheek lyricism, such as “I think you’re pretty fucking cool / Message not received.” There’s an underlying sense of sorrow, as McAuley inquires “What’s the point of trying when you’re totally alien?”. Momentum increases during the song’s bridge, building up to a cinematic outro that could make any listener feel like the main character of their own movie.

The twinkly dream-pop interlude ‘Coming Soon to Home Video’ plays out like a lullaby. Saturated in sparkling synths and gently pressed piano keys, it lulls the listener into a state of serenity.

By contrast, ‘Sugar High’ is a distinctly pop-rock tune, with its grinding guitars speeding up during the chorus, where Kane’s vocal delivery veers towards sung-spoken. Shiny synths still manage to work their way in, recalling the 80s sound found on ‘Swoon’ but with a contemporary twist. Think Olivia Rodrigo’s ‘good 4 u’ meets The The’s ‘This Is The Day.’

Once again proving their plethora of influences, Saturnine Sighs draw on electronic and techno music for the kaleidoscopic penultimate track ‘Someone Else.’ A pulsating intro greets the ears before Kane’s characterful vocals kick in. “It hurts to have to pretend to be someone else” she sings over a scattering of synths.

Unusual album closer ‘Blacklight’ begins with a phone call where a woman orders a hitman to kill her. Despite the dark nature of the track, the instrumentation remains upbeat. “I’m still on the fence” Kane sings in contemplation. At 9 and a half minutes, the track goes through multiple phases, with Kane and McAuley playing the parts of the woman and the hitman, before harmonising in its latter half. Skilfully utilising the classic speed-up-slow-down technique, ‘Blacklight’ remains an engaging tune as the listener seeks to learn how the story will be resolved.

On their stellar debut album, Saturnine Sighs manage to showcase their diverse array of influences, whilst creating a sound which is undoubtedly their own.

Sarah Taylor


Image: Saturnine Sighs Official Album Artwork

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