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The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011


A review of their album 'The Middle Ages'

Review Snapshot:
Saso return with a new release on their own label. A dark minimalist record where piano and keyboard take precedence over guitars. Interesting and mostly enjoyable, a record I can see myself still coming back to occasionally in years to come.

The Cluas Verdict: 7 out of 10.

Full Review:
12 months ago if I was asked to give my opinion on the Irish music scene my reply would have included words such as 'stagnant', 'boring' and 'dire'. But now, a year later, my perspective has changed somewhat. Having had my ears opened to bands such God Is An Astronaut, The Butterfly Explosion and Tracer AMC, I have come to realise that Ireland is harbouring a number of capable acts committed to making music that is more about instrumentation and orchestration than slick marketing and skinny ties. Saso is most definitely in the former grouping and demonstrate this on 'The Middle Ages'.

Saso is a Dublin-based band consisting of just two members - the producer / mixer Ben Rawlins and the composer / vocalist Jim Lawler. This album, their third, is a minimalist affair with analogue synths, guitar, drums and piano being utilised to create an atmospheric record. The keyboards and piano takes preference to guitar for the most part of the album (album closer 'Chloroform' is driven by a building piano that almost consumes the listener).

The closest Saso have come to creating a contender for a single here is 'Red Scare', built on a looping guitar riff. Lawler sings in a high voice for the most part, but always maintains a calming air to it, reminiscent of Joseph Arthur's. But 'The Middle Ages' lacks sufficent variation. 'Chasing Monsters' feels as though it is on the verge of breaking the tension that has been building throughout the album, but it doesn't quite succeed.

The lyrics are often austere with a bleak perspective on the world. Lawler seems to be suffocated by society itself and the norms and traditions of city life - 'Sunday carwash / shopping pyramids? / neighbourhoods that watch? / SUVs / dying of boredom'. - and in modern day Dublin it is easy to see where Lawler is drawing his inspiration from.

With 'The Middle Ages' Saso have created an album in the truest sense - I can't imagine being able to cherry pick a couple of tracks to throw on an iPod shuffle. This is an album that should be listened to fully, from start to finish. However it does not thread much new ground - bands like Radiohead and Sigur Ros have all been here before, and have done it better. A bleak, yet enjoyable, record.

Garret Cleland