SAÅAD | Confluences

BLWBCK023 – Release date : Oct 24th, 2012
Tape {66 c.} Grey cassette C45
including the digital edition
- pre-orders will be shipped on Oct 15th, 2012 -

Last summer, the festival Toulouse d’Été commissioned Saåad to work on the St-Michel fountain, personification of the confluence of the river Ariège and Garonne. Romain Barbot & Greg Buffier took their recording material to this specific place and gave life to a 20 minutes trip divided in 4 movements. Confluences is lead by field recordings and chanting guitars, showing a new face of the french duo who found the balance point between immensity and intimacy. The tape comes with the B side track ‘Spiritual Dilution’, only composed of field recordings, teleporting you to the place that inspired the original piece.

- Nothing to hold on to. Nothing to do. Nowhere to go. Just breathe as it is. Each breath is unique. Sensations change from moment to moment. No holding. No control -

- N 43° 31′ 11.6538” , E 1° 24′ 38.0406 -

A1. Confluences – 20:36
MI. Sorga & Relenquiment
MII. Auriva
MIII. Jonhent
MIV. Passagrand

B1. Spiritual Dilution – 22:23
- bonus track coming with the cassette ed. –

music by Romain Barbot & Greg Buffier
written for the Fontaines Sonores Event at Festival Toulouse d’Été 2012 – Année Garonne -
Recorded in July & August 2012 – N 43° 31′ 11.6538” , E 1° 24′ 38.0406”
Mixed by Romain Barbot, August 2012
Mastered by Byron Christodoulou, at Irida Studios,Athens during September 2012


Romain Barbot & Greg Buffier’s Saaad project delivers their best work yet. A real drone-scape journey to get lost in, the duo try new things on Confluences but stay focused with the overall sound. FutureSequence

ACL 2012: Top Ten Field Recording & Soundscape
There is power in a river. What we might look at as a babbling brook to row upon during summer can turn overnight into a destructive, unstoppable force of nature, when the chiming splashes turn into a roar. So a work that has been commissioned to capture the personification of a river – in this case where two rivers meet – should carry some serious firepower with it. Fortunately, Saåad are up to the task, combining field recordings with solid blasts of guitar-based sound. And that’s just side one of the tape – the second half is the untreated sounds of the river(s); given the hums and tones here, it underlines that mother nature herself produces the best soundscapes. Jeremy Bye for A Closer Listen

Romain Barbot & Greg Buffier, as Saaad, have managed to reach the point as artists that others strive to attain – everything that they release, regardless of the content or tone, is worthy of listening to as there is always a vibrant idea within it to keep the listener engaged. No matter the theme, and no matter the piece, there is always a solid hook (be it musical or a production approach) to hold the listener. Although their output most often falls squarely into the category of drone, their production is always aggressively upfront and the material never falls into the trap of becoming ersatz relaxation music, as some of the more tentative exponents of the form unfortunately tend to. ‘Confluences’ is an intersection of intersections. Commissioned by the festival Toulouse d’Été to personify the meeting of the river Ariège and Garonne in the form of the St-Michel fountain, the two primary twenty-minute tracks are the meeting point between field recordings and chanting guitars. The frequent intertwining midway point, as described by the pair themselves, is the balance between immensity and intimacy. The title track, divided in 4 movements, is a recording of the rivers placed centrally with layering shuddering bottom end, searing distant distorted guitars and chiming reverb. The tail, “Passagrand”, has a number of moods to it; all of them flickering through the shade of each other like shadows crossing under multiple sources of light. The second piece, “Spiritual Dilution”, is more restrained to start with, but the opening minutes of river noise are bright – they fairly pour out of the speakers. The recordings have a lot a fascinating texture to them; plane noise and birdsong pepper the far corners. The building drone is distant, but looms low at the fifteen-minute mark. – Charlie Sage for FLUID RADIO

“Confluences” began as a commissioned work inspired by the St-Michel fountain, the symbolic meeting point of the rivers Ariège and Garonne. The opening track is a four-movement giant available for download, while the complimenting “Spiritual Dilution” is available as a bonus with the cassette edition being released the 24th of October on BLWBCK. “Confluences” begins with the steady flow of water, from which a low pad builds and guitars trickle in. The work is much more up front than previous solo releases by Saåad, in the style of more classic ambient works. There is a strong hint at melody throughout and the piece refrains from low drones and static lines. Even with a thicker, more melodic and developed ambient sound, the opening especially maintains the huge, anxious tension that Saåad is so good at establishing. This builds until a resolution quickly brings the listener from the huge to the intimate. Throughout piece, the sound of the river keeps us grounded so that the entire narrative seems to be suspended in the same space. “Spiritual Dilution” is just as strong a component to the release as “Confluences.” The track is a very intimate counterpart to such a massive work. The opening of the bare river feels like a much-needed resolution to the previous track, an epilogue that builds into its own creature. The very small space in which the beginning of this track sat quickly dissolves as low drones creep in and push carefully forward. The sense of space breathes throughout this track, and the pacing is perfect. Everything about this release has been structured very carefully. The two tracks could stand alone, but together flow as a narrative. Field recording has always placed the listener at the intersection of the fleeting and the timeless. It is an art that takes deliberate care to trap temporal/spatial specificity in a timeless medium in a way that other recording does not. Juxtaposing a heavily composed work and one entirely of field recording in such a way that both compliment each other and form a product that is greater than the sum of its parts is remarkable. A beautiful nod to the confluence of the rivers. – ATTENTION ATTENTION

We last encountered French duo Saåad on Sustained Layers, a collaboration with like-minded artists EUS and Postdrome. We’ve since had the pleasure of reviewing the latter artist’s solo album, and now it’s Saåad’s turn. Confluences is a commissioned work first presented in front of the St. Michel fountain, which honors the spirit of two adjoining rivers. The sounds of these rivers are incorporated into the piece, lending it a welcome authenticity. On Side A the duo presents the finished suite, a hybrid of guitar drone and hydro recording; on Side B the recording is offered as an unadulterated field work. It’s hard to say which is more effective, as the overall effect is akin to hearing a rock band go acoustic; but the decision to offer both was wise, as the choice of which to listen to, and in which order, represents the tape’s most unique aspect. The four movements of Side A flow together smoothly, imitating the confluence of the rivers. The water sounds are most apparent in the first, the quietude in the last. The suite expands and undulates in the center as the guitar chords are reverberated, creating a sense of contemplative calm. One can imagine the hypnotic appeal of the live performance, and hopes that the audience was attentive. Subtract the electricity and the improvisations, and the mood grows calmer still. Listening to Side B is like sitting beside a brook, or in this case, two rivers, seeing and hearing the continuous visual and aural modulations of nature, while musing on the flow of existence and the constancy of both cycle and change. In many cases, one might consider Side B to be a bonus track, but “Spiritual Dilution” is integral to the set. The hums – which we are told are also field recordings, although they sound a lot like instruments – produce an “om” feeling, a meditative centering that draws the listener deeper into the track, curious yet unafraid. The title is misleading, as the sounds have been diluted rather than the spirit; in fact, in terms of spirituality, less is often more. By the end, one realizes that as much as the sculptor seeks to honor the confluence of rivers through clay, and Saåad through music, there’s nothing quite like the rivers themselves. The reflection of beauty honors its inspiration, drawing attention to the original source, yet adding nuance that in turn engenders further reflection and re-creation. On this tape, the confluence of nature and art works a sublime magic. – Richard Allen for A CLOSER LISTEN

Recent LP from a new discovery Saåad, a French ambient and drone duo. And no, I have no idea how to pronounce that. Confluences is a concept album forged around the meeting of two French rivers, the Aríege and Garonne, as exemplified by a fountain (the St. Michél fountain). Naturally water and its many distinctive tones are a big feature in this album, which revolves around field recordings captured from not only the fountain but the water courses themselves. They are not alone however, as they are supplemented greatly by thick and complex drones and guitars, specific phases of sounds that last for 5 minutes apiece to separate the singular track into 4 parts. It’s been raining all day here, that same kind of dismal, frustratingly consistent rain that has almost no variation in its velocity, rate or pitch, the kind of weather that keeps the sky an ashen grey and forces it to get dark at about 2 in the afternoon. It’s kind of appropriate (perhaps even ironic) that I’m sitting here listening to an album that mirrors these sounds whilst doing a hydrogeological project (or was at least); at the right volume I can scarcely tell the difference between the water running off the roof above my head and the rain pattering the ground outside, and the gurgling field recordings emanating from my speakers. It’s an album that follows a molecule of water or a mote of silt along the course of a river, from its underground beginnings as it wells up to form a trickle of a spring, to the development of a stable stream to a broader, slower river channel which merges with its sister course into a single entity, as demarcated around 10 minutes in as a rising tumult of churning water samples. The course then continues to its final destination, the sea, where it meanders and fragments into a myriad of channels as complex field recordings dominate before disappearing into the surf. I like the way that Confluences is not confined to this idea of these two very specific river systems meeting, however. If I turn the lights off now and allow the music to blend seamlessly with the rain outside I can imagine a different kind of confluence, one of the natural meeting the deeply unnatural, the urban landscape. Water gurgles through guttering, small pools form in imperfections on the impermeable concrete surfaces, rivulets braid and wind their way down the roads towards culverts where they make their own rivers, human designed rivers. The samples on Confluences could have been taken out in the heart of the countryside or right here, outside my house, but what is important is that it makes no difference either way; water is water, wet is wet, the same rules still apply no matter if we are look at the river (macro) scale or the road (micro) scale, the natural or the artificial. If you bought the limited edition cassette you’d be greeted by a bonus B-Side track “Spiritual Dilution”, which is perhaps even more transportive than the first; comprised solely of field recordings it’s difficult to describe how it can be both deeply meditative and relaxing yet somehow on edge and disturbing. Soft pulses of drone ebb and flow under the rushing water as generated by pitch pedals to create an unsettling atmosphere and things seem to puncture the water’s surface throughout; hands and feet, perhaps, or maybe also some unnameable creature wading and splashing through. Lying here in bed immersed, lights off, I wont lie to you it is extremely unnerving and chills me to the core, and I’m in love. I’m often thoroughly disappointed in Field Recordings albums but this track delivers everything I could ask for. I’ve been listening to this album all day and I am deeply concerned for my 2012 Top10 right now, I seriously think we have a competitor near the top. It’s not often I say this about an album I’ve just met but I’m absolutely floored by this release. This is Drone and Field Recordings at their most refined.- HEAR FEEL

‘Confluences’ is made up of two parts: the unnatural and natural. Separating the two is easy enough. What makes this so nice is there is the modified, edited version (including guitar, drone, and treatment) alongside the original track. Thus one can hear the track inspired alongside the inspiration. Honestly they are both very well done and well edited. A few times it can become quite difficult to tell the difference between the two separate versions. Saåad does a good job of making their edited (guitar-laden) version sound surprisingly lifelike. Whereas the field recording is unusually crisp, almost touchable in its tactile sense. For the beginning and title track ‘Confluences’ guitars are layered. The first half of the track is dedicated to mapping out the various tones. Little is done in terms of movement. What is the stunning part of the track occurs after the halfway mark. Tonal changes become far more noticeable as the track’s angelic sound turns to gloom. Here is where it gets interesting as the lower registers make themselves felt to the average listener. Overall the sound is quite intense. In the ‘unedited cut’ Spiritual Dissolution one hears exactly why such a shift was necessary. Despite it being only a field recording clip it comes off as being rather heavy, almost drone-like in nature due to the enormity of sound. This is a deeply, deeply immersive listen. Over the course of the two songs there is no deviation from the mood. This may be one of the most consistent and thoughtful approaches to field recordings. – BEACH SLOT

For the last three years since Saåad was ‘conceived’ as a project, it has undergone quite a development. Hailing from France’s Toulouse and tightly connected to the local tape/digital label BLWBCK, the duo Romain Barbot and Greg Buffier walked all the way from raw lo-fi drone to more complex and layered music, still bound to its origins, but far deeper and challenging. It all started with a series of digital releases, which later got re-issued in various formats. However, during the last year Saåad mostly focused on releasing tapes in very limited editions, which are usually almost completely sold out during the pre-orders. Their latest piece ‘Confluences’ is not an exception from this great approach of combining exclusive work with maintaining an enviable productivity rate. Drone music is a bliss, because it is an endless experience, not necessary burdening you with technical details, concepts and questions. However there was something special around ‘Confluences’ that made me anxious to get deeper in this review and I caught Romain for a few quick questions. ‘Confluences’ was prepared for the ‘Toulouse d’Été’ festival. The band was commissioned to work on the St-Michel fountain which is a symbol of the confluence of the rivers Ariège & Garonne. This took Romain and Greg on a trip to this particular place so they capture in detail the way the two rivers interact rivers. With a length over 20 minutes, ‘Confluences’ is the first time Saåad are experiencing such a long track. However its length, it is actually separated in four parts, refered to as ‘movements’ as the recordings took place in four different spots. ‘Even if field recordings played a role in previous releases, they are the backbone of this piece’, commented Romain. I’ve never been a huge fan of nature sounds as they are too exploited in ambient music, especially due to the fact that a lot of musicians use the same sample sources and banks. The field recordings used here really make sense as each drop of water is exactly as one would experience. It’s a pure illustration of a moment that existed in this particular place. The moods that ‘Confluences’ carries are free and almost neutral. It feels like an attempt to sense the unknown. This is the perfect message Saåad could transfer with their music, as working on the piece was tightly connected to the exploration of unknown lands. With this piece I experienced a location that I may never see in my whole life. It’s a piece of reality in a quite of an abstract soundform. Besides field recordings, here we have heavily processed guitars and keyboards, software and analogue modulation which altogether form relentless but not heavy layers of drones. The sound is not as raw as it was in my all time Saåad favorite ‘Snowbound / I Miss You’, it is not over-produced either. It is perfectly balanced to fit with the field recordings the same way we as humans fit in the nature. A tiny but interesting detail, which Romain shared is the fact this is the first Saåad release where he is not using his voice. A silence which I perceive as a symbol of astonishment and admiration towards the voice of nature, which is haunting the record. And it’s not just my impression, Saåad were really engulfed by this collaboration with nature. If you were fast enough to get the tape you got a quite interesting B-Side recording. ‘Spiritual Dilution’ is a 100% field recording work. After ‘Confluences’ were ready Ariège & Garonne summoned Romain and Greg once again. ‘We went back to that place, put 4 microphones and sat down with a looper and a pitch pedal.’ The result he says is a hommage to the place which inspired the A side. ‘Spiritual Dilution’ feels like a silent contemplation, but still fits the general impression of endlessness that fills this tape. So far Saåad performed ‘Confluences’ live several times. The most recent occasion happened last month with the mighty Barn Owl in Toulouse. ‘I like the fact that this piece never ends’, sums it up Romain. I like that fact as well. – Angel for HEATHEN HARVEST