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Sapat - Mortise and Tenon

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Artist: Sapat

Album: Mortise and Tenon

Label: Siltbreeze

Review date: Mar. 9, 2007

Born out of Kentucky’s Black Velvet Fuckere collective, Sapat are an eight-headed crew that mine swampy psych jams and cracked folk with equal aplomb. Arriving on the heels of their 2006 debut 7” Tongue-Tied & Staid, Mortise and Tenon marks the debut full-length for a group counting former members of Valley of Ashes alongside occasional Magik Markers’ collaborators among its ranks. Marking yet another welcome chapter in Siltbreeze’s ongoing millennial renewal program, Sapat create sinewy tracks out of loose percussion and ascendant guitar bliss, replacing goopy hippy sentimentality with a clean shot of Kraut tumult and Ozark jet black. Simultaneously at home with their supposed kin in the relentless parade of new jacks just discovering the supposed transcendence in any number of late ‘60s/early ‘70s psych jammers while blowing all limp pretensions clean out of the water and across several state lines, this octet manages a multi-genre juxtaposition that never once sounds forced.

Sapat’s earlier vinyl offering was pure claustrophobia, tracks full of blues murk and rag-tag clatter squished into two all-too brief vinyl sides. Here, though, the group demonstrates their keen ability to translate rough-hewn Americana and spry German trance rock into a backwoods boogie that’s both spacious, gracious, and more than a bit foreboding.

“Maat Fount” puts Sapat’s best foot immediately forward – and across – an exultant 10 minutes of constantly expanding and contracting space. These folks are at their consistent best when they allow simple ideas and basic interplay to build and coalesce into effuse cascades of drone and strum, and here they do precisely that. Beginning with simple refrains and tentative guitar lines that betray affection for discordant blues, mind’s eye psych blast, and distant ragas, the track gathers a full head of steam before erupting in an earth-rattling final act.

Though well worn, such climactic excursions are still neat tricks, and ones the band repeat just as ably later on with “Who U With?” Here, however, guitars get the back-burner, chiming in a space mostly given over to limber polyrhythms and synth passages homesick for space.

Elsewhere, Sapat gives in to sideways rock stomps, using the circular drum and bass narrative of “Dark Silver” as a starting point for interlocking guitar lines and sax bleats that cut through the haze like a foghorn. There’s a noticeable tension at work that’s been all too absent from similarly-minded travelers of late, an idea communicated in the tinny scrawls of “Lovely and Free” that punctuate distant vocals, sounding like some recently unearthed aural palimpsest upon which a wholly new text has been inscribed.

It’s no real surprise that Tom Lax has uncorked another keeper with his Siltbreeze imprint, but even still, Sapat packs a few surprises in their grooves for those who think they already know the score. Airy and pristinely recorded in a comfortable mid-fi that’s been heretofore unknown in the annals of the label’s back catalogue, Mortise and Tenon rarely falters. Captured here is a band that understands the limitations inherent in Nth generation psych rehash, and rather than pine for a long-gone zeitgeist, these eight hunker down with a batch of supple tunes that play to admirable strengths and a keen, intuitive knowledge of how to mine a generally tapped mainline in all the right ways. Miles away from the band’s still excellent debut, Sapat’s inaugural full-length shuffles the cards and deals a hand steeped in rich tradition that never once sounds like a haphazard pastiche.

By Michael Crumsho

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