Features | Concerts

Savath and Savalas

By Peter Hepburn | 20 April 2004

It seemed somewhat odd that when Savath & Savalas were announced as passing through DC, the Black Cat club chose to advertise the show as "Savath & Savales [sic] (Scott Herren of Prefuse 73)." True, the Herren name is bound to attract fans, but the difference between the two groups is immeasurable. It's kind of like comparing Pavement to Aesop Rock; there's barely anything they have in common (except of course all the fucking drummers).

The most vocal call for non-comparison comes from Herren himself, who is quick to make the distinction between his identities as the brilliant glitch-hop producer behind Prefuse 73 and the songsmith and instrumentalist of Savath & Savalas. Talking with me a few weeks before the show, Herren was quick to point out that, "the two projects, they aren't actually linked at all. If someone's listening for Prefuse in Savath & Savalas they're not going to find it. It's not meant to be that way; it's not an offshoot of Prefuse. It's a very separate idea in itself. They might find connections on their own, but it's not from me."

Anyone who was at the Black Cat to see the group (and there were very few of us) can testify to the truth of the above statement. Playing with a seven piece band, Herren is using this tour to showcase another side of his creativity. "I like to play instruments, so Savath & Savalas is a way for me to express myself in that way and with Prefuse it's more b-boy type stuff. It's two different methods and two different forms of expression."

The tour features DJ Nobody, who's 2003 release, Pacific Drift didn't surpass mediocre very often, providing an opening "set" and music between sets. Proper opener Juana Molina played alone, alternating between guitar and keyboards, and using a few vocal loops to accentuate her off-kilter Argentinean electro-folk (a surprisingly sparse genre for some reason). The audience's near-complete indifference to the openers seemed pretty justified, as DJ Nobody did almost nothing with the samples he was manipulating and Molina's stage presence left much to be desired.

Savath & Savalas were a completely different story. Seeing the material from their latest album, Apropa't, performed live was an impressive testament to Herren's song crafting and the quality of the musicians he surrounds himself with. Songs came across almost exactly as they were played on the album, and if anything the live settings brought forth the grooves that Herren hid in layers of distortion on the recorded version.

Puyuelo Muns's ethereal voice held up beautifully in the live setting, while Herren worked away, hunched over by the side of the stage playing three keyboard systems. The drumming was perhaps the most impressive element, as she was able to maintain the cadence and the beat-shifts that Herren incorporated into the original. While these are certainly not Prefuse glitch drops, they still require a good level of expertise.

Most of the material played was off of Apropa't, and presumably some unrecognized songs from the forthcoming Savath & Savalas EP (due out some time this summer). Much like that album, the show was really Puyuelo Muns's. There was no stage banter whatsoever, but Puyuelo Muns was at the forefront of the band and really brought the music alive. The live renditions of "Te Quiero Pero Por Otro Lado…" and "Balcón Sin Flores" were especially impressive, and perhaps the band's main stumbling block was the weaker version of Apropa't standout "Um Girrasol da Cor de Seu Cabello." Overall the intimate show, and especially the full-band line-up, helped to add new dimensions to the music and continued to cement Herren in my mind as one of the musical geniuses of our time.