You might want to sit down for this one, or just stop the pretence and lie down. Post-metal duo Sarattma’s second record Escape Velocity is as extraordinary as its colourful cover suggests. This is a highly intertextual album. Guitarist Matt Hollenberg and drummer Sara Neidorf deliver a blend of SUMAC-level heaviness, fusing it with experimental influences ranging from no-wave to Ornette Coleman-style improv.
Yet where SUMAC’s heaviness offers feedback and claustrophobia, Sarattma fill in the gaps with energy, ranging from crazed solos over thick, earthy grooves to sci-fi themed twinkling harmonics. Colin Marston, of Krallice fame, helped master this record and you couldn’t have asked for a better meeting of minds because the shifts from dense heaviness to clean sections, backed up by clear stellar drumming, are flawless. All while avoiding the overtly clean, sterile feel some djent/prog records fall prey to.
In addition to his heavy projects Cleric and John Frum, Hollenberg also works with experimental composer John Zorn on Zorn’s Simulacrum albums. Hollenberg told Decibel in 2018 that he was ‘following orders’, however the explorations in dissonance – for example Sublingual Excavation, where angular walking bass lines back up the artfully erratic guitar parts – could come straight out of the New York experimental scene.
Sarattma fill in the gaps with energy, ranging from crazed solos over thick, earthy grooves to sci-fi themed twinkling harmonics…
You will enjoy the grit and chug on display here, however, the expansive sections throughout the title track, Escape Velocity, are some of the finest on the album because it is where the Sarattma really push the envelope. This is where the (often overused term) ‘cinematic’ can truly be applied to the record. On the final track Twilight Realm Of Imaginary Notes, a fifteen-minute dreamy monolith, Neidorf and Hollenberg just let the ideas run, giving Neidorf space to really bring her feel-heavy, textured drumming to the centre-stage. Meanwhile Hollenberg is not afraid to bring in a range of chorus and delay effects that push tracks into some complex, jazz infused guitar leads.
Thematically, Escape Velocity is a tricky one to pin down. Song titles range from some mysterious islands off the coast of Yemen (Socotra) to creepy crawlies (do not google Theraphosidae if you don’t like spiders, I found out the hard way). Perhaps the tracks on this album are meditations on the nebulous themes, or atmospheres the song title brings up. Neidorf suggested that the ‘escape’ in Escape Velocity is not specific to the colourful science-fiction horror of Carline Harrison’s cover, but rather ‘Playing music can allow us to access, articulate, and transform overwhelming experiences of pain which are embodied but not verbally expressible. That’s a lot of what the album is – voicing the extraterrestrial within the embodied.’
Given that this was recorded in 2019 and the list of engineers who have helped produce, it is clear this record is a serious labour of love. It is dedicated to a relative of Neidorf, which suggests this is a deeply personal record. Song titles and the thoughts behind them are perhaps (carefully chosen) placeholders.
Themes aside, this is an incredible exploration of what ‘post-metal’ can mean. Let this sell well so they can tour it!
Scribed by: James Bullock