The Saintainne 07.09

Posted July 12, 2011 in

SLUG's own Tom Bennett, vocalist for The Saintanne
With their debut appearance at Bar Deluxe scarcely one hot week behind them, and the sounds of a July 4 gig still ringing the ears of the newly schooled, local act The Saintanne came back atcha, Salt Lake, one more time, Saturday night at 10 o'clock, on the blacktop out behind Black Chandelier. SLUG was there, where the fuck was you?

While the band's audiences thus far have remained comparatively small, the enthusiasm of those audiences is hard to miss. The Saintanne, a power-of-darkness duo, combines the talents of vocalist Tom Bennett and guitarist Travis Adamick. Processing his goldtop Les Paul live through a computer, Adamick is able to tame the beast of lead guitars, harness and shape its expressive span. Adamick's method amounts to creating a sonic backdrop, a shimmering silver screen sprent with vast prairies, towering buttes and goblin valleys. Deep within these virtualities, Bennett's vocalsisolated from all harmonyand his wailing harmonica call out into Adamick's starry night. What comes to mind, at least at first, is the image of a vagabond cowboy, some lonely desperado, more in exile than at home out on the range.

The deep layering of guitar, the hundredth iteration summoning nothing but the ghost of the initial strum, and the extreme reverb enveloping the vocals, the insistent unnaturalness of it all, these qualities continually reassert that The Saintanne's vision of wilderness, and the individual's place within wide open space, is a cultural and not a natural one. The Saintanne evokes not luminous panoramas of Yellowstone and the majestic American West as painted on site by Albert Bierstadt. Rather, their music recalls the raw canvases soaked and splattered in Manhattan by arch-modernist Jackson Pollock. While artistic monuments such as Lucifer (1947) and Lavender Mist (1950) create a powerful visual impression of an infinite expanse, at the same time these paintings stubbornly assert their impenetrable physical flatness, a fact romantic fantasy art seeks to hide. This anti-illusionistic flatness is announced by the undisguised presence on the paintings' surface of handprints, cigarette butts, discarded nails trapped in pools of coagulated enamel. It is this sense of the West, as a dumping ground, that Bennett and Adamick share with Pollock. For all that their music may conjure Marlboro Country, it is Marlboro Country as seen on the smudged surface of a flickering screen.

All of which serves to raise the aesthetic force of The Saintanne by a crucial exponent, producing an effect I can only call the Post-Industrial High Lonesome. Heard as trapped and echoing within Adamick's colonized and urbanized, or televised frontier, Bennett's vocals sound all the more forlorn, all the more nostalgic for the past, any past, and for an unregainable contact with Mother Nature. According to The Saintanne's musical vision, made audible in songs such as "Mother Mary," where the prairies once receded into the distance, there now lie parking lots collecting drips of motor oil. Where red buttes once rose, there now stand abandoned warehouses collecting dust and unclaimed freight. It is fitting then, that The Saintanne should offer their best performance so far, on the blacktop and in the shadow of the gutted Arrowhead Press. In fact, it is to such zones of inner-city waste that The Saintanne repair not only for inspiration, but also for sessions of urban exploration, their municipal alternative to camping, hiking and caving. No doubt the band's sound owes much to these inward expeditions.

The Saintanne are currently working on an EP. Keep alert for news of future performances.
SLUG's own Tom Bennett, vocalist for The Saintanne The Saintanne plays behind The Arrowhead Press building. The Saintanne's Fourth of July show.