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"Don't Want Anything But More" by Satsangi

Review

During these turgid times when there is a distinct danger of every successive day seeming like its predecessor, it's helpful to be surprised now & again. So thank you to Satsangi for something out of the ordinary (though I suppose that is something which could be said of any of their work).

Sadly there has not been any chance to assemble the full lineup over the last year to follow up the magnificent ‘You Saw Something' album which is now over two years old, but in the meantime, Johnny & Su have fought back against the circumstances offering us as early as last April ‘Shivoham-Lockdown Lullabies' (the first lockdown album we reviewed) and subsequently "Won't Let Me In", recorded in a similarly slimmed down format for the BBC Sofa Sessions in July.

Now they have done something completely different and released as their new single

"Don't Want Anything But More": not a new full band recording but one dating back perhaps seventeen years to their second ever recording session (with Andie Thomson at  Gighouse Studio). Consequently, the configuration of the band is somewhat different to that of the last album: we have continuity in the form of Johnny on electric guitar, Su on vocals, Richard Heath on saxophone and Rob Barrett on drums, but this track also features Mark Yakes on bass and Stacey Hirons playing acoustic guitar.

 

Even the band can't after all this time remember why the track has not previously seen the light of day. "Joli Shanti" which dates from the same session and is included on the single, has had BBC radio as well as live play & "Don't Want Anything But More" was a staple of the live set of that era.

 

It's all rather mysterious & that can only add to its allure.

So what does this treasure from the archives actually sound like? Written by Su & Johnny, clearly it predates a great deal of subsequent development of their trademark sound but this in practice means that is sounds unexpected rather than inferior. The full incredible roar which is full on Satsangi of our times has yet to fully evolve: there are fewer instruments in the mix & they are separated more distinctly (it is instructive that when Satsangi were contemplating a few acoustic sets a couple of years ago, they had to turn back the clock to find songs suitable for stripping back the arrangement). Arguably the subsequent ratcheting up of the instrumental attack had a catalytic effect on Su's vocal style & so here we get a more restrained version: one which was probably useful for her to hark back to for the last two releases. The sound contains many of the other elements familiar to us today including Indian influences, but overall the predominance is fairly punky if anything: clashing instruments, unsettling basslines & edgy tones: all things we expect from the band but which have been honed & refined as time has passed.

 

The songs themselves are far from merely early exercises: the quality of the words & tunes certainly amplifies the sense of wonder that it has taken so long for them to be unleashed.

 

I can't think of compelling reasons why, once "normal" operations recommence, these two slightly lost gems can't make a return to the live set even if only for a short cameo (I imagine there are far too many more recent ones & those newly created to allow a long run in the setlist) though they would & could never sound precisely as though they do here with the embryonic Satsangi: that moment in time, precious as it was & thankfully captured here & shared with us, has passed on & so has the world, but this in no way lessens its value.

In the meantime, the band ask me to advise you to watch out for exciting new projects this year.  Hoorah.

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"Won't Let Me In" by Satsangi

Review

Satsangi, never a band to shirk a challenge nor to be meekly led by fate nor wander aimlessly down roads many others have trodden previously, seem to have taken lockdown & the deprivation of the chance to share their music live as almost a personal insult. No doubt they had big plans for 2020, plans which have not (yet) come to fruition, but they have come out of their corner fighting.

I reported on their lockdown album ‘Shivoham-Lockdown Lullabies' back in April & now they have a new single entitled "Won't Let Me In" out today (it's already been played by Brody Swain on BBC Introducing for Coventry & Warwickshire).Necessarily the conditions again preclude the full & such powerful Satsangi lineup from taking part in the writing or recording, so it's just Johnny & Su this time (though Dave Holland mixed it).As you'd expect, it is an acoustic approach again & so chimes much more with its predecessor in sound than the band's more representative one for the last few years. However unlike much of those "Lockdown Lullabies" which were acoustic reworkings of previously released songs, "Won't Let Me In" is a fresh composition created acoustically from the start & I'm struggling to think of anything I've previously heard from them which it sounds like. In fact I can't think of any.It certainly has that beauty so many of their songs has however & in this instance the poetry of Su's lyrics ring through truly as they are that much easier to discern than on the louder numbers: in fact there is an excellent marriage between them, their message, the tone & the musical setting. This is a scintillating blend of guitar parts by Johnny, subtly meshing western & eastern motifs & moods as again in the best of what Satsangi always do.Wistful at times, haunting at others, sublime throughout, it is interesting how the pair achieve so much with what at first glance are limited resources compared with "normal". It's very much a case of how "less is more" can work with those with the talent, experience & taste to demonstrate restraint & introduce space into their works. Certainly Su fans will be delighted to hear what she can achieve in such a manner to complement the stunning effect of her tremendous performances at full throttle.This is an exquisite & gentle song, just right for times of uncertainty & isolation, with an uplifting feel even if the story the words tell is a bit melancholic.Satsangi in duo mode is the current "new normal" perhaps & it works really well: an unlooked for bonus to explore aspects of their craft we shouldn't otherwise have been able to experience. I can't imagine that it is intended to be permanent but it adds another option for what they do & that can only be enriching for them & for us.

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From the back catalogue