Review: Saintseneca — Pillar of Na

Category:  The Arts
Wednesday, September 5th, 2018 at 4:50 PM
Review: Saintseneca — Pillar of Na by Livia Homerski

★★★★

Despite being an enjoyable and cohesive album, “Pillar of Na” by Saintseneca completely silenced the word noise that builds in my head during a typical first listening of a release. The album certainly became a sleeper hit for me over the next few days, the meanings and soundscapes slowly revealed themselves as the sweeping allusions and memories we have stored in the depths of our brains. The Ohio indie folk band recalls the story Lot’s wife through the title of the album and prepares the listener for the phenomenon of stories and memories we cannot forget turning to salt. 

With over 15 people credited for musical contribution, including the 5 core members of the band, there is no shortage of musicianship on “Pillar of Na.” For a band to be incorporating instruments such as violin, cello, dulcimer, and piano and their respective musicians in the live writing and performing spaces is always a welcome sight and sound in a digital world.

“Circle Hymn,” opens the album with a soft energy. The song is quite appropriately named, due to the lyrics which quite literally roll into each other. The title of this track is the first to bring out the religious undertones on this album, but Saintseneca is not here to preach. “Pillar of Na” is more influenced by the storytelling and imagery that exists within Christianity, much like indie rock outfit Mewithoutyou, without making it their whole focus.

The third song, a lush jam titled “Beast in the Garden” continues building the grand folk-rock foundation of “Pillar of Na.” The way the music builds and rushes juxtaposes the lyrics, which although sparse, comment on the ways of humanity with an allusion to the garden of Eden and the archangel Uriel guarding the gates, “Beast in the Garden, be still guarding the gate. Ah lonely angel, waver of burning blade.”

Released as a single in June, “Frostbiter” has a jangle-pop hook, setting the track apart from some of the more antiquated folk-inspired releases, such as the string ensemble in “Denarius.” The song’s lyrics discuss brief glimpses of the writer’s grandfather dying, a helicopter crash in Afghanistan and a washed-up rock star between the ironically upbeat sounding chorus.

With fragmented lyrics such as “Darkness on the edge of town, is swimming in stereo sound. The boss is not my cup of tea, averse to such authority,” track, “Moon Barks at the Dog” is a moody beckoning of rebellious youth. The accompanying music matches the mood of the cryptic lyrics well as the song begins with soft fingerpicking before incorporating a suspenseful bass riff and steady snare and hihat driven beat.

Upon successfully understanding “Pillar of Na,” I pieced together what made this such a difficult album to describe in the first place, and the onus mostly falls on production. This album is sucked into a vacuum of sound, in more ways than one. Many other albums released in the modern day suffer from this mastering phenomenon: where the vocals are too level with the music, and the hard consonants that help us differentiate between words are lost in a wave of guitar distortion and strings.

I was initially drawn to “Pillar of Na” for the album artwork of a strawberry heart underneath a Greco-Roman inspired arch. The art signified to me that I would be transported back in time, to when angels visited mankind, but instead I remained in the present, yet, it didn’t disappoint me. Although the ideas and sounds are nothing unheard of before in the indie folk-rock genre, it still stands its ground through the musicianship and attention paid to honoring the past.

Livia Homerski can be reached at ae.spectator@gmail.com.

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