"I spent the night inside/Rolling the rules round the hills of my mind," sang Zac Little in Daendors midway through Saintseneca's album release party in the Wexner Center's Performance Space last night.
“I spent the night inside/Rolling the rules round the hills of my mind,” sang Zac Little in Daendors midway through Saintseneca’s album release party in the Wexner Center’s Performance Space tonight.
Part of its “Next@Wex” series, devoted to showcasing tomorrow’s cutting-edge talent today, the concert made a point of looking into the still-daring Peter Eisenman-designed arts mecca’s back yard.
It found music there worthy of the series’ mission.
With Dark Arc, its second full-length, released by the influential big indie label Anti, the group and its new line-up has not only rewritten its own rules, but challenged categorization by drawing from a myriad influences while retaining a unique voice.
Guitarist Steve Ciolek compared the insistence on intonation to jazz. Singer/instrumentalist Maryn Jones said it was but one of the things the band has been called.
While that description was a stretch, folk, country, bluegrass and classic pop were surely sounds heard last night.
The band’s harmonies suggested everyone from the Mamas and the Papas to ’60s folk duos such as Ian and Sylvia. Little’s songs echoed old English dirges as often as their arrangements threatened to take the path of Mumford and Sons’ compositions.
To Saintseneca’s credit, not only did the band never settle for Mumford’s quickly-stale whisper-to-a-scream formula, but the dynamics in the group’s arrangements were rarely predictable. And Little’s compositions, sometimes delivered with a mumble that was simultaneously beguiling and annoying, didn’t follow any predictable path.
Throughout, the emotional blood and guts spilled in Little’s songs were the focus, regardless of the delivery, which ranged from the singer alone with an electric guitar, a trio accompanied by ukulele, dulcimer and electric guitar, to full band.
Work on the new album began with just Little and producer Glenn Davis, guitarist for Way Yes, who came on before Saintseneca. The band, which relied on a sunny groove anchored by a drummer and percussionist, would have done well to make note of the way Saintseneca made its mark. Way Yes’ frontline featured a drummer playing a stand-up kettle drum with bass and guitars on the wings. Pleasant and hypnotic, their sound begged for a real presence and personality up front.