Saint Etienne

Saint Etienne

Sound Of Water

Sub Pop

Though the musical arrangements here are as numerous as the number of tracks, a most common thread is a jazz-like but simple piano progression paired with Sarah Cracknell’s relaxed and soothing vocals. Yet each track hands off instrumentations like a baton in a footrace, intermittently looming and weaving in harpsichords, strings, atmospheric effects, string bass, twirling flutes, electronica, congas, shakers, drum machines, and synths. Occasionally even a guitar pops up and swirls some of them into an actual radio groove, like “Boy Is Crying” and sections of some of the others.

Another common thread is a rich bed of soft las and doots and oohs and ahs, supporting lilting lounge melodies stroking your inner ear like a Burt Bacharach tune at a jazz rave festival.

Throughout that intra-genre variety of textures, Sound Of Water is surprisingly and accessibly adventurous. Some pieces are full of clever twists and turns, others offering just a simple riff with a gentle but thorough workout, and some surprise endings. A few times it sounds like they may have gotten lost, only to prove they knew exactly where they were going.

Effectively, Saint Etienne have delivered a potent mixture of ambience with groove, and gritty with sweet. Plus many broad brushstrokes of a light mood that pulses like a train rolling down the tracks. Sometimes up close, sometimes from a distance.

Sub Pop, P.O. Box 20645, Seattle, WA 98102; http://www.subpop.com

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