This is Saint Mars.
The band hails from Bristol (UK). The sonic influence of the region is soaked through their debut release, “Ocean Blues”.
And to prepare your mind for the opulent deep grooves presented within this four song offering, think of the word ‘blues’, not in the sense of the southern US musical style, but as in the different hues of the color. The way the ocean can entice you to submerge within tranquil blues of warm Caribbean seas, or drown you beneath darkened waves of storm generated surges. These are of the colors of swirling, echoing ideas that Saint Mars likes to wrap around themselves like a fog.
Clearly plotting the course is singer Marc Darcange (Lead & Backing Vocals, Keyboards, Programming). His murky smooth velvet whispers command the attention throughout most of these tracks.
The music is haunting, layered, and deep. The Massive Attack comparisons are accurate and deserved, as the other main contributor here is guitarist Angelo Bruschini. While not a founding member of the highly influential band (also from Bristol), Bruschini came on for Massive Attack’s third album, “Mezzanine” (one of their highest charting). While MA explored more of a ‘trip hop’ approach, the drifting repetitive melodies that Bruschini seems to have a mastery over come through in the arrangements here with Saint Mars.
When you filter in the rest of the contributing musicians, Nataniel Shelley (bass, keyboards, vocals who played in Transposer) and John Langley (drums, programming who played with Blue Aeroplanes), the influence of both the region and its history shows a solid starting point for Saint Mars. The group manages to deftly employ the alt-indie groundwork of previous area acts while forging something fresh for today’s contemporary scene.
The opening title track showcases singer Marc Darcange’s breathy intensely whispered vocals. The addition of the female vocal presence on the chorus dances with its male counterpart in a swirl of breezy confessions. Guitars echo into the distance while heart-beat drums keep the number focused so it doesn’t wash away completely. Saint Mars displays a mature sense of writing in that they develop songs that achieve different levels while still following a fairly standard pop verse / chorus formula. It’s mostly achieved through subtle arrangement additions, but much credit goes to Darcange and his approach to layering vocals.
“Boys Never Cry” features slow build, hinting at an almost classical French Baroque arrangement before finding a more sturdy marching stomp of rhythm, thickened by a subtle string section and given weight with Darcange’s vocals falling atop each other, etching the songs title over and over in the mist. The track highlights how most Saint Mars songs are a vehicle for Marc Darcange’s lyrics and vocal presence. He seems to prefer the washed out, reverb whisper approach… breathy and thick with emotion. Considering how prominently the voice is arranged, it will be the defining factor to Saint Mars.
“A Love Impossible” has a club shuffle that should make New Order fans smile meekly from behind their cardigans. Behind the ever-present and dominating vocals, keyboards drive the rhythm, giving a snappy synth pick-up to the vibe.
In “Broken Prophecy”, Darcange’s English accent comes so drenched in echo and reverb, the words almost sounds non-English with his precise pronunciation. A more uptempo pop tune that gives nods to dreamier synth driven brit-pop sounds of the late 80s. Think Joy Division with a tad more intensity.
“Ocean Blues” is a prelude to the band’s first LP, “Celesteville”, a concept album about a young boy’s experience of bullying, to be released later this year. First concerts, shows and new videos are scheduled to follow in the second half of 2017.
To show some support, buy some music, get some concert dates, or just reach out to the band to show some love… you can find everything you need on their website.