Review: Saåad – Présence absente (Hands in the Dark, Apr 13)

Though it makes use of many of the same tools and styles, Présence absente is a very different album from its predecessor Verdaillon. I had pretty high expectations going into the French duo’s newest, mainly because I think their previous release is a modern ambient masterpiece. But even if I didn’t try to avoid comparing albums to ones that came before, it would be hard to do in this case. Where Verdaillon was dark, earthy, and spiritual, Présence absente adopts a much more naturalistic approach. The songs rise and fall organically across their extended durations, seeming to focus more on evoking emotion rather than representing an environment. The use of field recordings is sparse, restricted to some occasional bird chirps and reverb-heavy clunking sounds, placed so that the textural contrast they create is much appreciated. Other than that, the record largely consists of weighty, effect-laden synthesizer drones, a choice to which I would usually not be very partial; but it’s all handled so well that I greatly enjoyed myself. I think the key here is that the songs are still very active, and it’s clear that members Romain Barbot and Greg Buffier put a lot of their own emotions into the music. One thing I’m sure about is that Présence absente is a much less immediate album than Verdaillon, and I’m sure that with time I’ll come to love it just as much.

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