Saint Rich: Beyond the Drone

This is a solid and convincing first record from Saint Rich, proof that there's plenty of places they go, but also that they've already come a long way quickly.

Saint Rich

Beyond the Drone

US Release: 2013-09-30
Label: Merge
UK Release: 2013-09-30
Artist Website
Label Website

To read about the origins of Saint Rich is to feel like you're reading about a side project. Christian Peslak and Steve Marion played together in Marion's project, Delicate Steve. On a break from tour, the two began working on material that didn't seem to fit the Delicate Steve feel. Marion swapped out a guitar for drums, Peslak strummed out some chords, and Saint Rich was born.

The duo banged out seven songs pretty quickly, and from there developed Beyond the Drone, the debut album out now on Merge. To listen to this, though, there's little side-project reticence or tossed-off relaxation about the album. This is a focused, intricate set, one that fittingly has been done for a year and is now seeing daylight. That sense of taking your time, of taking the long way home, informs this record on many levels.

Marion, the main force behind Delicate Steve, shaped these songs melodically, but he yields to Peslak's honeyed voice and curious guitar phrasings to front the show here. Together the pair mesh well Americana's dust with power-pop's glitter, and the dingy shine they create is solid. Those musical touchstones, though, don't create opportunity for Saint Rich to steep itself in tradition. Instead, they are springboards to the strange twists and structural shifts that can make these songs, at their best, surprising and resonant.

Early standout "Officer" shows off Peslak's pipes immediately, as well as the clear link between his shearing guitar riffs and Marion's off-kilter yet in-the-cut drumming. The song chugs along on angular hooks and steady percussion, but things shift unexpectedly when it opens up into a thick shimmer of sound, with keyboards, guitars, and drums soaring in step with each other. It's a move that feels both inevitable in its sound but wholly out of left field in its delivery. Similarly, "Sorry/Sadly" starts with a sun-baked desert thump but then bottom's out into space and re-emerges as a churning swell, injecting that thump with an urgent sweat.

Other shifts and eccentricities are delivered more slyly. Jangling electric guitar punctures holes into the strum of "Dreams". "Black and Brown" turns the sunburst elements of these other songs on their ear, turning the crunchy guitars into something more sneering. Most memorably, "You Ain't Worth the Night" takes classic rock hooks and lets them tumble down into the spaces of Marion's skittering drums. In these songs, we see the band's own personality rise up through the structures rather than imposing it on them after the fact. These songs are sun bright, to be sure, but they never forget the stand of clouds in the distance. There's a darkness just under the surface. Sometimes, as on "Coming Home", the band leans too heavily on the bright and song sounds too thin as a result, where more subtle moments like the pastoral folk of "Don't Bring Me Down" sneaks its long shadow in effectively.

The twists in structure and songcraft here are so effective that other moments of more shapeless experimentation feel a bit limp in comparison. The album opens with a titular sonic introduction, a squall of feedback and transmitted voices that feels a bit too self-serious to set up the playful record that comes. Similarly, the excellently epic closer "Already Gone" is done no favors by being set up by another noise piece on "To the Sun".

These slight missteps don't sap the album of its charm, however. And, on Beyond the Drone, an album that seems to be digging thematically into the space between fruitful wandering and aimless drifting, setting a toe off the path once in a while is inevitable. Still, this is a solid and convincing first record from Saint Rich, proof that there's plenty of places they go, but also that they've already come a long way quickly.


To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

Keep reading... Show less

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

Keep reading... Show less

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.