What does Seb Martel sound like?
The review of Seb Martel – Saturn 63
Weilding nine different guitars, Seb Martel’s “Saturn 63” is an ambitious project that explores taking the electric guitar into unusual territories. Whether that’s turning it into a dulcimer-styled hammerable sound, muted feedback as melodies or leaning into Latin ballads – “Saturn 63” spans far and wide. Quite whether it works as a body of work is difficult to evaluate but it is certainly one of the more unique albums released in 2022.
Seb’s guitar style here is muted but never minimal. Many of the tracks on this album feel like they are dusty blues numbers that have weathered a few too many sandstorms. They hang in the air like empty vessels and leave tiny fingerwork drifting in the atmosphere of their own making. Songs like “Seventy”, “The Wind is Weak” and “Friction” thrive on this delivery. They spent a lot of time creating a sombre mood and then working their catharsis out. Don’t expect obvious melodies here either as Seb chooses mood and sound textures over grand melodies.
Melodies do play a key role in some of the more traditional folk and blues tracks though. “My Best Friend” shines with its immediacy. It’s an indie-folk gem and Martel’s voice works a charm here too. The spoken words over the soulful “Soul Kiss” is recorded in a way that sounds like you are in the room. Rustic beauty seeps into every note. The Latin-infused “Macorina” feels like a lament that crosses love and mourning but spends a little too long stewing in its own misery. Of course, the outsider intrigue is the cover of “Blues Suede Shoes”. It is like the rhythm of rock n roll remains but the poppier sensibilities have been stripped away into something more trippy and hypnotic.
Then we have the more unusual side of Seb Martel’s music. “Balualow” is a dark roots number that has atmosphere in spades. “Albert Premier” sounds like Seb wanted to record some post-rock in his bedroom like a homebrew demo. “MattJam” is a shimmering quiver of pedals and notes. “Arpog” and “Tortuga” take inspiration from plucked instruments and turns the guitar into something more chamber orchestra-like. “Future Talk” sounds like the soundtrack to an experimental bush tucker drug trip. Fret slaps join percussive kick beats alongside Western guitar twangs and funky bass twinges. There are a lot of soundscapes that spiral off down rabbit holes but I personally found them a little difficult to connect with. Some tracks feel far more formed than others and have a sense of a beginning, middle and end. Too many tracks on “Saturn 63” felt like ideas that come and go without sounding like they reach their full soundscape potential.
Seb Martel shows clear ambition with the breadth of genres and ideas with “Saturn 63” and that means some tracks will naturally hit home easier than others. As if toying with three-quarter complete melodies, it’s as if the album is making a statement that something is missing and the music is searching for it. This didn’t quite land fully for me but I would recommend anyone who enjoys hearing the electric guitar being worked into tense rustic backdrops to check out some of Seb’s work. It’s so varied, there’ll be something for everyone somewhere. You just might not click with the album as a whole.
Recommended track: Blue Suede Shoes
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