Now and again I’ll get a new track sent to me in the hope it’ll be featured here and help raise the profile of the artist. I’ve written about this before, about the Scandinavian black metal and home-made generic EDM tracks and wishy-washy sensitive souls who can have you hankering for the edgy and dangerous appeal of the John Lewis Christmas advert soundtrack before they’ve even reached the first minor 7th chord in the chorus.
Nine times out of ten 99 times out of 100 the tracks I’m sent are so far removed from the sort of material I write about here that to feature them would be selling you short. I’d wager that someone, somewhere will gain enjoyment from some of these tracks, but not you. Trust me.
It was with great delight then that I took virtual delivery of The Saxophones. I’m glad I looked beyond the name because, frankly, The Saxophones is a terrible name for a band. I’ve thought long and hard for the past couple of minutes and I can’t actually think of anything worse. Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, maybe, but then, not only did they have a terrible name, they had terrible tunes too. And that terrible gimmick of featuring two bass guitarists. And terrible hair. And terrible spots.
To (very loosely) paraphrase The Zim, bands with great names make great records some of the time, bands with bad names make bad records some of the time but no bands make great records all of the time. You can debate that all you want, but, so far, despite the awful name they’ve landed themselves with, The Saxophones are that rare act that make great music all of the time.
The track I was sent is the early sound of dusky summer nights. If Chet Baker had joined Fleet Foxes they might’ve made a record as low-key and late-night as Mysteries Revealed. It’s got that choppy, Gibson jazz guitar thing holding down the rhythm. Airy flutes, other-wordly, far-off whistles and pitched percussion weave in and out of the mix. The drummer might’ve been inclined to lay down a gently brushed bossa nova beat rather than choosing to play whenever the mood felt like it but, because of this, there’s plenty of space for the close-miked vocals to breath. It’s all rather nice.
A short time spent on The Saxophones’ Spotify page reveals more tracks, some even better. The 50’s doo-wop, ‘Enchantment Under The Sea’-feel of Just You comes across like Tindersticks soundtracking David Lynch. Remember that band Cults from a few years ago? If they were still making records (actually, maybe they still are!) they might sound like this.
The Saxophones are a husband and wife duo. Alexi Erenkov is the multi-talented tunesmith, contributing guitar, saxophone, flute, synthesizer and vocals to the duo. His missus, Alison Alderdice is, on drums and vocals, the Karen Carpenter of the band. It cannot be overstated though just how understated the drums are on all the tracks I’ve been listening to. Maybe by the time the debut album arrives – around the start of June – it’ll be different, but I hope not. These tracks have a mood and a feel that keep them perfect as they are. Written on a houseboat in San Francisco, with the sounds of West Coast jazz, 50s exotica and outsider folk for company, it may well be one of the albums of the year. Personally, I can’t wait to hear it. And I never, ever thought I’d be saying that about an act so badly named as The Saxophones. Just goes to show you. Look beyond the name, boys and girls. You never know what you might be missing out on.
Those of you living in the beautiful south can catch The Saxophones on May 15th when they play London’s Slaughtered Lamb. A couple of days later (18th) they play The Great Escape in Brighton. The more exotic of you might choose to catch them the following night (19th May) when they play Le Pop-Up du Label in Paris. Bien sur.