Saint Saviour Union

Saint Saviour – Union

 
Saint Saviour Union
I never really got the ‘fuss’ that surrounded Florence and her Machine, sure some of the cuts on her debut were mildly diverting but for me her Enya-like histrionics, crushingly self absorbed lyrics and deeply clawing voice have always been over rated. Indeed when she took to the stage to wail her away through multiple versions of her dreary retread of 90s club hit ‘You got the Love’ at Glastonbury a few years ago, the words over exposed never left my mind upon clapping eyes upon her. Why bring it up well my point is there are many more worthy female artists out there yet ‘the anointed ones’ (BBC, NME et al) often left scars on my brain (see also Ellie Goulding, and La Roux)like nails down a blackboard, as the major media precede to try and convince us (whether we like it or not) that they ‘were right’ but it really is nonsense, if an artist can’t stand without the hype then what does it say about their ‘talent’, eh?!

 

All of which waffle brings me to Saint Saviour, aka Becky Jones whom until recently was better known as the front woman for Groove Armada. It’s apparent Stock-on-Tees born Jones has taken her time, waited her moment and honed her craft merging genres chis selling away any fat from her record until it is fit and ready, her debut reflecting songwriting and vocal chops that knock the recent pretenders aside.  ‘Union’ is perhaps the bringing together of a duality: two moods reflecting upon the songs that make up the tracklist of her awesome debut ‘Union.’ With wonderfully brave songwriting it’s Becky’s imperious vocal presence that gives form to this duality from the throbbing sparse instrumentals of the balladry to the minimal, yet ultra sleek electronic pop compositions reminiscent of Goldfrapp’s finest moments and apparently inspired by the works of Factory Records and the seminal producer Martin Hannett.

 

That the startling work of Kate Bush has hung over most UK ‘female pop star’ of the last thirty years or more isn’t a surprise, and whilst there are at times tonal comparisons with Becky’s piercing notes, and latter cuts like ‘Running Up That Hill’ and ‘Cloudbursting’ are hinted at here. Becky’s vocals are actually more prominent and sound more forward looking than the Bush’s more theatrical opus’. Thus she actually bares more in comparison in her futuristic style and sound to the lesser known Kristeen Young an extravagantly talented artist with a raw voice and playful sense of song dynamics.

 

Ushered in by soulfulness of gentle opener ‘Mercy’ and ‘Tightrope’ that’s delectable soundscape is dappled by Hammond organs, and gospel backings and rippled through with Becky’s pure vocals quiver as they detail heartbreak that’s crystalised in it’s final portion and the refrain ‘You acted like you knew me/and I knew you’, if anything it’s a nod to the recently departed Grace Jones and her ability to marry soulful melodies to disco.

 

The influence of dance culture slivers through Union’s spine: ‘I Call This Home’ which deals with the “complicated relationship you have with your roots and when you try to escape them” builds gradually from spiderish guitars to widescreen faslcetto that braces and brakes open into catharsis against shimmering synth sweeps and militaristic drums. It’s a trick she pulls off again in the bubbling ‘This Ain’t No Hymn’ that’s sea of clicks and beeps is wracked with pain, and isolation and final release as her amazing vocals spiral skyward. The thudding morality of ‘The Rain Falls on the Just” clicks and beats with the energy of early Prince. There are couple of minor missteps  ‘Domino’ see’s a tip of the hat to hip hop culture as Jones cartwheels through a self affirmation of “surviving the production line of pop” and is joined by Ampllify Dot whose contribution is a little jarring. ‘Dreamtime’ meanwhile floats by an innafectual soundscape.

 

That many of these songs apparently aren’t always borne of directly personal experience is even more impressive as Becky inhabits news stories, narratives, dreams and emotional spaces with a compelling believably and admirable power. For example the gloriously stripped back ‘Reasons’ is the stunning album center piece Becky’s vocal fragility accompanied only by a circular piano as she contemplates the history of her surroundings in central London, having delved into a local cemetery used as a pauper’s grave for prostitutes in Dickensian times. The song concerns “imagining being one of these prostitutes, looking through the window of a workhouse, knowing that your child’s in there and you have to get them out. Everyone thinks it’s a love song, but it’s actually about something horrible!” As it builds to it’s undeniable crescendo Becky’s voice is almost redolant of Annie Lennox as she scales it’s upper register the sound of release as her voice let’s go and into orbit as she sings of intertwined sense of release from a fearful situation is simply spine tingling, and one of the best songs I’ve heard this year.

 

 
Some have criticised the album’s overly sheened production and lack of coherence but but I beg to differ. Six years in the making ‘Union’ is an album of peerlessly impressive pop music, each track pierces the heart revealing Saint Saviour, a sophisticated female artist with a startlingly resonant talent that shines through each composition and reaches beyond the fads and at times towards outstanding brilliance.

[Rating:4]

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.