Sappington: Summer 10″ LP (Dreams by Degrees, 2002)

by Brent

Sappington SummerWhy Sappington is not a wildly successful band is beyond me. Combining post-apocalyptic, dark electronic noises with slow, delicate melodies, Sappington has already defined a unique sound of their own with only 3 ep-length releases available. Their 2000 self-titled debut ep is a mystifying collection of subtle beauty. One can classify the band’s sound on this debut as “cold machines meets human frailty”, as the soft acoustic guitar intertwines with passionate vocals over a heap of media fragments, computer blips, and other odd noises.

After enjoying this debut disc from the husband and wife team so much, I anticipated their 2002 release Summer. As part of the Dreams by Degrees Seasons series (the same series that produces the amazing Winter by Coastal, as well as the affecting Spring by Colophon), Sappington was given the duty of writing songs that were inspired by sunny days and hot nights. This paring of the bleak Sappington with the summer season seemed peculiar to me. Surely the band was more suited to fall, perhaps, with their music’s affinity for capturing moments of isolation, decay, and even death. Yet, a good part of the anticipation for this record lay in the odd pairing: “Just how WILL Sappington interpret summer?”

Beginning with “Airtight (morning version)”, Sappington smartly picks up where they left off from their previous disc. Ann‘s voice gently, warmly, and almost sadly, croons over the distorted sound fragments and sparse instrumentation that characterized their debut. The song is slow, satisfying, and a comfort for fans of the band\s previous work. What follows this “typical” Sappington song are 3 others (one being a remix of “Airtight”) that don\t rely on the Sappington formula. Instead, the 3 songs are faster, rely on beats more, and louder with layers of fuzzed-out guitars. Keith boldly belts out in “Libra” in an almost punk-like manner, while guitars and computer beats thrash with ferocity. While the songs are different than anything else Sappington has recorded thus far, they still oddly sound like Sappington, with the odd loops, sonic accents, and strong melodies anchoring the songs. Sappington even fleshes out their record with a version of Pink Floyd‘s “Welcome to the Machine”, which they reinterpret with their post-modern, post-industrial approach. The result of this record is that the listener is left to marvel at the immense creativity of this band.

So then, how DOES Sappington interpret the season of summer? Summer finds the band not reveling on beaches or in picnics; instead, Summer finds Sappington in the midst of a metropolis underworld, surrounded by metal and concrete, tinkering with computers and machines on a sweltering, humid night. What else would we expect from Sappington? Hopefully this record is the platform from which Sappington will plunge into greater notoriety and success.

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