The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Saint Saviour
Union Mof Gimmers , July 25th, 2012 14:34

Saint Saviour, aka, it shouldn't matter what her real name is, has been around a while, cutting her teeth performing upbeat pop songs and touring as Groove Armada's frontwoman... but that shouldn't put you off. That's because, as a sideline, she's been making some insultingly great music.

Part chanteuse, part preacher, Saint Saviour has drawn comparisons from Liz Frazer and Kate Bush, which of course, may be something of a cliché, but in this instance, are well-deserved. Sensitive, powerful and ultimately unusual ballads have appeared online, occasionally bringing to mind the gloomy, introverted hymnal weirdness of the likes of Anthony and the Johnsons.

And now, to the debut LP, Union. There's quite a leap from being an artist of potential - it's easy to have potential; it takes nerve to try and see it through – to being someone who emerges from the curtain of others to stand solo with your own work. Basically, is it any good? Well, this is an album that falls into two categories – brilliant, and acquired taste. In tracks like 'Fallen Trees' and 'Reasons', we're faced with one of the most breathtaking talents on the planet. Bruised and beat-up, the song lingers around piano and strings to devastating effect. When Union strips things back to sparse instrumentation, it's heart-wrenching and impossible not to slide clean off your chair into an emotional goo on the floor. Quite simply, in reflective, confessional mode, you could easily believe that Saint Saviour is the most gifted songwriter on the face of the Earth. Coupled with a wonderfully direct and powerful voice, it is almost impossible to show any signs of cynicism when she cries "you acted like you knew me!", in the yearning 'Tightrope'.

The Kate Bush likenesses are unavoidable, but let's be honest here, who wouldn't want to be compared favourably to one of British music's most brilliant songwriters?

Elsewhere, the LP is likely to polarise. Gathering in the current trend to Sound A Bit Like The Drive Soundtrack, not to mention keeping one eye on stadium sound, Union wanders dangerously close to something wincingly safe.

In tracks like 'I Call This Home', while it's distracting enough, it isn't great. At one point, it reeks of U2, with 'This Ain't No Hymn' sounding exactly like the kind of thing a BBC drama executive would do backflips for when in need of an uplifting segment in an averagely gritty drama. That said, while it may not suit all, it's obvious that these moments will be the stand-out for many listeners. Even when treading a safer line, Saint Saviour is still a ferocious and obvious talent. If only the tracks that are vaguely guitar-led showed the same tension as, say, LoneLady's terrific and hugely underrated debut album.

All-in-all, this is an occasionally experimental album that switches from tender, weary balladry to indignant, righteous positivity. One thing is for sure, this sounds like the album of someone who is going to explode and fill huge halls. Considering how odd this album is in places, that in itself is rather exciting. We might just have a superstar on our hands here and, for once, she seems to be wildly unpredictable... and that's exactly what we all need.