Turtle Roll

Members of The Notwist, Driftmachine, Lali Puna and Tvii Son invite a bevvy of guest vocalists for a record of eeries tensions and idiosyncratic percussion, finds Amanda Farah

Building an album around guest vocalists is far from revolutionary, but the effect on Saroos’ latest album, Turtle Roll, can’t be ignored. The Berlin-based trio’s sixth album invites a host of international collaborators to provide vocals on a majority of the tracks and, in the process, channels a completely new energy into the band.

Turtle Roll hits on many different emotional frequencies: ‘Tin & Glass’ opens the album with a club-ready groove studded with video game bleeps that channel not so much the song of the summer as the soundtrack to late nights out in the summer. That coolness stands in contrast to the eerie tension of Lucy Zoria’s spoken word on ‘Southern Blue’ or the sibilant percussion and chanted vocals on the chilled-out ‘Thicket’. The vibrant synth-pop of ‘The Mind Knows’ sees singer Solent’s wistful, dreamy vocals wrapped up snugly in the shifting tones.

In the same way that different voices keep the mood of the album in a constant state of flux, having so many different collaborators affects its sonic cohesion; the effect is that Turtle Roll sounds more like a collection written for individual artists than an album by one band. That being said, there is no featured vocalist who feels out of place – each is a perfect fit for their track. This malleability makes sense given that Christoph Brandner, Max Punktezhal, and Florian Zimmer all are part of other musical projects – not to mention that Saroos collectively have played in the grey areas of genres, swaying from post-rock to electronica on different albums.

What feels fresh on Turtle Roll specifically is the playfulness in the instrumentation; the patterns of the synths and idiosyncrasies of the percussion can be jaunty and teasing. Turtle Roll is no less serious than Saroos’ previous work, but the whimsies and oddities feel less incidental, less like flourishes to the tracks and more integral to the structures of the songs. The oddball arrangement of ‘Being With You’, with its programmed drums, chimes and the quirky inflections, adds a lightness to counterbalance the melancholic timbre of Caleb Dailey’s voice (and offsets some of the saccharine sentimentality of the lyrics).

Album closer ‘Here Before’ employees a cranked, rattling sound as a cheeky constant among the gentle organ vibrations. As one of few tracks without vocals, ‘Here Before’ also provides a full stop on the album by cementing Saroos’ presence, reminding listeners of who is holding these individualistic tracks together.

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