Date: April 26, 2004
From: City of Dis
Shadowed - A Review of the new album by Sacha Sacket
by Marc-Anthony Macon
Sacha Sacket slithered into the West Coast music scene, a serpent shedding his skin with the release of his debut album, Alabaster Flesh in 2001. With an organic, visceral coalition of classical piano, lush synthetic orchestration, metaphor, scintillating vocals and layered meaning; his songs wove chrysalid lassos 'round the hearts, souls and libidos of his fans: Leaving them parched and pained for more. Three afflictive years later, he returns with open, bleeding stigmata in his sophomore offering, Shadowed.
Shadowed, as is suggestive of its title, is quiet and subtle; the pantheistic and balls-out brashness of Alabaster Flesh taking a backseat to a hushed and vulnerable public crucifixion. Its overall effect is something similar to an injected morphine rush following a nearly fatal car crash: It plummets, damages, taunts, soars and blissfully eviscerates the attentive listener with epicurean vocals and decimating lyrics.
The album begins, wavering on the edge of a cliff with "The Prodigal": A soft implosion of piano, filial drowning and coveted resurrection. "Still stay here/I'll kill this curse/Can you hear me?/I'm almost dead/but I've been worse/Don't you worry," Sacha sings with broken passion in the song's somber chorus. Key to its lyrical animus is the desperate acceptance of a cyclical peril: "We both know/That your/Parents haunt you/And when you go/I'll find/Your phantom."
From that platform, Shadowed launches itself above the black clouds of a thunderstorm in "Kite High!", a hopeful yet hesitant testament to personal paths and probes. "So sure those were dark shark fins/But I just saw the dolphins/I'm Kite High!/Nothing's gonna stand in my way ever/And I don't need one reason why": The song can be seen as an epiphany, a catharsis, or an execution. As with most forms of medicine, individual results will vary.
Littered with references to the life, work and death of Kurt Cobain, "Sweet Suicide" is the album's first mesa; replete with verbal razors and strings. Piano-driven and flowing, it prays: "You know what it's like to touch/The edge with all apologies/Where just this once is one too much/And you have nothing left to be." Sacha's vocals are stripped and fleeced, with haunting results.
"Desire" - the hurricane of the album's ire - is a frantic, yet desolate melding of instrumental fury, alchemical orchestration and cryptic, layered lyrics. "I let myself softly slip into piss/I saw the light but only made a wish/I froze on the sands of Los Angeles/Burnt out on perfect plans and endless lists" sung frenzied and dulcet, its refrain is a gilded, black soapbox from which Sacha sings, "Fortune cookies /will always take your side/But you will crumble from the lie/Desire won't die," to sublime effect.
"You came/Came at a time when/When I would hurt myself/With blades and microwaves" opens "At a Time," the acid tears of Shadowed. Plunging into the unplumbed depths of unequal affection and lingering bruises, "At a Time" weeps "You can wait till I'm better/Just don't stay/Say that it's dharma/I won't pray." Simple and still, wet and languid, it's a downer of the most beauteous kind.
The swaying torch song quality of "Cruel Attempt" is as delicious as it is deciduous. "I am a man that gets lost in a blush and a sigh/You're nothing rare, I get snagged and thrown back all the time." Centering in on the awkward and manipulative strata of asymmetric flirtation, its emotional sediment is enveloped in the joys and detriments of the hunter/hunted symbiosis. Indeed, It's always the ones you can't taste that you'll never deny.
The electronic, ambrosial "Cockatoo" springs forward, ripe with masochistic fervor, and invites injury: "Spray my lymph across your wall/Just don't leave me alone." The spiraling and crestfallen chorus, accompanied with airy static symphonics, nose dives with its ichorous beak: "So I will let you/Beat me/I will play your fool/I will say you/Teach me/Be your cockatoo." The song has a trickling intensity to it that wraps itself around your rib cage; it's discordian, shady, algorithmic and intense.
"How dare you call me now," begins "I Just Can't"with a terrestrial, military beat. For whomever this song was written, you'll feel no envy: It pulls no punches, with lines like, "Got porn stars on my jock/Don't think I miss you much/Yeah we shared some poetry/But you were never much to see." Ouch. Nihilistic and brashly honest, "I Just Can't" is one of the album's most hard-hitting tracks and serves as a bridge to the autumnal, reflective final songs.
"Paris and September," albeit weighing in under five minutes, still has an epic quality to it. Think Merchant Ivory films on absinthe, mushrooms, incense and a filtering sieve of human emotions. It goes from daunting to hopeful with such subtlety that the two bleed together with the words, "Shows enough/So you can just taste love/Then he will turn the knob/To another song." With simple piano and strings, this ballad/torch song/saga or however you choose to categorize it, is bittersweet at its best.
Nowhere near as Hallmark as its name suggests, "Stuck in the Sunset" has little to do with clichés and a lot to do with memory's structural cycles, landmarks and effigies: "You never got to see/The silver lining/The bleeding brick clock tower/Those raining leaves." Littered with guitar and carried by the piano, the song is lush with imagery, shimmering and gorgeous.
The album's title track is as murky as "Kite High!" is inspiring. "Shadowed" is a sort of eulogy-cum-condemnation; the song is annotated with references to the work of Carlos Castaneda, Eugene O´Neill, and others. Sacha opens a kind of musical sepulcher with "Mescalito/Can you clean this mess/My boy's stuck to me and/I'm a sinking ship." The track ends with the haunting repetition of the refrain, "Save yourself. Save yourself."
The album ends, as though waking from a vision with "Palestine," the gentle, beautiful and euphoric anthem. "I don't have/Have to be the white knight," Sacha sings with Tinkerbell-on-testosterone piano. The album quietly closes its curtains with the words "Fell on my face/And laid for a while/Confused my /Persian Gulf with Palestine."
If it is important to you that you be able to categorize your CD collection by genre, be prepared to sever some nerve endings in an attempt to find a place for this one. I can't tell you if this is rock, folk, techno, cabaret, or a form of musical mandala. It's most certainly a breathtaking work of art. As with so many brilliant paintings, books and films, it forces the mind into familiar territory and unexplored wilderness: It is drenched in afterbirth and affliction, swimming in symbolism, mysticism, logic, and blood, and dangles the carrot of honesty so fiercely that you may find yourself, as I did, finding excuses to be alone to listen to it.