French quintet, HamaSaari, learned their craft in their previous band, Shuffle, but decided to branch out in a different direction with a new name. For their debut record, they bring in Klone guitarist, Guillaume Bernard, to help with the finer aspects of their arrangements and draft in Karnivool’s favourite engineer, Forrester Savell, to mix and master it. These two decisions alone tell you the ambitions they have for this album in an era when rock has little to say and even less to offer. Make no mistake: Ineffable is an LP that can persuade people with heavier and more extreme tastes to give the genre another chance.
Unlike Radiohead or Deftones, you’ll find no stream-of-consciousness hypomania or neurotic scribbling in the lyrics to this record. Each song appears to follow the story of a community of utopian dreamers who followed their redeemers to an isolated retreat to achieve righteousness with God, only to see their hopes turn to despondency when their leaders failed them. Opener, ‘Different Time’, starts with the sparse plucking of clean guitars and edgy keyboard drones coated in an illusory melody of time and place. Here, Jordan Jupin translates the introverted voice in his head into a melancholy reality with each crooning sentence as the guitars continue in their arpeggiated sequences through a bass-heavy force of drums. It feels like an early climax when they step on the distortion at the halfway point to dramatize the chorus with a burden of pent up emotions. They’re not afraid to end in a maelstrom of rousing guitars and dynamic drums, either.
Perhaps the greatest sonic achievement is the way HamaSaari ration the heavy riffs in favour of intricate guitar patterns that rely on nimble finger-picking techniques. The bass and drums provide the thrust on ‘Crumbs’ until the band unite in a down-tuned catharsis for the last rendition of the chorus. “Fear no more/ What’s going on if we stop sharing the crumbs?/ Never give up/ Let’s help each other bring a better future,” croons Jordan Jupin in a delicate lament. Fans of the latest Hypno5e album will recognise common ground here in the way HamaSaari use the drip-drip of the keyboard to illuminate the melodies where other bands would line up the guitar to do the same thing with slow pitch bends.
Of course, the important word here is rock, and the French quintet remember to do this from the first note of ‘White Pinnacles’ with an unsettled equilibrium of raging guitars and effervescent drums. It feels natural for Jordan Jupin to expand his emotions beyond melancholia and into the despair of harsher scream vocals when the band reach a finale of ferocious metallic vandalism at the five-minute mark. By contrast, his sparing use of a falsetto accent in the chorus to ‘Old Memories’ shows a band at the height of their confidence. Critics would be rejoicing if Radiohead produced something so poignant in the twenty-first century.
Ineffable is a clever name for an emotive piece of art. This is serious music for grown-ups rather than the angst-driven crap or ironic art-school nonsense that passes for rock these days. Crooning vocals and subtle guitar complexities merge with stereo drums and autonomous basslines. Sorrowful lyrics resonate with a glimmer of hope. HamaSaari connect the regrets of the past with the gratitude of being alive in the present. This is not miserable music, but it has a heavy heart. Band and listener alike can share the experience of a grief exorcism. Maybe the gift of existence can bring strength to those that question the meaning of it.
Release Date: 03/03/2023
Record Label: Klonosphere Records
Standout tracks: Crumbs, White Pinnacles, Old Memories
Suggested Further Listening: Anathema – A Fine Day to Exit (2001), Katatonia – The Great Cold Distance (2006), Klone – Meanwhile (2023)