Guillermo Scott Herren’s output with Savath and Savalas may never outnumber that with his primary artistic outlet, Prefuse 73, but with each release, he seems to be getting closer and closer. Golden Pollen, Savath’s first album since signing with Anti- is its fourth overall, not counting EP releases, and features all the hallmarks of Herren’s Latin exotica: Spanish sung vocals, hand percussion, acoustic guitar, some flute here and there. If there’s a quality that separates it from the remainder of the Savath canon, it’s a bright and vibrant lushness, each song beautifully arranged and rich with instrumentation.
Certainly past albums like Mañana were beautifully arranged as well. Golden Pollen merely takes that central idea and amplifies it, makes it more cinematic and, simply, big. Flutes, drums, percussion guitar and electronics swirl in a tropical shower of beauty and serenity. Supposedly, Herren recorded these songs in isolation and it makes perfect sense; they evoke a feeling of peace and solitude, though many of them swell and sway with dramatic grandeur, ebbing and flowing with the intricacy of Herren’s guitar plucks and mantra-like vocals. Despite movements in momentum and mood, each track bleeds seamlessly into one another, feeling less like songs than meditations, swirling and encircling each other.
The other primary difference between Golden Pollen and prior Savath albums comes down to personnel. While past records prominently featured female vocalist Eva Puyelo, this effort finds Herren, himself, taking the lead, his own gentle baritone guiding the circular path of each song. Mia Doi Todd and Battles’ Tyondai Braxton also offer up background vocals, while Jose Gonzalez takes the lead for “Estrella de Dos Caras.” “Estrella” is actually one of the most strongly fleshed out tracks, moody yet accessible, a clear choice for a single among a greater series of interlocking musical pieces.
Golden Pollen soothes and seduces, its exotic rhythms and laid back tones inviting the listener for some summer afternoon lazing. Only occasionally does it become intense, and even then, one can sense an impending chill, easing back into a relaxed and gorgeous state. So, then, who’s making the mojitos?
Juana Molina – Son
Jose Gonzalez – Veneer
Gato Barbieri – Fenix
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.