I’m told Sadurn is new, a band formed from a solo project just before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s impossible I could have heard them. That’s difficult to believe though. The Philadelphia group sounds so unmistakably familiar. And it’s not the songs. There’s something else. It’s a feeling. What’s magic about Sadurn’s full-band debut, Radiator, is that it is a band fully inside of a human feeling. Not a feeling larger than life, but one we know and live.
What’s the feeling then? Is it the moment before saying goodbye, when your breath is held but the leaving is already visible in the air? Is it the after of the goodbye, the long and lonesome trip to somewhere new?
It is the songs, to some extent, I suppose. But it’s not that they’re imitations of others’ work. There is a familiarity there, though. The folk-tinged swagger and sway of Big Thief. The twang and crooning howl of Pinegrove. The plaintive, meager tenderness of Frankie Cosmos.
That’s all recognizable from the beginning. “Snake” seems to capture all of what the band does so well in just one song. Songwriter Genevieve DeGroot’s heart trembling lyrics exposed and on full display in the intro. The band firmly joining in, the anticipation of a crescendo always looming. The occasional break through, be it a dissonant guitar note that lingers or a single line that yelps out past the restraint. And the ending. When DeGroot reaches their final line, the album could end there: “My idea of love is that it’s lasting.”
But it doesn’t. Radiator continues and remains just as poignant. It may be because Sadurn never reaches that crescendo. The band never explodes or folds into chaos. What we’re hearing comes after any of that. “I tricked you/you feel for it/didn’t mean to let you down.” DeGroot sings on “Lunch,” over a drum machine and fluttering guitar strums. But we’re never told what came before. Does it matter? The ache, the love, the longing, it’s all the same.
And if I’m right, if Sadurn captures a feeling we all know of what it means to live a day that comes with the knowledge of all the days before it, then the weight isn’t just the after of an explosion. It’s in the void of a crescendo. It’s, as on “Special Power,” when crying becomes exhausting or when a tire continually leaks and “I just fill it up every other night/’cause after work I’m fucking tired.”
Still, the feeling must be one that comes after something, because you can hear Sadurn in motion. You can hear how slow a song might start and how the band pushes it forward. The whole band might be holding its breath throughout Radiator. There’s never the need for that grand rush. Instead, Sadurn waits, takes it’s time.
But soon, the breath will be done, and it will be time to move on. “I can’t wait to let the light in,” DeGroot offers in their final words. Then things spin backwards, start over, live another day. This is a feeling I’d like to remember.