Review Summary: And yet it moves.
Sadness has been around the proverbial block: the most popular of Damián Antón-Ojeda’s musical aliases, the Mexican-American one-man band gained a cult following in the wake of 2019’s I Want To Be There
, a torchbearer album of larger-than-life, steadfastly-insulated blackgaze. Marked by fraught tension between ear-piercing recording fidelity and muddy pearls of melody, it embodied the genre’s extremities without directly aping either side of the portmanteau’s roots too religiously. The composer then had a leg to stand on: splits with other internet-lurking bm compatriots and compilations of leftover material have littered his Bandcamp page ever since.
The latest of those partners is Abriction, a dream pop-adjacent project run by Meredith Salvatori. Equally prolific in half the time, her discography already contains roughly a dozen entities for newcomers to wade through, many of them characterized by the filtered photography, disregard for capitalization, and aloof aesthetic of skramz, trap, and shoegaze parlor tricks (mind you, not necessarily all at once) you’d expect from a Gen-Z loner who spends too much time making art and not enough time making connections. Both projects—neat as they may be in small doses—appear to be quantity over quality landfills in need of a permanent thrust into relevance.
Snobbery be damned, Sadness // Abriction
sees the two musicians tweak their strengths to tap into the momentarily rich vein of washed-out, elongated dreamo, comparable in scope and sound to the works of the trailblazing partnership between Parannoul, Asian Glow, and sonhos tomam conta from a few years ago. If that trio championed the isolation of a world in lockdown, Sadness and Abriction raise aloft a sun-scorched rebuttal in the form of five suites, the late spring thaw to Downfall of the Neon Youth
’s winter, hopped up on Sudafed and dizzy, but unmistakably alive and kicking.
And now, the catches! (Sit tight, there are many): Sadness // Abriction
stands devoted to qualities intrinsically destined to limit its appeal, including but not limited to production quality with the viscosity and tang of pulpy orange juice, vocals rendered incomprehensible whether they’re screamed or sung cleanly, a runtime of 75 (!!!) minutes, and falling back on cresting and receding as a structural crutch, turning would-be post-rock by way of indie-rock gems into a slab of monolithic, predictable tropes. No two sections feel haphazardly assembled per se, but they routinely bear the uncanny familiarity of a room adorned with pallid IKEA furniture.
Skedaddle yet? If you haven’t, you’ll soon be privy to another surprise: the newer artist here is the one who seems more in their element. Indeed, experience doesn’t always translate to fulfilled potential, and Sadness’ mixes—more refracted and distant than Abriction’s—actively detract from the resonance of the raw material. Putting the disparity in sound levels aside, Abriction’s efforts are more confident and rewarding anyway, collective highlight “breaking through the clouds” minimizing the split’s overdone mid-song interludes and culminating in a genuinely euphoric gang vocal climax that takes its dear earned time before dissipating into the aether. In a vacuum, it’s one of the most moving songs I’ve heard this year, and—at the risk of reducing the rest of this down to a throwaway comment—it has the distinguished displeasure of being surrounded by marginally lesser versions of itself for roughly an hour.
The atmospheric guitar work and waterbed of drum machines craft some sort of vibe—I get that and on occasion find myself swayed by it, too, but therein lies the frustrating, cynical irony of this split’s whole raison d’être; it abides by a template only as rewarding as it is intimate, yet it cordons listeners off from clarity, crouching behind the smothering blanket of its production instead of proudly donning it like an ornamental cape. While sheltering there, it’s indisputably of the moment, but meticulously tailored to a minuscule audience whose taste in trends is as fickle and short-lived as the liminal, starry-eyed twilight it seeks to evoke. That chromatic radiance will come back around, I’m sure, and given that this is one artist’s detour and another’s apex-in-progress, Sadness // Abriction
needn’t really be more than a cross-promotional tool for all parties involved, but I dearly hope the morsels of brilliance it channels don’t remain lost in this self-imposed fog for long. I can’t contest the bittersweet joy of its finest moments, but you and I both know there exist views of the same celestial scenery with less obstruction.