I Still Can Feel This

by D.M. Jones Still Feel
Sangsara hail from Fort Wayne’s farthest-flung suburb, Toledo, Ohio. Though the mention of that city conjures up visions of grit, grime and heavy industry, Toledo has nonetheless produced some impressive and varied music. An anathema to the town’s reputation, Sangsara make airy, ambient and cleanly deliberate music that possesses a ghostly gravity of its own.

Following an EP (Birth, Death and Everything in Between ) and a debut full-length (Bardo), Sangsara bring us I Still Can Feel This, a shimmering and understated affair featuring the distinct vocals of founder Lyndsay Stiles. Her deadpan style might best be described as Mazzy Star-meets-Nico (without the accent), and the lack of mannerism helps the vocal sit within the context of the songs rather than float above the instrumentation.

Such is the case on “Wandering Eye,” an acoustic-heavy drone featuring the alternating vocals of Stiles and bassist Dan Greunke. The song builds to a quietly powerful cresting wave of sound in true shoegaze/dreampop fashion, while the beautiful “Love Game” drifts along like a lost Galaxie 500 track.

Other standouts include “ATP” (co-written with Jonathan Edwards), a waltzing, dirging indie rock track driven by a propulsive guitar line, and the outright rocking “Crush 96,” whose slightly sinister riffing (courtesy of stellar guitarist Matt Ruch) threatens to bust the tune open but somehow manages to keep the lid on. The production throughout is excellent and consistent with the band’s vibe, complete with lots of layers but no sonic clutter.

The closest Sangsara come to “conventional” pop is on the midtempo “Metamorphosis,” wherein drummer Ryan Grames provides ample propulsion beneath a steady bed of acoustic and electric guitar work. If the Church had ingested less depressants in the 80s, they might have come up with something like this.

Following the short and majestic instrumental “Ten,” the album finishes with the Mojave 3-esque “Another Rainy Day,” a folky tune that lopes gently along as Stiles intones, “It’s time to move on from here.” It’s a fitting closer to a classy, subdued record by a band that’s not afraid to hold the reins a bit and take a little time to make their point. Kudos also to the inventive cover design and packaging. For more info, go to sangsaramusic.com.

Copyright 2006 Ad Media Inc.