Satsang “Pyramid(s)” album review
Reggae and alternative artists of today strive to make the world a better place through their music. Whether through personal experiences or from their own hypotheses of change, modern music is transitioning into a source of hope and deliverance from the troubled times we've grown accustomed to. Although modernized, cultural calls to action are something that's always been constant throughout history when times get tough. Let's literally face the music and find salvation through song. One culturally conscious band is Satsang, an alternative collective based out of the Montana Rocky Mountains. Blending soul with folk with rock with reggae with hip hop, the result is as eclectic as their members: always three, many times alongside friends. In honor of the Spring Equinox, a time for growth and reinvention after a doldrum winter season, Satsang has released their sophomore album Pyramid(s) to reinvent the way we see the world. The band's debut album The Story of You followed the same springtime fashion, being released in March 2016. With two singles in between, Satsang has now dropped two full-length albums within a year's span, and the band doesn't seem to be slowing down anytime soon.
We hold an innate power to navigate to our own nirvana, and Satsang has the map.
The new LP is a product of Rootfire CoOperative, a not-for-profit label dedicated to changing the industry standard of musical recording. And, Pyramid(s) is a prime example of unorthodox: recorded and produced by the band members themselves (either at lead singer and songwriter Drew McManus' house in Red Lodge, MT or on the road in between shows), and mixed and engineered by band multi-instrumentalist Karl Roth. While touring the nation, Satsang enlisted the help of several guest artists to make their 'new-soul vibe' come to life, including Nahko Bear and Tim Snider [of Medicine For the People], Wookiefoot, Tubby Love, and GRAMMY-award recipient Chris Berry.
With such all-star accompaniment, all the album needed was a theme... and McManus knew exactly how to craft it. Growing up a victim of violence, McManus found himself lodged between addiction and despair as an adult. Despite sad circumstances, he found his second chance after moving to the tranquil Montana Beartooth Mountains. There, he learned to overcame his past struggles, and now channels his inner demons of yesteryear into messages for the masses. We hold an innate power to navigate to our own nirvana, and Satsang has the map.
Pyramid(s) is a 12-song compilation of catchy lyrics and calls to action. Spoken word starts off the LP, with a disclaimer that only fools rush into things – “the wise build slow and wide”. Let's start from the ground up, Satsang says, for society's current foundation is flawed. A myriad of songs off the album center around assimilating to adulthood after leaving behind the serenity and security of a carefree adolescence. Accepting life's responsibilities strike as unfamiliar territory and is vastly unwelcome to most. No one knows how to do it right, and in “Just a Child”, Satsang declares it feeling like “driftwood, cruising and crashing into pieces”. Sure, you never know when life is going to splash down on you like a tidal wave; after floating down a peaceful river for so long, it's hard to swallow a strong current that can easily pull you under. There's no literal life preserver to wear when rapids arise, and how are we to know what rocky waters are waiting just around the river bend? It's time to take the helm before your boat crashes – time to graduate from a child to a man. The first single off the album is “Between”, featuring Nahko Bear and a chorus of random children, who preach that the meaning of life is what you make it. Only you are in control of your own destiny. McManus may have acquired his self worth later in life, yet he now lives each day with a purpose. Goals are what separate the drifters from the dreamers, the average from the achievers. The “work is never done” and those who persevere are richly rewarded. Nahko's spoken word bridge is simply beautiful, by the way. To call this track 'uplifting' is an understatement. Other songs on the album give thanks to others, like the twangy acoustic track “Lay Me Down”, as well as proclaim an eternal helping hand to those lost in translation, like “Here If You Need”. There are tracks that question if the skeletons in your closet will forever deter your growth and credibility moving forward, like “Getting Old”, and there are tracks that say 'screw it, I am who I am... scars and all', like in the tribal track “Be Me” featuring Chris Berry. All in all, the album calls out the fact that something everlastingly majestic can come out of temporary sorrow and suffering – similar to the Egyptian pyramids. Let's build our own pyramid(s), each others' pyramid(s), with each life lesson a stepping stone set in perfect position. Soon, we will reach the top.
Satsang is currently on a national tour, wrapping up in Ashland, Oregon on August 27th. Considering Ashland has naturally-occurring carbonated water running just below the ground's surface, fabled for its regenerative powers upon consuming it, it's a fitting place for the band to conclude a conscious-driven tour... don't you think? Pyramid(s) is now available for purchase on all digital outlets and most streaming services.
Disclaimer: All views presented in this album review are those of the reviewer and not necessarily those of Top Shelf Reggae.