Henry Saiz & Band define music as a connective force in hauntingly daring LP, ‘Human’ [Album Review]
There are few forces that unify humanity as greatly as music. It feels as though we’re inherently drawn to rhythm and sound frequencies woven into notes and melodies, with great philosophers like Pythagoras even boasting about its healing powers. More recently, a study proved these notions with the discovery that brain activity is heightened when experiencing live music in a social setting.
Henry Saiz is one who’s been touched profoundly by these properties throughout his life, and has brought a brand new layer in their exploration through Human. The crowdfunded audiovisual album — his third — is his most ambitious endeavor to date, seeks to connect music to the place it’s written as well as the people listening to it.
His funding campaign considerably exceeded goal, showing just how much trust his fans, and other interested connoisseurs, placed in what would come of this mission. To accomplish it, he and his band embarked on an expansive journey alongside the world, carefully selecting ten magnetic locations to inspire each chapter of the story. A video accompanies each chapter as well, offering a deeper look at the inner workings of the album’s creative process.
“I’ve always considered electronic music as a starting point — a territory without borders,” stated Saiz at the beginning of “Downfall,” Human’s leading single and video. It’s meant to illuminate the album’s core message and aesthetic, synthesizing elements across electronica and ethereal vocals into a bitterweet symphony. Beauty, wonder, and a hint of darkness are captured in “Downfall,” allowing the song to double as a reflection of humanity itself — as perceived by Saiz.
The band venture out to the Canary Islands to begin their, settling down in the picturesque beach town of Lanzarote before traversing over to Australia. Both these places are abundant in natural beauty, and their landmasses are both largely unpopulated; thus, they made for excellent “invitation[s] to escape reality,” per Henry in the second episode of the Human docuseries. “Haven” and “Ghosts,” the finished products of recording in these areas, certainly achieve their intended goal of inserting a sense of surrealism into the album, using futuristic vocals, drums recorded in cavernous volcanoes, eclectic rhythms, airy synthesizers and other dreamy elements to do so.
Next up, “The Golden Cage,” Henry Saiz and Band take listeners to Dubai, which is considered a highly developed and progressive city-state within the Middle East. Its urban atmosphere and oasis-esque location are translated into a flowy soundscape with a hint of edgy, progressive rock-inspired guitar riffs at the end that are reminiscent of solos strummed out in 1970s stadiums. Likewise, “Dragon Hills,” inspired by Saigon, also plays around with retro elements; albeit, in synth form and with added South Asiatic melodic arrangement to better emulate its setting.
We head back into the wilderness once more for “Human,” “Time Machine,” and “Me Llama Una Voz,” which were penned in the Kenyan savanna, Joshua Tree, and the Argentian Andes, respectively. Saiz heavily touches upon the tribal, carnal parts of the human nature in these records, with each sharing a common theme of mysticism hidden in their melodies.
“Human” is a rare vocal-less composition on the album, forcing listeners to find peace and meaning within its harmonies and hollow percussion. “Time Machine” is as psychedelic as the desert it was inspired by, hooking in the mind with splashes of indie-tinged verses about rebirth and eerie recordings in the background. “Me Llama Una Voz” conveys its sonic message by weaving pan flutes into is underlay, verses sung by a local vocalist, and expansive melodies that give off the feeling of trudging through the mountains — much like Saiz and his band did while searching for inspiration.
Despite the unique instrumentation and vocals that Henry uses to distinguish each song from one another, they are ultimately quite similar in style. Not only does it make his third album a cohesive story, but it additionally shows off just how similar humans can be, despite the distance that separates us. Everyone is drawn to a well-arranged song with a jarring melody, for example — no matter the genre. In creating an electronica album that refuses to adhere to a specific archetype while remaining cohesive overall, we are seeing Henry and his band demonstrating this fact in real time.
Human finally closes with a piece called “Answer,” almost challenging to listener to define their own perception of humanity. This piece is particularly special, as its home location was Antarctica. Like “Downfall,” a bittersweet nature pervades once more as its vocalist states that “this story never ends.” These words ring true; life seems to be an eternal learning experience for all involved. For Henry Saiz & Band and this album project, however, one theme rises above all else: music is a unifying force, and a key to finding one’s own meaning of life and connectivity with others.