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The band Saajtak, based in Detroit (Jonathan Barahal Taylor, Ben Willis, Simon Alexander-Adams) and Brooklyn (Alex Koi), makes futuristic music that synthesizes a wide range of genres—often in ways that seem to clash against each other, always in service to the song. The band has quietly made music in Detroit for the better part of a decade, collaborating with members of clipping. and sharing bills with Xiu Xiu, Ava Mendoza and Greg Fox. Koi sings and writes lyrics; Taylor plays drums, Willis bass; Alexander-Adams contributes keyboard and electronics. But to individuate their contributions does the music a disservice. Saajtak sounds, feels, like a living, breathing organism, for which recordings don’t present definitive documents as much as they reflect songs at given points in their lives. The members of saajtak have performed or collaborated with esteemed artists such as Shara Nova [My Brightest Diamond], Meshell Ndegeocello, Jonathan Snipes [clipping.], deadmau5, Morley Kamen, Theo Bleckmann, Joan Wasser [Joan As Police Woman], Marcus Elliot, Pope.L, Ragnar Kjartansson, Sterling Toles, MC Kadence and more. After four independently-released EPs, saajtak will be releasing their highly anticipated debut album, For the Makers, on American Dreams on June 3, 2022.
Saajtak’s compositions are rooted in collective improvisation; their first release, spectral [ drips ], collects several free improvisations. The band was recording music live for a full-length debut when the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic pressed pause on their principal way of making music. In response, the band began working on new music remotely, in increments of eight days. Every two days, members would trade songs, gradually sculpting them into final iterations. Willis recalls putting on his headphones as he began recording bass: “The layers that Alex, Simon, and Jon had begun to craft engulfed me like a wave, filling me. I was suddenly surrounded by my friends.” Over time, the music organically cohered into an album, bringing together influences as wide-ranging as Richard Davis, Meredith Monk and Melvins. Koi’s lyrics balance narrative and enigma, incorporating several perspectives within a song in an approach she calls polyphonic narrative. “I like to imagine how personas might converse in worlds with varying levels of familiarity and skewness,” she explains. “What we receive are relationships that flow between splintery and harmonious, and that contain both ecstasy and affliction. There’s a big thrill in all this, when nothing can be apathetic.”