Jan-Simon : Saturnia is a one-man project by multi-instrumentalist Luis Simões that managed to stay very underground, despite having six records on the fairly known Elektrohasch record label run by German band Colour Haze and guest contributions by illustrious people like Daevid Allen (Gong), Nik Turner (Hawkwind) and Stefan Koglek (of the already mentioned Colour Haze). For almost twenty years Simões was the perfection of the DIY ideal, doing everything from production to playing guitar, sitar, theremin, gong, bass, organ, synthesizers, electrical piano, percussion, mellotron and singing. That’s all going to change with the addition of a drummer and keyboard player, turning Saturnia into a real band. After all these years live shows are on the horizon.
This rebirth of sorts was the main reason to go through the back catalogue and the result is a live in the studio recorded compilation of the best of seventeen years of Saturnia. From each album, from the debut 'The Glitter Odd’ to the most recent ‘The Real High’ two songs were selected and rerecorded. The result is pure old fashioned progressive space rock. Think of Pink Floyd, Hawkwind, Can, King Crimson, Tangerine Dream with added bits of Weather Report and even Ravi Shankar. Whereas the original songs merge classic psychedelic space rock with more modern electronic rhythms (the result of doing everything yourself), the new recordings are elaborate layer cakes of organ, synths, guitar and sitar put on top of each other. Like a mountain stream they quietly ripple along, slowly and hypnotizing. It’s like jamming in first gear.
Often the sitar takes the lead. Together with the keyboards (mellotron!) it characterizes the sound of Saturnia. The main problem with this band is only that Luis Simões acts like the proverbial child in the candy store: he just can’t stop. Probably that’s the result of wanting to do everything alone: there is no one asking if it is really necessary to do those extra congas (or traverse flute or whatever). It may very well be the reason why ‘The Seance Tapes’ is almost 80 minutes as well. At the moments it works well, like in the galloping Hawkwind pastiche ‘I am Utopia’ the result is a great song. Every modulator bleep and every real or mellotron based flute solo adds to what is already a good rock song. The next song ‘The Real High’ has a very prominent sitar presence. Anyone who gets a rash from quasi Indian songs should better stay far away from Saturnia. The combination of desert rock, Indian raga and laid back singing makes Saturnia suddenly almost a Colour Haze clone.
Unfortunately these are the highlights and the quality level cannot be maintained. In many cases you end up with a curious mix of Pink Floyd in their ‘Saucerful of Secrets’ (especially ‘Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun’ gets plagiarized a couple of times successfully) with lots of mellotron. Sometimes that’s pretty much okay, but often it becomes superficial noodling and as the cd nears the finish it mainly becomes boring. It is sad to note that this first acquaintance with a band that has escaped my attention for so long has not led to the conclusion that I missed a lot. On the contrary. Saturnia is best in emulating others. Only these others were much better in their time. ‘The Seance Tapes’ is something for fans only, or people with great endurance.