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big group hug
Saso
Big Group Hug
Melted Snow

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I've always been a sucker for cool artwork. If a disc has lame art, I'm skeptical before I even listen (though I've been proven wrong many, many times). Big Group Hug, on the other hand, is beautifully packaged, with minimalist layout styles and unique illustrations. In fact, Saso's music could be described in the same terms as their artwork: minimalist and unique. The fact that the music itself lives up to the art school inserts was quite a relief -- sometimes really bad music is wrapped up in really cool packaging. But not here.

The music on Big Group Hug could be thought of as melancholy or gentle, but there's something more than that running through these tracks, tying them together. It could be the piano that unifies them, but I think that the guitar work is the best and strongest glue. It's simple enough not to distract from all the other sounds, but its tone is somewhere between sad and hopeful, which is so strange that it's hard to ignore. The songs themselves actually teeter between sad and hopeful with the help of the vocals, which sound like a melding of Thom Yorke and Jeff Buckley at their quietest.

One of the disc's most unexpected moments comes nearly three minutes into "Blood Bath", in which a man tells another person that he/she does nothing but take up space, and that he can no longer be with that person and still respect himself. The eeriness comes in the form of the laugh track that is heard every time this man takes another jab at the silent object of his angst. After repeated listening, the voice of the angry man began to sound familiar -- and then I realized that it's a clip from Seinfeld (Kramer is the angry man). Knowing that, it's not quite as heart-wrenching, but beautifully odd just the same.

Big Group Hug could pretty much be summed up the same way. It's beautifully odd. Everything is lovely, from the vocals to the guitars and piano and all the numerous effects. The oddness comes in the form of its originality. That's not to say you've never heard anything like this before, but I think it's safe to say that you haven't heard it done quite this way -- or at least not this well.

-- Amy Leach
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