June 20 — “Sarangi” by Hooverphonic

Hooverphonic (in 1996)

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Sarangi” by Hooverphonic (1996, from the album A New Stereophonic Sound Spectacular).
Hooverphonic are a dream-pop/trip-hop band from Belgium who have released eight albums since 1996. However, as far as I’m concerned, they only released one album. That was their 1996 debut A New Stereophonic Sound Spectacular. After that masterpiece, their vocalist Liesje Sadonius left the band on amicable terms. One story is that she couldn’t handle the pressure of life on the road. One story is that she adamantly refused to play in the United States, and when Hooverphonic came to that bridge, she declined to cross it with them.

After a few months with a fill-in singer, they found a permanent replacement in Geiki Arnaert. I never appreciated her singing as much as I adored Sadonius’ angelic voice. Truth told, I gave up on her after two albums. Many years later, when Arnaert left and was replaced by Noémie Wolfs, I didn’t care for that either. I’ve tried, and I just don’t like the other singers as much. Also, the band took a different direction. With Blue Wonder Power Milk (1998), anyway, there was much less of the dream-pop stuff and more of the electronic stuff. And there were some male vocals. That’s just wrong. I have the 2010 album The Night Before, with Wolfs on vocals. That album bears no resemblance at all to A New Stereophonic Sound Spectacular. It may as well be a completely different band.

Today’s song is almost impossibly dreamy. What I love is that as high as we’re lifted into the aether by Sadonius’ soprano, we’re grounded by the sludginess of the bass and the drums. It’s an incredible balance.
Listen for yourself:

“Sarangi” by Hooverphonic

I was hoping that I would find some meaning in the name Sarangi. I was hoping that it was something Flemish, and further hoping that it would have some amazing meaning when translated to English. However, I can’t find anything like that on the interwebs. All I can find is that a sarangi is a small, bowed stringed instrument from India. There’s also such thing as a Nepalese sarangi, which is smaller, and played differently. It’s still, though, a lute. In Hindi, “sarangi” means “The instrument of 100 colors”

The song isn’t about an instrument of 100 colors, though. It’s about some base human emotions:

Suffocate your love
In a barrel full of doubt

Hesitate, it’s normal
You can’t erase mistakes

But then, at the end, there’s nothing timid and cautious about it:

Come closer
It’s you I want to embrace
Come closer
It’s you I want to debase

YOWZA!!!

I think this song is best experienced when played loudly, driving on an open road late at night. It’s a starry, cool night. You’ve got your sunroof open or your top down, and you’re exceeding the legal speed limit. You might be just out for a drive, but you’re probably on your way to make some babies. I’m not sure why, then, I’m presenting it on the last day of spring. I guess you can still do everything except the “cool night” part.

Last year, A New Stereophonic Sound Spectacular was given a deluxe reissue in celebration of its 15th anniversary. It’s a lush 3-disc set with lots of bonus material. It’s available here, and it’s a little too spendy for me.

The original release is out of print. The vinyl is very hard to find, but used CDs are pretty readily available. For example, through the amazon store. Good luck finding a legal digital download, because I don’t think you’re gonna find one. You, my friend, are going to have to buy a physical copy.

About dlee

North Carolina born and bred. I'm a restaurant guy who spends free time listening to music, watching hockey and playing Scrabble. I have a bachelor's degree in political science and I will most likely never put it to use. View all posts by dlee

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