tremble clef

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Santessa, "Nowhere (Wamdue Diestra Radio Edit)" (2000)/ "Just When I Needed You (Joe Claussell Sacred Rhythm Dub)" (1999)

A couple of years ago, I found myself idly wondering, "Eh, what happened to Santessa?" And all the interwebs went, "Dooo dooo dooo, we dunno." And then, since my mind resets itself every few years, I asked the same question again just days ago, and this time found her on myspace. Ain't technology grand? As is, um, the passage of time that allows people to catch up to technology.

In 1999-2000, the English-Ghanaian singer Santessa released a handful of singles and an album (Delerium), much of which was produced by, and co-written with, Stuart Matthewman. Stuart is largely known for being Sade's long-time collaborator and a member of her band, and those of you with extra mind grapes may know that he's also a member of Sweetback (which makes Sadesque music during the periods when Ms. Adu is busy living her life, which is quite a lot of the time), and Cottonbelly (which produces many narcoleptic Balearic tracks that end up on all those Cafe Del Mar compilations).

Shockingly, therefore, Santessa's album didn't fall far from the Sade tree, although a second listen reveals that it's a bit dubbier, more trip-hoppy than the usual Sade songs. It didn't achieve much success, although Hed Kandi championed it quite a bit, licensing its tracks for a few of their compilations. But Delerium was itself released on a small label, Disco Volante, which seemed to have had only one other artist on its roster. I'm guessing that the label folded, and Santessa now appears to be playing jazz clubs in New York City while waiting for her next big break.

I wouldn't mind her getting another one, although if she made a second album I would want it to be for a company that can afford to hire ace remixers. For Santessa's tracks were almost always improved by being rejiggled; while Delerium was a pretty pleasing affair, the songs I most enjoy now, seven years later, are both reworked versions.

"Nowhere" was Santessa's fourth and final single; in its original incarnation, it was a ballad oozing with sensuality, but also a bit of lethargy. Chris Brann gave it a spankingly sunny remix, turning the track into a livelier samba-ish number that practically has sand between its toes. The Diestra radio edit (there's also a full length version) really should have been the single version.

The Wamdue remix did owe a little to the work of Joe Claussell -- to his "Spiritual Life Ibadan remixes," in particular; Brann's reworking of Santessa is not a million miles away from Claussell's equally festive reinvention of Beth Orton's "Central Reservation" from a year before, for example. Claussell himself had been roped in to remix Santessa's first single, "Just When I Need You." His "Sacred Rhythm Dub" is stunning: ten-and-a-half minutes of blissy goodness, with Santessa's voice (and synth washes) sweeping over your senses, you could swear, exactly as the waves must on a warm, beautiful beach. I guess I can't technically say that I prefer remixes to all of Santessa's originals -- and, if you want to hear an original, I strongly recommend downloading from her myspace page "Back Again," the chilly and haunting b-side to the "Eyes On You" single -- since I've never heard "Just When I Needed You" in its untinkered form (it oddly wasn't included on Delerium). But, unless epic beach house mixes are not your thing, I honestly can't imagine how it could be better than this Claussell treatment.

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