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S.E.T.I.  (Chile)

Discoveries  (2010,  66.29)  **½

Chileans S.E.T.I. are apparently a Subterra side-project, not that I've heard their parent band. Their second album, 2010's Discoveries, is solid modern neo-prog, love it or loathe it, influences including Marillion, IQ and various prog-metallers; amazingly, they've actually managed to rope Damian Wilson (Rick Wakeman, Threshold, Landmarq) in on guest vocals, although I couldn't tell you where. The album's material is pretty uninspired, if truth be told, veering towards Andrew Lloyd-Webber territory in places, when it isn't aping Dream Theater, which is simply not acceptable. I'm afraid to say that S.E.T.I. are saying absolutely nothing that hasn't previously been said, possibly with (slightly) more panache, by a host of modern neo-proggers and prog-metal merchants.

Claudio Momberg adds Mellotron samples to several tracks; strings kick in half way through lengthy opener A Draconian Tale, with more of the same on Ellipse and choirs on The Inner Outside, plus other possible bits, assuming it actually matters. I'm sorry I can't be more (or indeed, at all) enthusiastic about this album, but its blatant refusal to even remotely attempt to do anything not already done a thousand times before has defeated me. Unless you're a total neo-prog addict, don't bother. Really.

Sabalon Glitz  (US)

Ufonic  (1995,  33.49)  ***

Chris Holmes' Sabalon Glitz were a Chicago-based psychedelic outfit with occasional Hawkwind influences on their sole album, Ufonic, at its best on Hawk-alike Time Traveller (UK spelling an' all), Hawks cover The Forge Of Vulcan and the trippy The Lonesome Death Of Elijah P. Woods. I'm not sure why anyone ever tried to claim that Holmes plays Chamberlin here; neither credited nor audible.

Sad Little Stars  (US)

The Stars Below  (2002,  45.42)  **

Sad Little Stars play exactly the kind of wetter-than-wet indie their name suggests on the plinky, skiffle-influenced The Stars Below. Brad Albetta plays samplotron flutes and strings on Singing The Summer Away.

Sad Song Co.  (UK)

Miseryguts  (2003,  48.07)  **½

Unbelievable Truth's Nigel Powell is the man behind Sad Song Co., whose self-deprecating Miseryguts sits in the little-occupied prog-end-of-indie ghetto (spot the Genesis (pseudo-?) ARP solo on Gulag Parenting). Best track? Directions, perhaps. Plenty of Mellotron sounds from Powell, with strings on Ghosts, Directions, You Get My Best and closer Chasing The High, choirs on The Everlasting Mile, a skronky string melody on Deep Cover, strings and choirs on Into The Hills and flutes on This Isn't What I Expected, all sampled.

Safe Home  (Netherlands)

You Can't Undo What's Already Undid  (2002,  44.19)  **

You Can't Undo What's Already Undid almost defines turn-of-the-millennium indie in its tedious insistence on prioritising twee vocal melodies over any kind of musical progression whatsoever, typified by the likes of Rickett's Revenge, which chunters along for three minutes on one fucking chord. I have no idea why Esther Sprikkelman is credited with Mellotron.

Jamie Saft  (US)

Black Shabbis  (2009,  59.01)  ***
A Bag of Shells  (2010,  49.44)  ***½

Jamie Saft is a well-known session keyboardist on the New York circuit, having played with the likes of John Zorn and Japanese noiseniks Merzbow. It's difficult to tell how many solo albums Saft has released, or in how many styles; suffice to say, 2009's Black Shabbis (clearly a Jewish Black Sabbath) features a unique combination of grindingly slow metal, prog and several other styles, thrown together in an avant-garde stew that fans of Zorn may well go for. Best track? Hard to say with something this uncompromising, but his combination of influences possibly peak on Der Judenstein. Although Saft is credited with Mellotron, unless it provides the album's occasional vibes, it isn't readily apparent anywhere on the record, surprisingly.

The following year's A Bag of Shells is a collection of soundtrack pieces, as unsurprisingly varied as that suggests. Although there are echoes of Black Shabbis in its early tracks, the bulk of the material on offer here is more 'typically' soundtrackish, highlighting Saft's superb keyboard playing. One supposed Mellotron track this time, with what sound like sampled flutes on My Biggest Fear, although the album's occasional cello parts sound real. Saft's attempts to construct a 'Jewish heavy metal' on Black Shabbis aren't always convincing, but A Bag of Shells' soundtrack pieces work well. Worth hearing in places.

Rachael Sage  (US)

Public Record  (2003,  64.06)  **½
The Blistering Sun...  (2005,  62.03)  **½

After listening to Rachael Sage's Public Record, I'm at a complete loss as to understand why I found its follow-up in the 'folk' section of a well-known London second-hand shop for 50p. Folk? Try 'rather dull generic modern female singer-songwriter' and you might be a little closer. It's not a bad album as such (haven't I said this somewhere else?), but it is a rather boring one, despite Ms. Sage's best songwriting efforts. As so often, I'm sure most of her energies went into the 'lyrics' bit, leaving the 'music' end of things in the 'completely generic' category, not helped by being over an hour long, which is at least fifteen minutes too much. It's not all bad, to be fair: better tracks include the blues/jazz of Ambitious and the swamp blues-influenced Someone Save Me/The Oil & The Water, while Chasing The Girl might just be the best lyric. Sage plays samplotron, with background flutes on Too Many Women, although all the cello parts appear to be real. The Blistering Sun..., is essentially, more of the same, perfectly acceptable within its genre, but doing nothing to step outside the restrictive bounds of modern singer-songwriterism. Sage on samplotron again, amongst other keyboards, with flutes on Older and Burning Witch, though not to any great effect, frankly.

Sahg  (Norway)

Sahg I  (2006,  48.23)  ***½

Sahg are a new Norwegian stoner metal band - none of your church-burning nonsense here, these guys are influenced by old-school Black Sabbath, Saint Vitus et al. and more recent purveyors of all things distorted and metallic. While they don't refer to it as a side project per se, the members all play or have played in other leading bands including Gorgoroth and Enslaved. Sahg I actually does exactly what you'd expect and does it bloody well; OK, so Olav's vocals sound a bit Ozzy at times, especially on the several occasions they're stuck through a Leslie, but this rocks in a pleasingly retro fashion, so no stupid 'death grunts', blastbeats or other crapulent modern metal tricks here, thank you very much. Best track? Maybe Soul Exile's Sabbra Cadabra-type feel, although nothing here had me reaching for the 'next' button. Samplotron from Brynjulv Guddal, I believe, with strings on several tracks, not least acoustic interlude Whisper Of Abaddon, used in the kind of way I wish more metal bands would do, rather than the crummy sampled strings to which most of the genre who use keys at all seem addicted. All in all, then, the kind of album old Sabs fans may well enjoy, without having to worry about suddenly being beaten over the head by a Celtic Frost-influenced section.

Saint Etienne  (UK)

Home Counties  (2017,  56.12)  ***

By the 2010s, Saint Etienne had become a rather part-time proposition, it seems, 2017's Home Counties being their first release in five years. Somewhere along the line, they've lost some of their whimsy, which, while disastrous for some outfits (think: XTC), has noticeably improved Saint Etienne. I'm not saying I like this very English album, you understand - perish the thought - but it isn't triggering Dark Thoughts in the way their earlier work does. I might even be able to name a couple of 'best tracks'. Here we go (does a couple of warm-up stretches): Something New, Whyteleafe and Train Drivers In Eyeliner. There, wasn't too hard, was it? Co-producers Carwyn Ellis and Shawn Lee play what I rather doubt is real Mellotron, with block flute chords on Something New and Unopened Fan Mail and strings on Dive.

Rebecca St. James  (Australia)

God  (1996,  48.26)  **½

Rebecca "St. James" Smallbone is an Australian Christian artist who moved to the States with her family in her late teens. After an initial album at the age of fourteen (!), Refresh My Heart, under the name Rebecca Jean, she released an eponymous record in '94, then God in '96, still not quite nineteen. Surprisingly, it's nowhere near as offensive as you might expect from a CCM release; musically, it's fairly rocky, with a good helping of Americana thrown into the mix, so if you don't listen to the (horrendously Godlike gloopy) lyrics, it just sounds like a fifth-rate Bonnie Raitt or something. I wouldn't go as far as recommending any tracks or anything, but I've heard an awful lot worse on the CCM front. Like Bebo Norman. He's fucking awful. Carl Marsh is credited with accordion and Mellotron, with (as far as I can hear) faint, sampled flutes on the opening title track, although Christ knows where else, if anywhere, they might be. Literally in this case.

St Johnny  (US)

Let it Come Down  (1995,  50.38)  **½

St Johnny were based in New York, sounding like an unholy amalgam of indie and hard rock, which probably isn't a million miles away from the grunge scene with which their career was contemporaneous. 1995's Let it Come Down was the last of their three albums, not dissimilar in places to Mercury Rev, although the songwriting level's never going to trouble that outfit unduly. Given that production's handled by Dave Fridmann (Mercury Rev, Sparklehorse), notorious ('round these parts, anyway) for using samples up until a few years ago, not to mention the general murkiness of the Mellotron sounds on offer, it's almost certain that they're early, fairly crummy samples (possibly from eMu's horrible Vintage Keys module). Anyway, we get flutes on Just When I Had It Under Control, strings on Pin The Tail On The Donkey, Hey Teenager! and closer Salvation Arm, for what it's worth. Overall, I'm afraid this hasn't impressed me one bit; I don't think I've applied the phrase 'of its time' to anything this (relatively) recent before, but I have now.

Saint Jude  (Australia)

Saint Jude  (2012,  38.51)  ***

Australian country blues-rock, for want of a better description, at its best on its most downbeat tracks, the mournful Bury Me Down and Black Monkey. Brendan McMahon's 'Mellotron' flutes on Rain Rain and strings on Black Monkey really aren't.

St Vincent  (US)

Actor  (2009,  39.05)  **½

Annie "St Vincent" Clark, ex-member of The Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens' band, released her first solo album in 2007, following up with Actor two years later, a record apparently written in GarageBand on a Mac; may I say, it shows? The string arrangement on Marrow, amongst others, has that 'programmed' sound to it; in fact, the whole album sounds quite 'artificial', but that may be the effect she was after, I suppose. Her indie singer-songwriter sound isn't going to appeal to everyone (not least myself), although it's done perfectly well, best track probably being Black Rainbow, which builds up to a fairly intense peak. Clark plays Mellotron samples on several tracks, with choirs on opener The Strangers, Marrow, The Bed and Black Rainbow, plus flutes on the last-named and strings on The Party. Does GarageBand include Mellotron samples? No idea, but these don't sound much like the real thing. Perhaps she isn't bothered. Incidentally, 2014's St Vincent (**) sounds like it just might feature samplotron, but the resemblance isn't quite close enough to be sure.

Saintseneca  (US)

Dark Arc  (2014,  40.21)  **

Ohio's Saintseneca are often described as 'folk', in which case, all I can say after listening to their second album, 2014's Dark Arc, is 'indie folk'. Think: a folk ensemble who forgot how to play, ending up bashing out quarter-note downstrokes like any other half-arsed indie wasters, overlaid with Zac Little's loud, yet whiny voice. That isn't to say the album's a total waste of space; the brief !! is a lovely instrumental, while !!! is interestingly experimental. Er, is there a pattern forming here? Mike Mogis is credited with Mellotron on either Falling Off or Only The Young Die Good, depending on which you consider 'track 6' to be. However, given that there's nothing Mellotronic on either, I think we can safely consign this to 'samples' and there may it rot.

Motoi Sakuraba  (Japan)

Beyond the Beyond: Original Game Soundtrack  (1996,  47.45)  ***½
Shining the Holy Ark OST  (1996,  57.43)  ****

Motoi Sakuraba is one of the seemingly endless stream of amazing Japanese keyboard players, in this case, the one who drove Déjà Vu, also playing with Pazzo Fanfano di Musica and on the Kings' Boards album, amongst other projects. In the '90s, he turned to computer game soundtracks, making a name for himself producing proggy incidental music for onanistic fanboys games geeks to kill everything in sight to, nicely subverting the usual dance rhythmed rubbish.

A handful of these soundtracks have gained a commercial release, edited into listenable pieces, rather than the frequently-few-second-only snippets used in the actual games. 1996 brought Beyond the Beyond: Original Game Soundtrack (which it isn't, precisely), consisting of five lengthyish tracks, making up a perfectly decent prog album. Sakuraba uses loads of sampled Mellotron, but the samples are really poor, probably due to their being mid-'90s ones. The flutes occasionally sound like the real thing, but the strings and choirs are terrible, as are many of the other sounds, sadly. Then again, this is for game-players, not prog fans and it's a good few steps up from the usual drivel they're force-fed, so stop complaining.

Shining the Holy Ark, from later the same year, is quite brilliant; why is this music currently out of print? Sakuraba's produced a minor progressive classic here, largely unknown to Western audiences, only ever available as an import outside Japan. He really knows how to construct pieces in the grand tradition, retaining enough 'Japaneseness' to make them stand out from the pack. Apart from the occasional Emersonism, there's little to fault here, if only you could get hold of the damn' thing. Less sampled Mellotron this time round and seemingly slightly better samples; did a new sample set appear that year? Maybe Roland's.

Kevin Salem  (US)

Ecstatic  (2001,  51.37)  ***

Like many similar, Ecstatic comes across as powerpop informed by current indie, leading to a situation where every good track is slightly outweighed by one or two mediocre ones. Not bad, yet not that good, pretty obviously sampled 'Mellotron' strings on It's Only Life.

Salem Hill  (US)

Not Everybody's Gold  (2000,  65.15)  ***½

Salem Hill formed in 1991, playing that peculiarly '90s form of prog that isn't exactly 'neo', but isn't 'trad' either; think: vaguely like Echolyn or Spock's Beard, though those are only pointers. Not Everybody's Gold is their fifth album, apparently comparing well with their earlier material, generally being regarded as their best yet. As long as you don't approach it expecting a full-on '70s thing, you shouldn't be disappointed; the songs are reasonably good, though I occasionally wish they'd write slightly darker material. Michael Ayers' keys tend to be of the modern variety, which makes it surprising that he used a Mellotron on the album, although, given that it's clearly sampled, maybe less surprising. Why is it that artists of other genres make the effort to track down real Mellotrons/Chamberlins, but so many prog bands don't? It only appears on short melodic parts on The Last Enemy and The Hill Of Peace, anyway, so it's hardly the most major use ever. Not Everybody's Gold is a good album, just not actually a classic. The lengthy Sweet Hope Suite is the best track; it's just a pity they felt it necessary to make such a long album, when, with a bit of judicious editing, it could well've been more concise and better.

Cato Salsa Experience  (Norway)

A Good Tip for a Good Time  (2001,  36.12)  ***½

The Cato Salsa Experience are yet another in a long line of Scandinavian garage acts, all holding faithful to the sound of Young America, circa 1965. And they all do it well. Startling, isn't it? Cato "Salsa" Thomassen and pals formed the band in the late '90s, their second album, A Good Tip for a Good Time, appearing in different 'territories' (as they say) in 2001/02. Despite a total lack of originality, it would be churlish of me to mark this down on that front, as they do what they do with mucho enthusiasm and vim. It's sort of pointless to try to pick out individual tracks, as they all sound pretty much the same, although Time To Freak Out! is particularly deranged; a one-trick pony, but it's a good trick. Two of the band are credited with Mellotron: "Salsa" and drummer Jon "R. Lucar" Magne Riise (you may have gathered by now that the band are keen on pseudonyms, at least in the surname department). There isn't really that much to be heard, though, with nothing apparent apart from the sampled flutes on I Can Give You Anything, making you wonder why they needed two people to play it.

Kjartan Salvesen  (Norway)

Kjartan Salvesen  (2004,  47.00)  *½

Kjartan Salvesen won Idol (Norway's equivalent of Pop Idol), making it absolutely no surprise that his eponymous debut album is full of the very worst kind of 'transcendent' millennial pop, at its least dreadful on Vegas. Utter garbage. Someone calling themselves Apache is credited with Mellotron on Once In A Lifetime, but the handful of vague, high string notes on the track sound little like the real deal, while the uncredited flutes on This Is What I Am really give the game away.

Samba  (Germany)

Aus den Kolonien  (2004,  35.45)  **

Samba (terrible name, especially in these days of Internet searchability) are no more or no less a German indie outfit, which tells you more about them than I ever wanted to know. 2004's Aus den Kolonien is possibly their fifth album, a thankfully brief trawl through various modern pop stylings, every bit as dull as you might expect. Andreas Bonkowski is credited with Mellotron on Sie Atmen Durch, although the nearest the album gets to it is the flutes on the following track, Gib Mir Karma!, although they still sound sampled. Please don't bother with this album.

Andy Samford  (US)

Electrolight  (2010,  53.45)  ***
Love & Magic  (2011,  95.29)  ***
In the Autumn of Forever  (2011,  35.24)  ***½
Lost in a Dream  (2011,  39.20)  ***½
Outside of Time  (2014,  36.01)  ***½

Andy Samford is not only frontman for Telestrion and several previous outfits, but has also found time to record a largish clutch of solo material from the mid-'90s onward. Most of it doesn't concern us, but Andy has pointed me at four of his recent 'releases' (all available, absolutely gratis, from his website), all containing the same Mellotron samples as Telestrion's self-titled debut. Stylewise, unsurprisingly, Samford sticks to his main band's template in the main, that being psychedelic hard rock of the early '70s variety (there's any other variety?), Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath being obvious touchstones. 2010's Electrolight is a decent enough effort, highlights including the propulsive Demon Seed, the psychedelic In The Afternoon and the epic The Electric Yellow, although a little too much filler drags its overall rating down. Shedloads of samplotron, with strings and flutes on opener Illusions And Dreams/Wake Up and In The Afternoon, strings on Cleared To Land and Superdust and flutes and spectacularly murky choirs on Mello, amongst other usage.

The following year's Love & Magic is a 'double', or would be if you burnt it to CD, with a five-track 'bonus EP' to boot. While much of its contents are pretty much what you'd expect, exceptions include the gentle title track, the psychedelic Lost Sunshine and above all, the '70s soft soul/pop (!) of Make Love To You. Is this a step too far in your '70s worship, Andy? The album's (possibly unintentional) highlight, however, is the bonus EP's opening track, Jim Steinman/Bonnie Tyler's finest hour, Total Eclipse Of The Heart, played in the style of Hawkwind. Ludicrously magnificent. Samford adds samplotron strings to several tracks, notably opener There Is No Beginning, with choirs here and there an flutes on the title track, but overall, less so than on Electrolight. Samford's second and third (!) releases of 2011, In the Autumn of Forever and Lost in a Dream, are similar enough to review in one hit. In fact, going by previous releases, these two could easily make up one overlong disc, but are sensibly served up in two shorter (and more listenable) chunks, making for an easier listen (if not actually easy listening) all round. Highlights of the former include Sleep and Curtain Call, while energetic opener Nothing Left, the doomy Not Me Not You and closer The Last Dream Dies are possibly the latter's top tracks. Surprisingly little samplotron on both releases, although an extended choir chord is the first sound heard on the former (the strings on Curtain Call being the only other obvious use), with the choirs on I'm Lost In A Dream and strings on The Last Dream Dies being the latter's chief proponents.

2014's Outside of Time shows an impressive maturity in the songwriting department, particularly on The Girl Inside My Dream, the Neil Young-ish The Ninth Dimension and stomping closer One Final Thought I Forgot. Sensibly, Samford has retained the shorter format of his more recent releases, ensuring that the album's contents, already varied, refuse to outstay their welcome. Samplotron strings here and there, notably on opener Ancient Space Man and The Last Great Gasp, plus flutes on The Ninth Dimension. Given that you too can download these albums, absolutely FREE (from here), to your desktop, means that moaning because Love & Magic is too long and lacks cohesion is entirely churlish. None of these albums is top-notch all the way through, but they all contain a percentage of good material, certainly enough to make one killer compilation. Listening to them one after another gives the impression that Samford has learnt to moderate his sampled Mellotron usage; impressive though it is at first, subtlety is definitely the way to go.

Sammal  (Finland)

Sammal  (2013,  44.07)  ****

Sammal are a young Finnish band who, against all the odds, insist on playing a style indistinguishable from organ-driven hard rock circa 1971. 2013's Sammal is an excellent slice of Finnish-language so-called stoner rock, although the five-piece clearly have a far better understanding of the era than most of their contemporaries, resulting in a collection of songs, as against excuses for downtuned, jammed-out idiocy. Top tracks? Possibly opener Puolikuu, Näennäiskäännäinen, Lehtipuiden Alle and closer Kylmää Usvaa, vaguely reminiscent of Aerosmith's Dream On, of all things, although nothing here lets the side down. Guitarist Jura Salmi plays what the band insist are Nord II Mellotron samples throughout Kylmää Usvaa, although I'm struggling to work out what they're meant to be. High-end cellos? Violas, even? Quite an effective sound, whatever it is, briefly replaced by a 'standard' string sound halfway through. A minor triumph, then, gentlemen; this might not feature enough genre tropes to keep your average stoner fan happy, but your intelligent approach might just allow you to outlive the bandwagon-jumpers. Worth hearing.

Delta Joe Sanders  (US)

Working Without a Net  (2012,  50.47)  ***½

For the first two or three tracks of Working Without a Net, my chief thoughts were a) this is a country/blues parody and b) this guy can't sing. By the time the album was half over, I'd realised that a) it isn't and b) it doesn't matter. Unlike the highly-entertaining-but-not-very-authentic "Seasick" Steve Wold, "Delta" Joe Sanders appears to be the real deal; not that he grew up in a Mississippi shack - he didn't - but this seems to be what he's always played, a rough-hewn, down-home American music, at its best on Preachin' To No One, Say The Word and could-be-but-just-about-isn't-cheesy closer The Toast. Sam Shoup supposedly plays Mellotron, but the background strings on Say The Word really aren't.

Sanhedrin  (Israel)

Ever After  (2011,  51.43)  ****

Shockingly, it's taken Sanhedrin (in one form or another, named for a governing body in Hebraic history) over two decades from conception to debut, 2011's Ever After. I'd say the wait was worth it; a thoughtful, immaculately constructed instrumental album, if there's any justice (unlikely, sadly), this should garner the band international acclaim, slots on major festivals and sales aplenty. Unfortunately, it's more likely that a small number of enthusiasts will speak of it in hushed tones to little general interest. What's that? The music? Twisting, turning symphonic progressive, of the variety that takes a periodic sharp left turn to hold the listener's attention. Highlights include the suitably medieval tonalities of Dark Age, the vaguely psychedelic Timepiece and acoustic interlude Tema, but, although the album could be seen as slightly overlong, there's nothing here that would improve the album by its absence. Keys man Aviv Barness plays obviously sampled Mellotron strings and choirs on Il Tredici and strings on Sobriety and Steam, the overly-sustained notes on the latter giving the (already given) game away. It has to be said, though, that a bit of sampled Mellotron is neither here nor there on this excellent record, to the point where I'm not even sure why they bothered with it. Fans of eclectic, as against generic prog need to hear this. Immediately.

Santeria  (US)

Year of the Knife  (2008,  56.45)  ***½

The Louisiana-based Santeria are, for want of a better description, a psychedelic Southern outfit, whose third album proper (ignoring 2000's early odds'n'sods collection Apocalypse, Louisiana), 2008's Year of the Knife, straddles the line between swamp rock, '70s hard rock, acoustic blues and Texan psych. The album's main plus point, though, is frontman/songwriter Dege Legg's songs, melodic without being cheesy, an approach from which so many American rock bands could learn. Best tracks? Possibly Leave Something Witchy, Nowhere To Go, with its killer main riff and the reggae-tinged Sold My Soul (For Nothing), making this a surprisingly good effort from a band that had previously passed under my radar. Rob Rushing supposedly plays Mellotron on the title track, whose instrumental section sounds a great deal like Pink Floyd's Welcome To The Machine, if you can imagine the melody line being played by a brass section. Anyway, a few seconds of something flutey near the beginning of the track seems to be all we get, quite certainly sampled.

Lucas Santtana  (Brazil)

Sobre Noites e Dias  (2014,  41.40)  ***

Lucas Santtana (actually Santana) is a Brazilian musician, whose MO appears to be combining traditional Brazilian influences with electronica, at least going by 2014's Sobre Noites e Dias, which may or may not be his sixth album. It's certainly an original genre mash-up, at least to my knowledge, better examples including Montanha Russa Sentimental, the brass-driven Mariazinha Morena Clara and Funk Dos Bromânticos, which isn't actually a recommendation. Santtana's credited with Mellotron on Montanha Russa Sentimental, but, I can quite assure you, it's entirely inaudible, so, under my 2017 rule, into 'samples' it goes. This is actually perfectly good at what it does, even if I don't like it. Three stars.

Sarcloret  (France)

À Tombeau Ouvert (Chansons Posthumes Vol. 1)  (2006,  48.59)  **½

Run-of-the-mill French-language folky pop/rock from Michel "Sarcloret" de Senarclens (a.k.a. Sarclo), at its best on the circus-esque La Main Sur Le Coeur... Simon Gerber plays MkII Melltoron 'moving strings' on Pauv' Naze De Riche, a sure sample giveaway if ever there were one.

Sasha  (UK)

Involver  (2004,  77.37)  **

Alexander "Sasha" Coe's Involver is one of a handful of various-artist albums on this site that are filed under the compiler's name; like most of the others, that's due to it being a 'DJ mix' effort, a concept unknown in the more conventional rock/pop world. Originally an acid house DJ in the late '80s, Sasha has, unlike some of his contemporaries, managed to keep abreast of current trends, giving him a twenty-plus-year career. However, from my probably deplorably old-school (note: not 'skool') approach, although it's more than 'a bloke playing records', it isn't that much more. But is the album any good? I dunno - do you like dance stuff? I don't - I'm sure it's great if you're off your tits in some club on the Balearic, but I'm not, so it all falls a little flat. As far as its presence here is concerned, James Lavelle of UNKLE supposedly adds some (real?) Mellotron to What Are You To Me?, but I'll be buggered if I can hear it. The upshot being, no, you don't need to hear this for any reason whatsoever.

Satchel  (US)

Heartache & Honey  (2010,  40.07)  **½

Part-timers Satchel appear to be a cut-down version of Seattle scenesters Brad, the trio comprising three of that outfit's members, lacking only Jeremy Toback and Pearl Jam's Stone Gossard. Heartache & Honey is their third album and first for fourteen years, a fairly typical post-grunge effort, the noisier material tempered by more balladic stuff in a ratio of three-to-one, notably Old Spirit and Scold Me, which sounds not a little like Let It Be. Drummer Regan Hagar allegedly plays Mellotron on Might As Well Be Dead, with a brief, distant string part that could be just about anything, almost certainly sampled.

Saturday Looks Good to Me  (US)

All Your Summer Songs  (2003,  39.04)  ***
Fill Up the Room  (2007,  40.39)  **

Saturday Looks Good to Me tend to be described as 'experimental indie'. They actually sound a bit like an indie take on '60s soul and '50s rock'n'roll, at least on All Your Summer Songs, which is probably unlikely to appeal to anyone who doesn't already subscribe to the indie aesthetic. Alcohol is the only track that caught my ear in any way, largely because it's the rockiest. Samplotron from Dave Shettler, with a really quite full-on string part in Ambulance, although the flutey thing on Typing sounds more like a badly-played recorder than Mellotron flutes. Fill Up the Room is much more generic indie than its predecessor and, frankly, bored the tits off me, to the point where trying to find any 'best tracks' is a bit of a waste of time. Fred Thomas allegedly plays Chamberlin, with an upfront string part on Edison Girls, most likely sampled.

Saturnia  (Portugal)

The Glitter Odd  (2001,  47.31)  **½
Hydrophonic Gardening  (2003,  51.27)  **½

Portugal's Saturnia fall into the same grey area as several other bands re. sample use: they've 'used' a real Mellotron, belonging to a friend and admit sampling it, but don't state explicitly whether or not they actually put the real thing onto their records. Their second album, 2001's The Glitter Odd, barely even sounds like they used it, but an online interview assures me the 'flutes are all Mellotron', so I have to assume they're simply very heavily effected. The album itself is a bit of a letdown, to be honest; a sort of psych/drone/prog/raga thing with some contemporary touches in the rhythm department that sounds like it should be better than it is. Plenty of early Floyd vocals and organ drones, plenty of sound FX and twirly synths and vaguely Porcupine Tree-esque atmospherics, although little actual substance, sadly. On the allegotron front, there are rather tuneless (sometimes completely out of key) flute warblings on several tracks, with the exception of a brief string part on (presumably) the 'Menadel' part of Ozimuth/Menadel. Hydrophonic Gardening is, essentially, more of the same; seriously, if you like The Glitter Odd, you'll like this and, of course, vice versa. There's actually less Mellotron (or whatever it is) than before, with merely flutes on Sunflower and strings on Planetarium and Omnia, the latter sounding particularly dodgy. Please could we have the truth about the Mellotron, chaps?

The Satyrs  (US)

Dying Away / One Philosophy 7"  (1998)  **½

I don't know what The Satyrs are/were like on album, but this sounds like two different bands, Dying Away being a mournful piano ballad and One Philosophy being bog-standard Americana. Davis McCain plays vague samplotron strings on the 'A'.

Vibeke Saugestad  (Norway)

Into the Shimmering  (2001,  39.53)  **½

Vibeke Saugestad's first solo release, Into the Shimmering, is one of those 'pleasant enough for a track or two' pop/rock albums whose charms, despite its relative brevity, quickly begin to pall. Better tracks include the amusing The DJ Inside and gentle closer Star Song, but it's an album aimed squarely at the charts. Saugestad plays obviously sampled Mellotron strings on The DJ Inside.

Savage Affair  (Denmark)

Actual Reality  (1996,  47.34)  **½

Savage Affair play various flavours of commercial hard rock on Actual Reality, from fairly mainstream (Was Love Meant To Be This Way), through heavier material (In Your Own Words, Approachable) to the more Americana-flavoured likes of The Hurting Poet and Dittoheads Unite. Despite Bo Brinck's Mellotron credit, the strings on opener Hats Off and strings and flutes on closer Over Anyway are sampled.

Savage Rose  (Denmark)

Universal Daughter  (2007,  47.04)  ***
Roots of the Wasteland  (2014,  40.36)  **½

(The) Savage Rose are known to prog/psych fans as a rare Danish entry in the field from the early '70s, so it comes as quite a surprise to discover that they never split up, releasing albums on a regular basis throughout the subsequent three decades. However, although their website lists current tour dates, they've released no new material since the death of founder member Thomas Koppel in 2006, putting a question mark over their future as a creative entity. Their latest (last?) album, 2007's Universal Daughter, contains a mixture of soft rock and '70s psych (as against '60s), with soul and gospel influences apparent in the vocal arrangements, not least in Koppel's partner Annisette Hansen's throaty (tobacco-ravaged?) delivery. The album's best moments arrive courtesy of a handful of ripping solos from guitarist Staffan Astner, though, notably on the opening title track and what I take to be a rather belated band 'theme' song, closer Savage Rose (Take Me Higher). Palle Hjorth is credited with Mellotron on three tracks, although I wouldn't be at all surprised if it turned out to be fake. Anyway, all we get is the faintest of faint flutes on the title track and If, with nothing obvious on Malaya, so you're really not going to give this a go for its Mellotron content, are you? Good at what it does, but an album that isn't really aiming any higher than the band's mostly Scandinavian fanbase, I suspect.

Seven years on and 2014's Roots of the Wasteland drops any pretence of being psychedelic in any way, essentially being a kind of gospel/soul/blues effort. It opens with a strange white reggae number, The Joker, steadfastly refusing to pick things up from there. Hjorth and Frank Hasselstrøm are both credited with Mellotron, but the occasional vague string part is clearly nothing of the sort - to be honest, it barely even qualifies as Mellotron samples.

Saville Row  (US)

The Way Around it  (2014,  45.43)  ***

The no-doubt intentionally-misspelled Saville Row, formed in 2011, are a supergroup of sorts, featuring guitarist Marc Bonilla and other Californian luminaries. Their debut album, 2014's The Way Around it, kicks off well, with the quiet/loud of Between The Eyes, other better material including the funky hard rock of Insight and closer Last Goodbye. Sadly, however, the bulk of the album sits in the 'ballad rock' area, for want of a better term, in a bit of a 'heard it all before' kind of way. Bonilla is credited with Mellotron, but the background strings and flutes on Lying To Myself and combined choir and strings opening Everlasting Low, amongst other parts, are clearly sampled. There's a good band trying to fight their way out of this album; perhaps next time they'll let it.

Saws  (US)

Saws  (2005,  44.46)  **½

True to their name, Saws explore the potential of the musical saw in the avant-rock realm, the end result being... variable. Fifteen or twenty minutes of this stuff might be interesting, but even a 'regular-length' album strikes me as rather too much. Rick Frystak has the good grace to credit himself with 'virtual Mellotron', although I'll be buggered if I can tell where it might be.

Hadden Sayers  (US)

Supersonic  (2001,  49.29)  ***

Texan Hadden Sayers' Supersonic almost defines the now-overused epithet 'classic rock'; its Stevie-Ray-Vaughan-meets-Bad-Company vibe placing it fairly and squarely around 1975. Except that, er, it hails from 2001. Nothing wrong with that, mind, as long as you're not actively looking for something contemporary. Songwise, opener Email Lover kicks off with the now-dated sound of a dial-up modem - will people eventually feel the same way about references to 'the telephone'? - Good Man reminds me of Tom Petty, the sitar-driven Blasted unsurprisingly features something of an Eastern feel, while Little Bit Of Love is more Bad Co. than anything, right down to its title (I actually had to check to make sure it wasn't a cover). Tony Harrell supposedly plays Mellotron, but it seems to be entirely inaudible, even on its obvious placement, Love Won't Let Me Go. Is it in there somewhere? Who knows? Anyway, one for those who worship the sound of a Strat through a Fender Twin and a Texan bluesman giving it all he's got, despite a lack of any obvious Mellotron.

Scars on Broadway  (US)

Scars on Broadway  (2008,  44.57)  ***

Daron Malakian and John Dolmayan are half of the currently-on-hiatus System of a Down, Scars on Broadway being their on/off side-project. Their eponymous 2008 album has features in common with the parent band, not least the downtuned, riffy stuff, although there's a high concentration of relatively thoughtful material here, but then, given System's strong political stance, I really shouldn't be surprised. Better tracks include opener Serious, Kill Each Other/Live Forever and Chemicals, although the frequently witty, even insightful lyrics on most tracks carry some of the lesser tunes. Malakian allegedly plays Mellotron, with some near-dissonant chords at the beginning of Exploding/Reloading, a pump organ-esque flute part on Kill Each Other/Live Forever and strings on Babylon, Chemicals, Universe, 3005 and Cute Machines, although I remain unconvinced.

Scattered Pages  (US)

Meet the Americant  (2003,  43.12)  ***½
A Band of One's Own  (2003,  19.31)  ***

Or, what (most of) Deadwood Forest did next, the two bands sharing three members. Don't come here expecting anything like that outfit, though; Meet the Americant is a thoughtful pop/rock album, Brandon Louis Hancock's compositions dominating proceedings, at their best on kind-of title track Americant, Jack and My Negative, while the Queenalike guitar work on the hidden closing track nods towards Deadwood. Andy McWilliams and Ryan Guidry are credited with Mellotron, but the strings all over opener Americant and Western Fashion, strings and flutes on Rachel, flutes on It's Getting Nasty and cellos and suspiciously-speedily played flutes and strings on My Negative, amongst other use, fail to ring true. The same year's A Band of One's Own manages to be both more acoustic and more eclectic, although I'm not sure it works as well as their full-lengther. McWilliams plays samplotron strings on opener Emily and closer Messes Never Clean Themselves.