/PLAYING DETROIT: Saajtak Share Ethereal Live Performance of “Spokes”

PLAYING DETROIT: Saajtak Share Ethereal Live Performance of “Spokes”

Experimental art-punk band saajtak takes the most enticing aspects of free improvisation, opera, electronic and jazz music and melds them to create complex sonic narratives. The Detroit-based group – made up of Alex Koi (vocals), Simon Alexander-Adams (electronic artist), Jon Taylor (drums), and Ben Willis (bass) – prove to be just as compelling live as they are in their lush recordings. All virtuoso musicians in their own right, each band member lends their distinct musical style to the collective sound of gorgeous chaos. The band demonstrates their fluid improvisation and seamless transitions in this live video of their song “Spokes.”


Koi’s undulating vocals deliver weighted metaphors, creating a call and response between her and guest saxophonist Marcus Elliot. Koi’s voice serves as a compass for listeners, guiding them between bouts of stream-of-consciousness and smooth, calculated melodies. The directional nature of the song is appropriate, considering Koi says the song is a loose metaphor for a roadmap. “From a lyrical perspective, ‘Spokes’ is about getting lost in the chaos of everyday life to the point of becoming disconnected from yourself, other people, and particularly nature,” says Koi. “It explores the process of rediscovering connection through a walk in the woods.”

Sonically, the song shapeshifts and transforms throughout its lifespan, like watching a timelapse of a tadpole reaching its full form. Its meandering nature is likely due to saajtak’s fluid songwriting method. “I think ‘Spokes’ is pretty emblematic of our writing process,” says Willis. “I seem to remember Simon coming in with the initial groove idea, and then we played and improvised with it in rehearsal and in performance for months as we discovered other sections.” The group’s creative process doesn’t end after one burst of improvisation, however, but spans over months where the song is workshopped and analyzed, especially in this case. “’Spokes’ is probably our most complex song,” says Alexander-Adams, “and being so episodic in form, definitely came together slowly in sections before it reached its current state.”

Instead of one person having autonomy over the final structure of the song, saajtak works as a completely equal unit, each member creating their own piece of the puzzle. “It’s one of the great benefits and challenges of this band,” says Taylor. “Rather than one person writing the material and directing everyone’s individual roles, we all contribute in real time, but also have to be open to compromise and deconstructing our ideas in order to serve the bigger picture.” The result leads to episodic arrangements like “Spokes,” which feels like a natural marriage of stimulating segments telling a small piece of a larger story. The song comes from a 2017 EP of the same name; you can check that out, along with the the band’s latest EP, Hectic, via their bandcamp. Lyrics for “Spokes” are below.

Eulogies of compromise, how can one say goodbye when she’s walking out alone?
Wasted devotionals, way too emotional.
Dot in a box trynna push out and resurvey itself.
I’m flying highest tie the wools around me.
Farce, c’mon and out and pull me down to warm soil.

I’m falling. (Falls, falls, falls down)
When I get up the first thing I hear is,
“Time Will Pass Us Just Right Not Late This Quarter”.
Whipping around, who made that sound?, but no one lingers. Not a whispers.
Still, I’m lulled toward the forward of the woods.

My ring of marcasite shines in the sun like all my freckles, speckled cartography.
My lungs breathe easy here, hung upside down trees.
I don’t choose a spot, the spot it chooses me to find its tilted home, homey little alcove.
I will the wind, I will the wind. The breeze, to find me out – Guide me from outside in.
I will the wind, I will the wind, I will the wind.

So you’re divine? You think you can stand alone forever?
Refine and repeat, refine and repeat.
Desperately annulled, refusing the change
Refusing the nuance to clear the pathway.

My ring of marcasite shines in the sun like all my freckles, speckled cartography.
My lungs breathe easy here, hung upside down trees.
I don’t choose a spot, the spot it chooses me to find its tilted home, homey little alcove.
I will the wind, I will the wind. The breeze, to find me out – Guide me from outside in.
I will the wind, I will the wind, I will the wind.

I’m first. I can only imagine I’m first.

Surprise! It’s every moment of your life.
God spoke to you in a birch tree bark.

Take all of me. Well I’m sure I am offering it to you.
Take my lips I want to lose them, take my arms I’ll never use them.

Surprise! It’s every moment of your life.
God spoke to you in a birch tree bark but you weren’t there.

By |2018-12-26T15:22:18-04:00December 26th, 2018|COLUMNS, Playing Detroit|

About the Author:

Sara Barron plays and writes about music in Detroit, Michigan. Her work has been featured in the Detroit Metro Times, Audiofemme and Interview Magazine.

Contact Us!