Brooklyn post-punk mainstays SAVAK have announced their fifth album, Human Error / Human Delight, which will be released on April 15, 2022, via Ernest Jenning Record Co. in conjunction with the band's own Peculiar Works.
SAVAK is the two-headed beast of Sohrab Habibion and Michael Jaworski, with Matt Schulz on drums. Jaworski and Habibion have been sharing singing and songwriting duties since the band’s inception in 2015, both taking turns singing their songs while playing guitar and other various instruments. Though SAVAK's members have done time in bands like Obits, Edsel, Holy Fuck and more, their current outfit feels like the true culmination of their songwriting powers.
How do we hold onto hope when we live in a time of unending crisis? Does love have any value if the planet is dying? Is there any justification for producing an album during a global pandemic? On their fifth full-length, Human Error / Human Delight, Brooklyn-based rockers SAVAK grapple with questions no less fundamental than these. They may not find concrete answers, but the exploration itself proves remarkably fertile.
The duality inherent in the very title of the album indicates the group’s fascination with the dichotomous nature of merely existing. The friction between the twin titular concepts power the twelve churning, driving tracks that the record comprises.
Opener “No Blues No Jazz” lays out a mission statement, imagining a future where artistic creation can exist free of the tyranny of genre, and people can coexist free of similarly arbitrary demarcations: “No counties, no countries, no pledge of allegiance,” they chant. But the mood is decidedly less optimistic on follow-up “Empathy,” as they sing “I’ll stop waiting for you, waiting for your empathy.” And yet, the repetition of this refrain borders on protesting too much—by lingering on the idea of not waiting, they are indeed waiting. Despite insisting they have given up hope, the very act of that insistence keeps some twisted form of hope alive.
This tension is an apt microcosm for the album as a whole. Human Error / Human Delight sees SAVAK wrestle with simultaneous idealism and despair, uncertain how best to operate in a modern world. This struggle is reflected in the album’s instrumentation as well, as instruments almost battling with one another, pitting indulgence against economy. Take the minute-and-a-half long instrumental that begins “Set Apart.” Over an insistent, droning rhythm section, the saxophone and guitar take turns trying out new melodic ideas that fight to soar but inevitably sputter out. Originality, intention, invention—it all ends up as so much fuel, waiting to be burned to keep powering the machinery of our capitalist system.
On “Cold Ocean,” these concerns turn more explicitly ecological. “These are my requirements, this is what I need: a cold cold ocean an eternity,” declares the chorus. Aware of rising sea levels and the attendant all-too-temporary nature of the planet’s habitability, they make their demands clear. And yet, again, two tracks later, that boldness has distinctly faltered. “Shot by shot we watched it go to waste / Piece by piece we put it back in place,” they lament at the top of “Oddsmaker.” Almost as if apologizing for their earlier brashness, they admit to the Sisyphean nature of even just maintaining the status quo, watching everything around us crumble, giving up on anything so ambitious as forward progress.
Ultimately, however, underneath the hemming and hawing, there is indeed cause for hope. SAVAK wrote and recorded Human Error / Human Delight entirely over Zoom, suggesting that the transcendence of physical borders they open the album yearning for might not be such a far-fetched notion after all. But at what cost? As more of our lives are subsumed by the virtual and algorithms threaten to sort us all into our own solipsistic rabbit holes, the ideological borders that divide us are harder to traverse than ever. What to make, then, of music shouted into this tumultuous cultural cacophony? Does it stand a chance of solving any of the problems they so astutely name?
Perhaps choosing a path of artistic creation when there are so many more pressing matters is both the greatest human error and human delight of them all. In this way, SAVAK have crafted a scathingly honest treatise on living in our present moment. This album is by turns self-incriminating and celebratory, both a distraction and a balm. One can only hope that as these competing ideas ricochet off of one another, they resonate in something like harmony.
- No Blues No Jazz
- My Book on Siblings 02:16 video
- Cold Ocean
- Set Apart
- Trashing the Ghost
- Recanted (Free the Singer)
- Baltimore Moon
- Adolescence Obsolete