btv066 Saxon Shore : Luck Will Not Save Us From a Jackpot of Nothing

Saxon Shore
“Luck Will Not Save Us from a Jackpot of Nothing” (btv066)
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Track listing:
1 July 5
2 May 26
3 April 14
4 June 23
5 November 16

Video : 8.23.03
Video : Secret Fire, Binding Light

With the departure of Seattle drummer and cofounder Joshua Tillman, Saxon Shore has become more of a collaborative group than ever. Anchored by guitarist Matt Doty, a fluid roster of contributors helped create the latest EP, Luck Will Not Save Us From a Jackpot of Nothing. The album leans heavily toward synthesizers and programming, yet still retains the dark guitar-driven intensity of previous albums. As before, lyrics are absent and unnecessary to telegraph the band’s themes of hope, beauty and despair.

Relying less on traditional verse/chorus/verse patterns and more on warm keyboard sounds, Saxon cofounder Doty devised the basic song structures and melodies at his home in upstate New York. He then sent them to Matt Stone in Philadelphia and Oliver Chapoy in Washington, D.C. for collaborative input. Stone provided guitars and synthesizer parts and Chapoy added guitars, programming, keyboards, and sampling. Additional tracking and production was done with John Hill in New York City.

As a nod to the importance of file-sharing in creating this album, the song titles indicate the dates on which Doty started sessions on his computer. The EP title refers to a nickname the band used for a tour in support of their 2003 full-length, Four Months of Darkness (Burnt Toast Vinyl). On the road for eight continuous weeks in the summer, each night was a crap-shoot as to how many people would come to the shows, Doty says. “It was a ‘jackpot of nothing’ because even if a few people showed up one night, it wasn’t guaranteed the next,” he says. The EP is also a reference to the film The Fog of War and a Robert McNamara lesson in diplomacy that luck was the force that prevented nuclear holocaust during the cold war.

That bleak darkness is captured on a short documentary about Saxon Shore that premiered at Sound Unseen, the Minneapolis film festival, alongside Low’s documentaryLow in Europe. The tension and turmoil of touring hardships portrayed in the documentary ultimately led to both brother Tillmans’ (Josh and Zach) departure from the band. The new EP features two live videos that were featured in that documentary: here, the energy and creative angst of such a tour is on display for all to see.

Moving forward, Doty expects to continue incorporating electronic elements into the Saxon sound. The upcoming full length, which will be produced by Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips, Low, Mogwai), will more closely evoke the overpowering rush of the band’s live shows. It will combine the strong melodies of their debut Be a Bright Blue (re-issued Spring 2005 by Burnt Toast Vinyl) with the natural and textured sound of Four Months of Darkness, while retaining the analog keyboard strains of the EP. Luck Will Not Save Us from a Jackpot of Nothing is an introduction to that forthcoming release,The Exquisite Death of Saxon Shore, due in the autumn of 2005 from Burnt Toast Vinyl.

Over the last year, Matt Doty has been taking a break from the Saxon touring jackpots, writing and recording for Elkland’s debut release on Columbia and adding guitar parts for a track on the new Earlimart album on Palm Pictures. Album titles aside, Doty is taking it all in stride and remains hopeful for 2005. Look for Saxon Shore on tour with Doty, Stone, bassist William Stichter, new drummer Steve Roessner, and other members of the Saxon collective in support of this new EP and full-length.