Math-rock was never really considered a massively promising genre. Brough to the fore by Foals back in the wonder years of 2000-2010, there hasn’t really been a promising band come from that genre in the past couple of years. Basingstoke five-piece, SAHARA, are that glimpse of hope though. Boasting an eclectic sound of clean-cut and refined guitar hooks mixed with the melancholic but driven choruses, SAHARA are beginning to make waves.
Picking up from where they left off two years ago, the quintet have kept to a similar sound but have pulled some punches in pinning down their broad sound. Recent tracks such as “Green Light” and “Again Into Blue” show a promising consistency in their song writing. The back alley, rustic charm of “Green Light” in particular draws you in and with the swing beat as the backdrop, you kind of imagine it as being the soundtrack to an independent production of X-files. “Green Light” is a haunted kind of tune, with singer Laith Whitwham oozing his angst of being broken by a counter-part with the line “Empty words on your pillow instead”.
It’s hard not to fall for the charm of the melodies the band as a whole exudes. From the throttling drum beats in particularly down-beat moments, to the bass lines that express themselves completely free of any pinning down to a phantom root-note. This rhythm section mixed with the colour and texture of the two guitars – which are pretty much personified in Withwham’s lyrical content, really make SAHARA a ground-up kind of project. Musically they’re outrageously cool. The experimental side mixed with the melancholic sound of the singer’s crooning and the kind of abrasive but well-organised guitar riffs give SAHARA an awful lot of swagger about their sound.
And watching the band live only furthers this point. The band in a non-arrogant way, knows they’re good. The love doing what they do, they, quite refreshingly, love to have a boogie on stage and welcome the crowd’s adoration. Their love of what they do aside, they’re electric bunch of lads, and quite a good laugh too. I last saw them at CloseUp Festival where they played a cover of chart-topper “Lean On” by Major Lazer & DJ Snake, which was nothing short of brilliant.
Looking back on their older stuff however, it’s no surprise to see the band have really come into their own stride of late. Personal favourite, “Milk Based“, is an ecstatic song. It has all the references of the music they are arguably spurred on by. Early 2000 guitar-rock was when dance-floors would be hectic after hearing the groove of your favourite songs drum beat. SAHARA not only gain inspiration from their own cider-in-the-park hazed days, but they emulate what ever it was they felt when they heard their own influences and convey it solidly.
It would be silly to make the classic ambiguous statement of “these will be big one day” but the fact is, almost all of their songs on Soundcloud have over 10,000 plays – that I’m sure, speaks for itself. It’s surprising, really, that this band are the second to come from Basingstoke this past year, following on from Habitats, of course.
I would hope that this article would highlight clearly what it is that makes this band so promising, but I have no doubt that it doesn’t. Because the fact is, SAHARA are such a subjective band that I like them for many reasons, all of which will be different to the conclusions you will make, having heard their songs for yourself. Just be sure to keep an eye out for them, because soon enough, they’ll be doing something of note.
Words by Sam Meaghan