Sadkin goes live at last

Paul Whyte

It was over a year ago in spring 2017 that producer/multi-instrumentalist Max Mileski started to release songs under the band name Sadkin. Mysterious, plainly packaged CDs, with a couple of songs each, were dropped off in key locations around downtown Duluth. I believe there were four in total. Naturally, I picked them up and added them to the list of local music to listen to. Shortly afterward Mileski released “Elan Vital,” an LP’s worth of songs that could be described as spacey 80s-esque Euro-pop.

Since the album’s release, not a lot has happened with Sadkin until now. Mileski has primarily stuck to the studio working with acts such as Red Mountain, Prone, Tender Ness, Paper Parlor, Jen West, Hardaybra, Jason Wussow, Amy Tischer, Dance Attic and Jacob Mahon. When “Elan Vital” was released, things were up in the air as far as how Mileski was going to replicate the album in a live setting. 

Sadkin will have its debut live concert 8 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 11, at The Main Club in Superior with Ingeborg von Agassiz and Tender Ness. Mileski will be joined by Anton Jimenez, of Red Mountain, on synths and Ethan Thompson, of Dan Anderson & His Silk Sheiks, on bass. Cory Coffman, of Red Mountain and Tender Ness, handles the drums and Nichols Hanson, of Nude Colors, holds down the guitar. The performance is the official release of “Elan Vital” as well as a remix album of select material and B-sides titled “Reimagined.”

Sadkin joins a growing number of bands that are more pop-rock and synth/key-oriented, such as acts like Alamode. While the music is a throwback to the era of Peter Gabriel and Tears for Fears, Mileski goes on a thematic voyage of studio delight that sparks some originality. If you’re willing to take this journey of romantic cosmo-rock, Sadkin blasts off for the listener. Mileski constructs songs that are pop in spirit, but span beyond typical repetitive radio fodder.

“Elan Vital” goes from songs like the thematic “Hidden Souls” that shifts from rock opera epic to swaying grooves in the chorus. There’s certainly a good amount of musicianship making up the many layers, each tweaked just right, into the mix to fill out the expanse of Mileski’s studio work. Tracks like “Hit the Ground Running” are an upbeat and laid-back melding of funky bass and guitar lines, programmed synth layers and shimmering vocals. Songs like “Regalia,” toward the end of the album, brings in beautiful and creatively mixed backing vocals in a song that goes into dreamy experimental buildups and choruses while falling back at times on clean guitar and piano. 

While “Elan Vital” certainly explores soundscapes, it stays approachable; like I said, you need to want to take the journey and realize that there’s a certain creative vision here that’s somehow familiar but definitely takes its own course on epic synth rock. It’s a serious endeavor as far as production and musicianship goes. 

While there’s a groove that makes some of it danceable, it didn’t initially strike me as music that should or needed to be remixed. The remix album “Reimagined” opens with the “Monster Mix” of “Hit the Ground Running” from “Elan Vital.” I’m not sure if anything is added by remixing the song. I can say there are parts where I felt, “This sure is the remix, alright,” with certain blatantly chopped and thrown in samples. Towards the end of the song, I’m guessing some sort of quick panning technique is going on that might have sounded cool in the studio, but I’m not getting the same experience with my final listens on headphones. 

There are also some B-sides, such as the track “Vermillion,” which could be found on the original run of CDs that came out before “Elan Vital.” “Vermillion” is perhaps the most straightforward alt-rock song out of the material, relying on guitar riffs and leads over synths. The song sticks out from the other material with its rather ‘90s alternative feel, which may have a been a reason it wasn’t included in the larger-than-life thematic list of songs on “Elan Vital.” 

I tried the remixed track of “Regalia” and found it to be much more experimental than the original, to the point of being a little creepy. There’s certainly some contrast with the glitched out-and distorted parts intertwined with the cleaner aspects. It gets a little busy and distracting here and there, making me wonder again if these songs needed to be “reimagined.” 

Other collaborations include the “Northern Migration Mix” of the track “Birds of Paradise” by Lazuli Keys, which brings in the work of synth extraordinaire Tobin Dack. It’s not as choppy as “Hit the Ground Running” and while the original version off “Elan Vital” is another song that sticks to the more standard guitar-bass,-drum arrangements, I’m hesitant to say that a synth-heavy version with sequenced electronic beats furthers the song much. Overall, I guess I’m partial to what Mileski was going with on “Elan Vital.”   

Fortunately, I think Mileski going live with Sadkin is the right move since “Elan Vital” is quite an achievement and it will no doubt be impressive to have some of its nuances performed on stage. After a year has gone by, it’s fair to say that it’s high time for Sadkin to make that jump and grab members of the audience on top of some random interested listeners and fellow musicians that have become of aware of his music up to this point. 

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Paul Whyte

A South Shore native and University of Wisconsin-Superior journalism graduate. Lifelong musician, and former open mic host. Passionate about the music scene and politics.

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