Until now, Sega Bodega, aka Salvador Navarette, has tended to work on the sidelines. He co-runs the label NUXXE with Coucou Chloe, Shygirl, and Oklou; he’s been busy producing for singers like London’s Cosima; and he contributed sound design to Brooke Candy’s ambitious PornHub film I Love You.
On 2018’s self*care, Sega Bodega’s last sizeable solo release, he was bright, brash, lashing outwards; on Salvador, his debut album, he has grown up and also grown more unsure of himself. Shedding the hard shell of youthful self-confidence, he has become lost and self-doubting—an all-too-recognisable condition of one’s mid-twenties. Having titled Salvador after himself, he embarks upon a far more personal project than his previous ones. It’s a raw album, emotionally and psychologically, and it masks sincerity with production that is hard and experimental. Utilizing a production style similar to his work on Shygirl’s recent single “BB”—overdriven rhythms inspired by rap, R&B, and UK bass; vocals processed to disorienting extremes—Navarette deliberately cloaks his self-contradiction and ugly thoughts with deceptively danceable electronic beats. The album is a trippy descent into Sega Bodega’s dark side.
In his lyrics, Navarette delves into the destructive patterns we allow ourselves to fall into in the name of self-preservation. This comes to the fore on lead single “U Suck.” Upon first listen, it’s the album’s most unsparing song (“I don’t mean to be rude but honestly/Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you.../I can list the ways you suck/You suck, you suck, you suck”). But his singing is soft rather than accusatory, the chords gentle; the major-key outro is so subtle that it’s easy to miss the final twist: “Sometimes you don’t see it but I love you.” Pitched up, his vocals are childlike and coy, shying away from a truth that is hard to acknowledge.
The album, as a whole, is better than its singles. “U Got the Fever” is a swirling dreamscape that switches to double time, mimicking the compelling anxiety of a codependent love affair. “Heaven Knows” flicks easily between major and minor chords, mirroring the lyrics’ conflation of pleasure and pain (“Keep your hands around my neck/Cut me with glass”). “Masochism” contrasts harsh beats with soft, closely recorded vocals. Layered on top of each other, the vocals create the sense of an inner dialogue that, combined with the pulsing, fast-strummed guitar towards the end of the track, show an unhealthy cycle beginning again.
Navarette’s keen ear for pop and rock blends well with his electronic experiments. The short “Know (Interlude)” is the only place he allows himself to let loose with more abrasive beats; the album’s last two songs “Calvin” and “11 Kuvasz in Snow,” are led by piano melodies—an unexpected choice, given the way the rest of the album foregrounds such an aggressively digital palette. The piano suggests a newfound vulnerability, as if he’s finally dropping his guard and letting in both his listeners and the “you” addressed in most of his lyrics.
If self*care showed someone in youthful fluctuation, searching for his identity, Salvador is a self-portrait of an artist in turmoil. What makes the record click is that it feels relatable, yet entirely on Sega Bodega’s terms: ambitious, lonely, and aching for intimacy.
SEGA BODEGA - SALVADOR (COLOURED VINYL)
- 2 Strong
- Raising Hell
- U Got The Fever
- Heaven Knows
- Salv Goes To Hollywood
- Knox (Interlude)
- Smell Of The Rubber
- U Suck
- Kuvasz In Snow
- Heaven Fell