From the forthcoming album The Sound Of Water, this clean, crisp collaboration with German electronic act To Rococo Rot is a nine-minute journey in three parts.
Starting with a steady, rhythmic background of keyboard blips and guitar picks, Sarah Cracknell sings in the fragmented phrases that Saint Etienne seem to have adopted as their trademark; her voice has never sounded clearer or more appealing. The track then transitions into a dance segment, and Sarah's voice moves up a notch to 'angelic' as she sings over the soaring keyboard riffs and drum beats, "Sail away, sail away, on and on..." The beats fade eventually, and the song closes with a slow, groovy bassline and some jazzy piano as Sarah asks, "Do you remember how we used to live?" The word epic comes to mind... and that's just one track on this single. The two b-sides, "Roseneck" and "Red Setter", obviously don't come close to HWUTL's glory; yet they hold their own as more downtempo, ambient pieces. Vocals are at a minimum here, mostly limited to hums or short phrases. The EP also offers two remixes of the title track. Dot Allison's mix is a muddy and strange concoction, but its powerful drum beat saves it from total incomprehensibility. The Aim mix is reminiscent of the last jazzy section of HWUTL, but with repetitive vocals and a more insistent beat. Dot Allison includes only a single reversed sample as far as vocals go. As an added bonus, the CD is also enhanced with a video for HWUTL, which is every bit as cool as the song itself. Watch this, and then go for a drive with the song in your head - the video will make a lot more sense then. "How We Used To Live" will undoubtedly please fans of To Rococo Rot, since their sound is very evident here. More dance-oriented folk will find something to like as well. In the end, HWUTL sounds like it has the potential to become a classic - and how many 9-minute songs can you say that about?