Buried Treasure: Sabbia and the Warm Sands

When Sabbia came out in 2006, I was interested. I remember seeing it was around, and knowing that Brant Bjork was somehow involved, and that the desert, the fuzz, etc., but I never picked it up. You know how it goes. Some things just get by you, and when it comes to music DVDs, they’re cute once or twice, then you never watch them again. They sit on the shelf and collect dust. Brant Bjork‘s music is so visually associated in my mind with a specific imagery, I guess I wasn’t in a hurry to have something come along and screw that up.

Fair enough. Sabbia came and went, and it wasn’t until this past weekend that I finally stumbled on a copy, on sale for a whopping three dollars, and felt inclined to pick it up. Actually, I felt excited to pick it up, since it’s harder to get nowadays than when it was first released. I paid three dollars cash money and when I finally put in the disc, I quickly saw that Sabbia — which was directed by Kate McCabe and features Bjork both performing and wandering around a convenience store to pick up some beers — was more than just a standard music DVD. It’s more like a love-letter to desert weirdness brought to life as the music and the visuals feed into each other’s ideas.

There’s no narrative to speak of, though a thread runs throughout of a hottie making her way across the sands in slow motion, but through a series of vignettes based around songs — sections titled “Future Freak,” “Cobra Jab,” “Cool Abdul,” “Joint Ritual,” and so on — McCabe takes the viewer through a range of experiences, usually drenched in sunlight, and it’s everything from skateboarding to snow on cacti to dark-room dancing, trees, open skies, music, people, buildings, sunglasses, freaks, drugs, stars at night. It’s not about Bjork specifically, though he’s in a lot of it, but it’s a project where the editing is almost as much of a character as anyone appearing. Some voiceover, but no real dialogue to speak of. And scenery. Scenery for what feels like forever.

Obviously that’s the idea. And with grainy footage, quirky flourishes and a landscape to work with that’s as unmistakable as the grooves it has birthed, Sabbia runs 80 minutes of tripped-out pastoralia. It wanders in parts — again, that’s the idea — but it’s easy to get lost in its admiration and idolization of the desert, especially if you’re somebody who appreciates that place and the various freaks who’ve emerged from it over the course of the last two decades with a brand of rock and roll that nobody outside has been able to capture in quite the same way. The collaboration between McCabe and Bjork is almost even-sided, but unquestionably one is made fuller by the work of the other.

Being on the other side of the country and given to a certain brand of escapism, I can very easily see paying many return visits to Sabbia, though I’ll say already I’ve gotten my three dollars’ worth out of it and then some. Of course, the whole movie is up on YouTube at this point, so I’ve included it below if you’d like to check it out, with fervent recommendation for tracking down a physical copy so you can get the liner notes from the director and the composer on how their working together came about and what their mission was with the project, etc. It’s about as fitting a representation of the desert as one could ask for:

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2 Responses to “Buried Treasure: Sabbia and the Warm Sands”

  1. goAt says:

    “Hey Dave C, wanna drink some beers with me?”

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