It would've been easy for Savath & Savalas mastermind Scott Herren to release another collection of cerebral, pastoral post-rock like 2000's Folk Songs for Trains, Trees and Honey. The horn-rimmed cognoscenti would've scooped it up by the tens of thousands and he could upgrade his home studio accordingly. But Herren's too much of a musical chameleon to repeat himself. So those accustomed to Folk Songs and Herren's jittery, chopped-and-skewed crunk as Prefuse 73 will be shocked into tranquility by Savath & Savalas' new full-length, Apropa't (Warp).

Bathed in a subdued, sundown glow, Apropa't oozes out 14 songs of lilting Catalan folk and genteel Brazilian psychedelia. Inspired by Herren's recent move to Barcelona, Spain, and his relationship with dulce-throated vocalist Eva Puyuelo Muns, Apropa't subtly seduces where Prefuse 73 stimulates you into head-spinning ebullience. It's the difference between a warm embrace and a booty slap.

The new album took me--and many others, I'm sure--by surprise. What is it about Catalan music that inspired Herren to put his own twist on it?

"Because I'm half Catalan and I listen to Catalan folk music/Brazilian shit, all the stuff that shares the same [musical roots], I wanted to interpret it the way I want to--and Eva," Herren replies by phone from his former Atlanta home base.

"We sat there and listened to other music together, thinking about what we gotta avoid," he elaborates. "We tried to put our hearts into it and make it as sincere as we possibly could. We didn't want to make Catalan dance music--you know that Euro blend of different flavors and cultures and it ends up sounding so corny and contrived? We were avoiding that by going back to the past more than the present."

Savath & Savalas will expand to a nine-piece for this tour: three vocalists (Puyuelo Muns, Juana Molina, Vinia Mojica), guitarist Lori Scacco (ex-Seely), drummer Susie Ibarra, keyboardist Jon Philpot (Presocratics), bassist Josh Abrams (Town & Country, Sam Prekop), DJ Elvin Estela (Nobody), and Herren ("playing a fucking tambourine"). Did Herren have to do a lot of rehearsing with this expanded lineup?

"Yeah, we're rehearsing like crazy and it's really hard. We're translating what's mostly an acoustic record into a live setting; you have to deal with feedback and sound issues. So we're having to do a lot of shit electric without making it sound retarded. It's a very gentle thing, like translating to electric guitar rather than a classical guitar, which is a world of difference."

Much Latin music is hot-blooded, upbeat and celebratory, whereas Apropa't is more downcast and melancholy. Is the style that appears on the disc common in Latin countries? Is it the exception rather than the rule?

"No, there's a lot of sadness in this music. Your perception might be hindered by salsa or really upbeat dance shit. We took the downbeat path because of the premise of the songs we're singing. So that's the way it ended up."

Thank Dios for that. DAVE SEGAL

With Juana Molina and DJ Nobody. Tues April 27 at Chop Suey, 1325 E Madison St, 324-8000, 8 pm-2 am, 21+, $10 adv.

segal@thestranger.com

Support The Stranger