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White Noise: Salem – King Night

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Salem – King Night

Salem were one of the most hyped up bands the internet has witnessed in a good while, creating their own sub-genre, witch house (which now others have adopted and nuanced more finely), and gaining reputation for one particular terrible live performance (look it up, it's pretty hilarious). But now the dust has settled, it's worth reviewing whether they actually delivered the goods.

Album opener King Night is without a doubt absolutely spectacular. The song has a completely unique energy, this is the sound that could be played as the universe exploded; it's that epic. On paper it opens with a creepy slo-mo sample of Barney the Dinosaur's theme tune, and then explodes into an almost unrecognisable cover of the hymn O Holy Night, but this description does it no justice. The song constantly assaults the listener with a wall of sound that's something like death-shoegaze, and the track is beautifully nuanced with sporadic percussion and a gorgeous choral line that runs alongside spiralling synths. And every time the track lulls, it's just a false sense of security because there are a good few moments when you wonder how the composition can possibly get more powerful than it already is, but each time it delivers. This is the sound of the end of the world, and it's stunning.

Pretty high praise for an opener, and definitely a sign of a band with a huge amount of talent and finesse. Astonishingly, the rest of the album doesn't even sound like it's trying to achieve these dizzy heights. Almost every other track is somehow a complete mess; I could go on at length about just what is so poor about these tracks, but I'll just cut to the highlights. Some songs are overloaded and overly equalized such as Asia, Hound and Killer. These cuts are so poorly produced that the melody barely emerges from all that ugly noise. On other tracks, Sick, Trapdoor and Tair, these drugged-out electro artists attempt Southern rap, aesthetically unpleasing – that is if you can even hear it, the vocals are totally lost in the mix- and if you're particularly after this sort of sound with some higher calibre rap, Gucci Mane does it better.

There are some vaguely redeeming tracks. Release da Boar is menacing and has a woozy haze that holds the composition together quite nicely, while Redlights is a more subdued and successful take on the formula they keep hammering home with some subtle interplay between vocals, low-end bass and ticking percussion that works well. But nothing even comes close to the joy of King Night.

I understand that all this messiness may be the point, witch house isn't a fixed genre and hazy, overloaded sound may be what they were aiming for, but it doesn't really cut it for me. Given that these are clearly talented musicians their general aesthetic direction seems as backwards and unpredictable as their live performances, and when there are more nuanced and interesting takes on witch house around at the moment (Balam Acab, oOoOO) it just doesn't seem worth the listen. Get the first track because it's a knock-out, but leave the rest.


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At 29 May 2014 at 14:04 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

your review is shit. lets here some of your production work. twat


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