Salem - King Night

A beautiful mixture of soft and rough, of minimalism and head-throbbing obnoxiousness.

The past three years have seen a rise in what, amongst other titles, has been termed ‘witch-house’ and a ‘drag-movement’. It’s given pace to an underground storm of new music, the likes of White Ring and Balam Acab reigning in and recording music influenced by electro, pop and primarily hip-hop but made in such a way that it’s physically affecting and highly original. Three years ago, SALEM pretty much started all of this. But in the time between then and now, whilst retaining their cult status, they slept into the shadows whilst their innovation careered off skywards. Now they announce themselves with gusto and triumph; ‘King Night’, the trio’s first full length, finally arrives.

Listening to ‘King Night’ is nothing short of awe-inspiring. You feel the bass ripples shed light and lift your hairs from their root, the obtuse rhythms crash against your skull. It’s not simply a process of lifting headphones on your ears and getting on with it, it’s a physical experience. Vocals are tuned below accessibility, hip-hop samples skewed and tightened beyond approach - one extreme amongst the other. But SALEM masterfully achieve the art of blending one, two, even three extremes together and creating something entirely new and wholly more intriguing than anything else out there.

Heather Marlett’s voice is never settled. It at times sounds exorcised, demonic (see: ‘Sick’), at times more akin to a synth line than a singing voice (‘Release Da Boar’). Sometimes, it just about sounds natural, albeit juggled with delay and pitch effects. In ‘Redlights’ you can just about imagine the original words uttered, before they became a soft, stratosphering element amongst the throbbing bass and skittering, fidgety drums.

The future of music is always in doubt. You can’t help but feel that throughout the last 100 years, practically everything has been covered. But in technological innovation comes a subsequent musical movement that captures a progression unlike anything heard previously. ‘King Night’ is at first, impossible to get your head around. It will be met around the world by scepticism and cynicism, a backlash unlike many before, depending on the growth of SALEM’s career and the ‘drag-movement”s progress.

But what cannot be denied is that within ‘King Night’ there is serious technical ability on show; an at times stunning characterisation of minor low-key synths and haunting vocals; a beautiful mixture of soft and rough, of minimalism and head-throbbing obnoxiousness. There’s talent to go alongside the apparent pretence that this genre will always be accused of garnering. The fact is, SALEM have created something of real, significant force, something that has already grown wings and taken off. Creators should never be dismissed off-hand, particularly if their product is of such potential importance.

Tags: SALEM, Reviews, Album Reviews

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