Dark matter

Soulsavers keep it eerie on the ears
By BARRY THOMPSON  |  September 15, 2009

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MULTITUDES CONTAINED: "Things were getting a little Jethro Tull for a while, but we managed to blend it all nice and subtly," says Machin (right, with Lanegan).

To paraphrase some wisdom from Jake "The Snake" Roberts, if a man has power, he never has to raise his voice. Jake was explaining why, unlike his adversaries, he didn't keep screaming gibberish. But it's a universal truth. Consider the imagery of David Lynch: be it bunnies dressed as people or a creepy dude hiding under Laura Palmer's bed, everything is kept low-key, yet it all remains far more evil than, let's say, Disfigured Maniac Hacks Apart Sorority Girls Part 9, now in theaters.

"I tend to watch a lot of movies with the audio off and the music on," says UK native Rich Machin, who's lounging at an LA hotel on a day off from tour. "It's amazing how many times you can watch a David Lynch movie with something else playing in the background and it still synchs up perfectly."

The Snake's soft-speaking principle applies equally to Machin's multinational machination Soulsavers, who descend on the Paradise this Wednesday. Their latest, Broken, is substantially eerier than your roommate's favorite Cradle of Filth record. Yet primary vocalist Mark Lanegan never needs to resort to histrionics. The former Screaming Trees and Queens of the Stone Age singer's smoky smooth throat notes are the band's centerpiece, but since he's up front for only 10 out of Broken's 14 tracks, he's more like the protagonist in a sonic narrative than a lead singer. Soulsavers are Lanegan's new band, an electronica production team, rock and roll, raunchy psych, gospel, country, and neo-classical. Soulsavers are also none of those things.

To phrase it less hyperbolically: Machin infuses plenty of fresh blood to keep the creative process lively. He guesses that some 15 musicians including a string quartet left their mark on Broken. "We used a shitload of instrumentation. We did some really cool things with the saxophone, an instrument I'm usually instantly against anybody ever playing on a record. We were using delays, tremolo, distortion, shit like that. Things were getting a little Jethro Tull for a while, but we managed to blend it all nice and subtly."

Among the prominent cameos, there's Mike Patton whispering things like "kill you" on "Unbalanced Pieces," Gibby Haynes wailing in the shadows of "Death Bells," Martyn LeNoble, who plays bass so well he gets to pork Kelly Bundy, and, yes, a woman named Red Ghost who sings on three tunes.

Of course, the Devil's grandest ruse was convincing the world that he doesn't exist. Evil is at its most dangerous when it seems totally rational. If Soulsavers are a practical bunch, doesn't that make them even more sinister? Unlike the majority of collective-ish outfits, they materialize as a minimalist, guitar-bass-drums combo while playing out.

And their reasons for recording exclusively post-sunset? "It just takes a long time for us to get settled," explains Machin. "By the time we're ready to get working, it tends to be nighttime. And I think it's just easier. There are fewer distractions. The phone's not ringing. It's quiet. The coffee's kicked in, everybody's more awake, alert, and in a better mood."

That or else it's that their unholy musical muses can be summoned only after midnight, the darkness makes it easier to hide the bodies, and were he to be exposed to sunlight, Rich Machin might burst into flames.

SOULSAVERS + JONNEINE ZAPATA + RED GHOST | Paradise Rock club, 967 Comm Ave, Boston | September 23 at 7 pm | $15 | 617.562.8800 or www.thedise.com

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