Salem | King Night

IAMSOUND (2010)
By ANDREW GRAHAM  |  October 19, 2010
3.0 3.0 Stars

1010_salem_home

In the beginning, there was Screw: the DJ from Houston whose slow and stuttering technique spawned a new musical subgenre. In diluted forms, DJ Screw's sonic signature crops up in the rap/R&B chartscape, but only recently have other genres explored his revolutionary speed-dropping, beat-chopping approach.

This is why the music of the Michigan three-piece synth outfit Salem is so thrilling, yet so difficult to evaluate: without a substantial comparison set, their scruffily beautiful and often viscerally compelling Screw-driven music both suffers and succeeds in its singularity. The songs on this debut album are lethargic, syrupy, and sinister, with the rough-edged peaks of a maxed-out mix. In contrast to their moody feel and the dictates of the chopped-and-screwed genre (but consistent with the Salem singles that preceded King Night), they're fairly succinct. No song is more than five minutes long; most are under four. Their dirgy, slowed-down synth backdrops sparkle with aural glitter familiar to Dirty South rap fans, but the clipped, staccato 808 snare rolls and looped dog-pound woofs are overlaid at "normal" speed, creating a schism between Salem's seminal inspirations and the trio's own methods of execution. This blending of slow-speed boom and standard-pitch bling challenges Screw devotees and neophytes at once. King Night enchants with "Redlights," album closer "Killer," and its title track; these slow-motion whirlpools of æthereal dirtbag shoegaze are siren songs from the gutter — taken off guard, you might easily drown. With the exception of "Trapdoor," whose "It's all blurred out" refrain is as catchy as any good Ludacris hook, the rap vocals are unwelcome intrusions: they drag Salem back to the group's roots, where their explorations are less appealing.

  Topics: CD Reviews , Salem, Salem, DJ Screw,  More more >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY ANDREW GRAHAM
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   NEIL YOUNG INSPIRES A CHILL NEW WAVE  |  November 08, 2012
    Over six decades, Neil Young's musical expression has expanded beyond the rock and roll of his nascent years and the folk-rock that brought him his initial burst of renown.
  •   HOW TO DRESS WELL | TOTAL LOSS  |  September 12, 2012
    To the casual ear, there might not be a dramatic difference between Tom Krell's debut album (2010's Love Remains) and Total Loss, his potent new collection of ethereal hymns.
  •   FRANK OCEAN | CHANNEL ORANGE  |  July 24, 2012
    Since the ’80s, when R&B began to lean more heavily on the candid bling-and-booty-centric tropes championed by its plain-speaking hip-hop cousins, the music’s subtlety, nuance, and imagination have faded.
  •   CHROMATICS | KILL FOR LOVE  |  April 24, 2012
    Chromatics fans have become very familiar with the sensation of anticipation, almost to the point of numbness.
  •   CUBIC ZIRCONIA | FOLLOW YOUR HEART  |  October 25, 2011
    Tiombe Lockhart has been hustling her hot vocal talents for an indie-neo-soul minute now, dropping arresting guest spots with PPP, Waajeed, and Kingdom.

 See all articles by: ANDREW GRAHAM