New Musical Express (NME) - 90 Based on rating 4.5/5
[b]‘King Night’[/b] is sick. Not just in the sense that it’s outstandingly good but in the fact that it seems extremely unwell. The skin of this album appears jaundiced, its flesh infused with thrush and lungs filling with liquid. [b]John Holland[/b], [b]Heather Marlatt[/b] and [b]Jack Donoghue[/b], who have a murky past in hard drug abuse and prostitution, write about what they can see and how they feel refracted through the cracked prism of narcotics and sleep deprivation.Those who’ve been following [a]Salem[/a] for the last year or two will no doubt be initially wrong-footed by their debut, which is a lot more dense and monolithic than the [b]‘Yes I Smoke Crack’[/b] and [b]‘Water’[/b] EPs and their killer mixtapes.
Quell any impulses upon a first listen to write Salem off as disorganized, dark noise. True, it’s almost senselessly spacious to the virgin ear, and with the combination of Karin Dreijer-Andersson-esque vocal distortions, heaps of static, and track names like “Release Da Boar,” it’s a little too easy to roll your eyes at what appears to be yet another bucket of self-indulgent bullshit. But if you can give the album time to grow, Knight Night suddenly becomes a ticket to the nether regions of a soothing hell, wicked as it is comforting, disorientating as it is pacifying.
Long before it was co-opted by the wider blogging community as a catch-all term for anything hot and hazy, hypnagogia referred to the border region between waking and sleep. It’s a threshold state, at which point the mind begins to adopt the free-associative patterns associated with dreams while still semi-conscious, within which it’s possible to experience the sort of visual and psychological phenomena you’d usually associate with hallucinogenic drugs. It’s often a blissful, delicately communicative phase (hence the musical association with nostalgia and childhood memories), but it’s possible to hit a snag in the conduit between reality and dream, and become temporarily trapped there.
A dark mystique has surrounded Salem since the trio released its debut EP, Yes I Smoke Crack, in 2008. The ominous imagery of their album artwork, the tales of John Holland's teenage prostitution and drug use and their place among the creators of the witch house/drag style gave the band something of a mythic quality even before their first full-length, King Night, was released. Over the course of their prolific singles and EPs, Holland, John Donoghue and Heather Marlatt shaped a sound that was as distinctive as it was improbable, fusing beats descended from juke and Southern hip-hop, electronics with a goth bent and shoegazing guitars into something deeply weird and trippy but also surprisingly natural, as if those elements had just been waiting to be combined.
SALEM play Wrongbar tonight (Thursday, March 17). See listing. Rating: NNNN The haunting, hard-living and controversial Michigan band Salem have a we-just-don't-give-a-fuck approach to playing live that detractors often cite as a weakness, and after watching their now-infamous dazed performance at last year's SXSW on YouTube, I find those charges tough to counter.
Any artists with the gall to share their music with strangers run the risk of having someone else control the dialogue. That already harsh process can be a lot harsher if you're saddled as working in an entirely new genre of music. If someone makes a bad "rock" record, at least they're tied into the tradition of rock music and are somehow, if nebulously, connected to every other rock recording ever made.
Salem trade in apathy. In an article for Butt magazine last year, band member John Holland copped to a past lifestyle of heavy drug use and teenage prostitution-- then he offered the interviewer some speed. The band was featured in The New York Times Arts section's fall preview this year, but one member couldn't be bothered to wake up on time for the interview.
“Zombies are by their very nature inconsistent” - Alan Partridge. SALEM! A single word with the medieval power to unleash a Pandora’s box of repressed nightmares. It’s all still there, rattling the hatches in the basement of my mind. The pant-fillingly terrifying Kurt Barlow throwing grown men around like dolls.
As the amateur critics and self-styled journos of the music world continue to spawn and respawn ’long the fertile plains and pastures of the blogosphere, so wax and multiply their most prolific offspring: the sub-subgenre. The past few years alone have seen the vogue of search engine keywords like nu rave, chillwave, shitgaze, shit-fi, glow-fi, et al. , in addition to the recent rebranding of more familiar terms (electro, dancehall, house).
Dark electronica built on glimmering vocals and mutilated bass. Andrzej Lukowski 2010 Upon their emergence in the middle of 2008, Salem had an edginess that went beyond simple new band buzz. There was no biographical data, no publicity pictures, just an aura of dread about a mile thick, at the heart of which sat a limited-edition EP entitled Yes I Smoke Crack.
Rarely does an album title fit the music as well as Salem’s debut does. The moody atmospheric King Night feels like 4 a.m. in the darkest parts of the city. The Michigan-based trio delves into shoegaze in one track before deciding to test the waters of hip-hop-esque rave anthems on the next. The ….