Truly excited was I, when listening to the opening track, King Night and discovering a demented, electro version of that song from Home Alone. This is a breed of electro that I am definitely not familiar with; a brooding, gothic, haunting assault- like the very end of a trip, when the good times are fading into the abyss and the unwanted come-down is looming large. There’s is nothing particularly pleasant or uplifting about this style of music, but it’s an intense audio experience like no other.
The album in question is also titled King Night- a vicious debut from Michigan three piece; Salem. Categorizing this band is a somewhat hilarious experience, as they are associated with a number of bizarre genres, most commonly; Witch House. Announcing my love for a genre known as Witch House has been a dream of mine for some time now- it beats telling people that you dig ‘American indie’ and ‘Shoegaze’- right? Fuck it, I’m sold, Witch House is all I’m going to listen to. I have also heard them described as ‘Cave Crunk’ [Dazed & Confused], Celtic [their own MySpace page] ‘Goth Crunk’ and most controversially; ‘Rapegaze’ [only controversial because the dudes, who coined it, have apologised and tried to distance themselves from it]. There is an inherent darkness in all of these titles and this is not without motivation- the genre, and Salem in particular, embrace a world of skuzzy, underground art. King Night is better suited as a soundtrack for a snuff film, than it is as a club record.
Following the hugely successful opener, King Night follows with a string of tracks, mixing Trip Hop with minimalism, droning vocals with an occasional sense of black euphoria. If there was ever an album which requires a series of silly adjectives to describe it- this is it. Not an easy listen first time round, but boasting such exquisite artistry, whether you are blown away first time or not, you will want to listen again. Album highlight, Redlights, is the most accessible track by far. So, let this be your gateway into the record and listen to it as many times as need be. If you need a follow up single, try Frost, which boasts a pounding synth and enough bass to bounce a castle on.
Speaking of ‘gateway’, Salem are a band, constantly associated with drugs. I am not a detective, but this may have something to do with their first E.P; Yes I Smoke Crack. Or, it may have something with some of their notoriously painful live performances, especially at this year’s SXSW. Standing zombie-like without an ounce of stage presence, Salem don’t hide their drug use well. However, because of the genuine uniqueness of the music, it is still a spectacle to watch; spaced or not. The hit-and-miss nature of their performances can be compared to Girls, but when Girls play bad, it is a genuinely dull, miserable experience.
Forget the drugs, the darkness, the fear of Witch House causing witch burnings and human sacrifices [I did not make this up, there is genuine online concern about this]; Salem have released nothing short of a marvel. King Night will almost definitely feature in top ten lists of this year’s best, including this humble reviewer’s- I can’t articulate enough love for this record without sounding like a moron. It’s not all about gothic debauchery though- the band revealed in an interview for Dazed & Confused [read it here] that they still live in Michigan, because they like to be close to their families. How sweet?!
Words : David Campion