Posts Tagged ‘SALEM’

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Heavy Rotation 73: The CLT Self-Promo Edition

May 30, 2011

Elizabeth asked for some links so that she can keep track of where else I’ve been writing. I’m going to do a complete link dump of everything I have published elsewhere. I’ll also be adding a few tracks for some background music.

Going forward, I’m going to trim back the Heavy Rotation to three tracks per week (theoretically). Not that I don’t have a huge backlog of awesome music to share, but that 20-30 minutes is a lot of time to ask anyone to invest in a single post. Speaking for myself, I know I’d have trouble sitting on one single page of the internet that long, so I’m not going to be asking (or demanding, via blogguilt) anyone else to do it.

You may have noticed there are four tracks in this Rotation, which would seem to indicate the exact opposite of what I just said. Let me explain: one of those is a mashup, and so it actually is part of a Sonic Collision and not part of this Heavy Rotation. (Although it will go headerless for maximum confusion). Enjoy.

THE LI N K D  U  M    P

Techdirt.com

Capitalist Lion Tamer (that’s me!) Profile Link.
(Use this link to see everything I’ve written for Techdirt, including comments. Handy!)

If you’re short on time, here’s some of my favorites:

The Bygone Bureau

The Big Jewel

Defenestration Magazine

Enough about me. On to the music.

Mirrors – Ways to an End.mp3

This track by Mirrors is like getting hit in the ears with a Louisville slugger made out of nostalgia (and some ash — for weight). This is the crystalline pure pop bliss of OMD and the Pet Shop Boys. If you close your eyes, you can see impossibly/impeccably dressed people (often with shoulder pads and sleeves incomprehensibly hiked up) doing impossibly/impeccably cool things (often involving chrome and neon) with this as background music. If you close your eyes for long enough, you’ll feel like John Hughes presiding over a cast of next-big-things, most of whom will flameout spectacularly. (Including John Hughes.) Don’t close them for too long, though, otherwise people might actually think you’re John Hughes and start divvying up your estate. Hat tip to MEK for shooting this my way.

Von Haze – Outsyd Tha Nite (White Car Remix) (Salem Re-edit).mp3

Usually too many cooks are bad news, what with their constant fucking around, spoiling the broth and angling for book deals. But in this case, Von Haze gets re-rubbed by not one, but two, remixers, resulting in this wall-of-despondent-sound that edges close enough to triumphant to not get completely distraught and head off into the woods to do damaging things to itself. The vocals get pitched down to the sub-bass level of rolling Gothic thunder and skittering drum patterns slide across the murky tones without ever finding a foothold.

Tyskerhar – Oh.mp3

I’m not going to say much about this one, other than once Tyskerhar’s track gets into your head, it’s not coming out. Not for awhile. And then you’ll be stuck singing the chorus, over and over again, most of which is composed of the one-word track title. There’s a word for this: nefarious.  So, what can you do? Do what I did. Force it into the brains of others, sit back and watch the contagious collateral damage. It’s like a yawn, only catchier.

….

DJ Topcat – The Safety Booty (Men Without Hats vs. Bubba Sparxx).mp3

Topcat gives up something that couldn’t be more appropriate (and inappropriate, in terms of subject matter) if it tried: a bootie about booty. Asstacular!

DJ Topcat

-CLT

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Salem’s “Black” Magic; or That Razor Works Better When It’s Sharp – Sincerely, Occam

January 27, 2011

About a month back, while reading through the Village Voice’s 20 Worst Songs of 2010 (which you should totally check out — the very thorough dismantling of Train in the #1 spot is a blast), I came across Trapdoor by Salem in the #6 spot.

Now, it’s no secret that I’m a fan of SALEM but my issue with their takedown of this track has nothing to do with their particular critique but with whom they had chosen to link to, Brandon Soderberg over at his blog, No Trivia.

Soderberg’s issue with Salem has to do with Jack Donoghue’s use of pitch-shifting and ebonics (l guess that term will have to do) to make himself “sound black.” More specifically, he feels that Donoghue makes himself sound “black” so that he can get away with misogyny that he would be unable to if he sounded “white.”

“The slowed down vocals do not only have the effect of bringing the vocalist’s voice down to stoned crawl, they make the white performer sound black. This, coupled with lyrics that are content-wise, what my grandmother thinks rap’s about (murder, rape, misogyny, repeat) and the problematic, conscious “hip-hop” pronunciations underneath that vocal effect, makes Salem’s music pretty egregious. This is a group of white kids who’ve screwed their vocals down to “sound black,” and then use that screwing-down of vocals to say things they wouldn’t–and couldn’t–say otherwise. Employing the word “minstrelsy” is controversy-baiting, but it also isn’t that far off.”

Touched on (and dismissed) is Salem’s love for the pitched-down “screwed” sound of Houston rap. (See below.) According to Soderberg, this doesn’t excuse Salem’s “minstrel show” as Donoghue also willfully mispronounces words (“skreets”) when not indulging in full-blown misogyny.

There’s offensiveness on either side of this issue but a lot of it takes some serious digging and extrapolation. Soderberg is additionally perturbed that Donoghue (or John Holland in the NY Times interview) doesn’t just come out and say that he’s  trying to emulate black rappers or even engage in a discussion as to how some people might find this emulation troublesome.

First of all, some context. Check out this video of Salem “performing” at the Fader Fort*:

This “version” of Salem live seems to have its shit together a bit more (although still dangerously low on energy):

Combine that top video with this interview with the NY Times:

“Anyway, the group remains sanguine about its stage future. “I think there’s a lot you can do with having, like, I don’t know, smoke and fog and things,” Mr. Holland said confidently.”

(*Sidebar: As atrocious as the Fader clip is, I think I’d still be tempted to shell out to see them live. No matter which band hits the stage, the spacey trainwreck or the strobelit nightmare, I still think you get your money’s worth.)

Take a good long look in Donoghue’s eyes. If you’re wondering why no one owns up to the arguably troublesome subtext of “sounding black,” those windows to the soul with the “vacant” sign hanging in them would seem to indicate a full disconnect from their immediate surroundings, much less deeper philosophical issues.

Attempting to drag the band into any discussion of underlying themes is like finding a dead zone with your cellphone: you half expect a dialog box to pop up stating “Connection failed.” I don’t see his recalcitrance as intentional but rather as inadvertent. Donoghue seems incapable of subtext and engaging in a discussion about Salem’s “minstrel show” aspects is giving him entirely too much credit.

More disturbing is the fact that when you state that someone is trying to “sound black” simply to get away with bog-standard misogyny, you are also stating that misogyny is ok as long as you’re actually black. This implicit statement is at least as offensive as the original issue.

Now, if it’s misogyny that Soderberg has an issue with, he’s got 90% of rap and 60% of rock to tangle with. If it rubs him the wrong way that Donoghue mangles English without the authenticity of being, you know, black, we’re right back at square one, stating that it’s ok to talk street (or “skreet,” I suppose) as long as you’re the right race.

Ask yourself this: how many white people have you heard spouting off some version of “fo shizzle”? (Too many, I’m sure.) Did each of these mini-minstrel shows get a full blast of your outrage? Or was is just one of those things millions of (white) people do without recrimination thanks to the assumed irony? Is it ok as long as we’re all in on the joke?

I’m not here to defend Salem’s subject matter in this particular track and whether any of us like it or not, it tends to fall into that grey-ish “artistic persona” area where it gets really tough to attach the misogyny to the person saying it, especially when Salem’s members don’t really give a shit what you think. I also tend to give controversial subject matter in artistic endeavors lots of elbow room and have no desire to censor somebody’s work simply because it offends me. I also have no desire to kick out 800 words on how X offended me with their Y. Too much is open to interpretation and if I don’t like it, I don’t have to listen to/read/watch it again.

I’m willing to concede Soderberg’s point that the co-opting of black music that gave birth to rock and roll is not relevant to this discussion. Occasional vocalist and on-stage smoker Heather Marlatt flies this flag briefly in an interview with XLR8R when asked about Salem’s borrowed (via pitch shift) blackness.

“I feel like that’s something a white person would say,” says Marlatt. “In a way to criticize what we’re doing. It’s like, to anyone that thinks that in this era—I don’t know what to tell them. It’s not like we’re Elvis Presley. God. What, are we robbing the music from a different race? Give me a break.”

It’s not a very skillful deflection but then again, the collective members of Salem aren’t really known for their erudite conversation. But her defense doesn’t work. Of course, it doesn’t really need to. This isn’t an attempt to sell black music to white people by attaching a white face to it. This is (supposedly) a co-opting of black music to excuse its transgressive content, a charge that is pretty much going to remain in the eye of the offended beholder.

Problem is: I’m not buyin’ it. I don’t think Donoghue’s pitched-down gangster shit is anything more than a poor attempt to emulate his influences. I don’t think it’s any more racist than the white hip hop fanatic down the block that refers to everyone as “nigga.” It’s an ill-advised affectation that will probably result in his ass getting beaten someday but I don’t think he’s handing out the term with the same intentions as some Klan member or a former Seinfeld star.

As for feeling Salem couldn’t get away with misogynistic fantasies because they’re white? Isn’t this the sort of discussion we should have been having over a decade ago when Eminem first hit the radio? As for “minstrelsy” accusations, I don’t see anything about this that is intended to lampoon or demean the black race.

What Soderberg’s post does read like is a bit of character assassination. This would be fine if that’s how it was presented. (See again VV’s obliteration of Train.) But Soderberg turns his dislike of a band into accusations of racism, which is a bit disingenuous.

If you don’t like Salem there’s plenty to bitch about. Uninspired, repetitive music? Ok, I can see that. Terrible rapping. Agreed. Terrible subject matter. Yeah, but that’s rap for you. Bullshit genre? This too shall pass.

With all those targets available, why does Soderberg feel the need to drag his highly subjective racism claim into the mix and hang his criticism off that framework? It just seems like a long way to go to basically state “I H8 SALEM.” (Even worse, there’s a whole lot of backpedaling on the racism/minstrelsy claims in the comment threads.)

It’s like critiquing Norman Rockwell. While decrying his lack of imagination and overuse of cliche, you grab this painting:

and veer off into speculation on Rockwell’s latent pedophilia. Soderberg is irritated that the members of Salem dodge the racism question in the XLR8R interview, stating something vague about the history of white theft in rock and roll. I guarantee if someone cornered Rockwell about his naked child butt pictures, he probably wouldn’t spend much time entertaining your pedophilia queries. (Although, this might have a lot to do with him having been dead since 1978.)

Soderberg makes it very clear in the comment thread how subjective this attack is when he says, “THIS offends ME.” He should have left it at that. With no evidence, anecdotal or otherwise, that Donoghue is a racist (intentionally or otherwise), this kind of outrage is a pretty tough sell.

One final question: if Donoghue is truly trying to imitate a black person, what exactly is the harm in that? His pitch-shifted rap doesn’t seem to be demeaning or dismissive. He doesn’t come across as someone who’s interested in playing up a stereotype. If anything, it’s an homage to his Houston-scene influences. Just because it’s badly done and lacking in subtlety does not immediately turn it into a post-death rock Amos and Andy.

As Soderberg states more than once, this is his subjective take. But if that’s all it is, why spend so much time defending that stance? It offends you. So be it. But the other commenters aren’t necessarily wrong, they’re just not finding anything offensive in what’s going on. Obviously the longer the discussion goes on the less likely it is that anyone will change their mind.

But maybe, just maybe, this is exactly what it seems. A white boy doing screwed-vocal rap because he digs screwed-vocal rap. Nothing more. Nothing less.

-CLT

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Top 50 Tracks of 2010: SALEM – King Night

November 21, 2010

42. SALEM – King Night.mp3

With this potentially harmful blast of their signature death disco sound, SALEM dial up the evil for an audio rendition of an apocalyptic midnight mass. It’s the suffocating sounds of pitch black celebration as hell reigns on earth, summoned by ritually abused drum machines and overdriven amps.

Those who manage to pull themselves from the primordial sinkhole will be haunted/taunted by a Hallelujah chorus of the damned. It’s enough to make the living envy the dead. All hail King Night.

sAlem on iTunes.

The rest of the Top 50.

-CLT

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Heavy Rotation 53

July 18, 2010

5 tracks. 3 links. Synergistic.

First, the links.

[All links open in a new window. All tracks can be downloaded by right-clicking on their titles.]

Who do you write like? Drop in a few paragraphs and find out.

The “Rap Metal” paragraphs from the last Music Genre guide gave me this incredibly pleasing result:

[Full disclosure: three paragraphs from the post you’re reading gave me “Dan Brown.” And their badge code doesn’t play nice with WordPress.]

Golden Ages’ website, We’re So Future. (Check out their track and come back to this.)

A periodic table of swearing. And you can buy one for your wall. (Via kottke.org.)

Previous versions not numbered 53 available here:
The Heavy Rotation Archives

Felix & Volcano! – Shaadows.mp3
I don’t care what you’re listening to or what you’re doing. Drop all of it and listen to this. This is best fucking thing you will hear all day/week/month/year. I don’t say this lightly or routinely throw around hyperbolic statements, so fuck all the genre bullshit about who this sounds like or what their influences might be or how the rest of their catalog doesn’t really resemble this.

It’s the kind of track that kicks you in the head and makes you want to sing along even though you don’t know the words yet.

It starts out slowly, riding a low key bassline that wouldn’t seem out of place in quality R&B/soul track, accompanied by some sort of buzzing, synthetic organ. The lyric obliquely detail the turning point in a relationship. A fight. An ultimatum. A release.

Hey
Let’s not make up
Let’s just leave it alone…

The hardest thing to do sometimes is just… let… go. But then the levee breaks. And you’re free.

Because when we surface
With our minds intact
We’ll finally be home…

They follow this melody for a few moments, singing wordlessly. The chorus returns, its original form sung underneath a slight rewriting:

Because when we slow down
Let go my hand
Don’t you worry…

3:23. Wind howls past, blowing away the past. Clarity is acheived. The weight is removed. All you had to do was let it go.

The song picks up pace, racing away, weightless and triumphant. A soul unanchored.

Check them out.

Golden Ages – It Doesn’t Mean Shit.mp3
Like the previous track, impossible to pinpoint and steeped in the same sentiment. Fuck all the genre bullshit. It’s as though Golden Ages decided to make some electronica and cobbled it all together using only instinct and enthusiasm.

And when the tastemakers showed up with the All Knowing Guide to Electronica Standards and Guidelines, they were horrified to find this distorted, jovial mess rattling along like a circuitious Rube Goldberg contraption, whose very existence was the only ends that justified the looping means.

Oh. It’s fun alright. Name that influence. Find the title (spoken once). Is that running water? Why does this add up to great music when all the components feel like they would cancel each other out? Who knows… enjoy.

UNKLE – Natural Selection (featuring the Black Angels).mp3
Like the bluesy-psychedelia of the late-’60s Rolling Stones crossed with UNKLE’s electronic sensibilities. Moves along with a confident swagger, as I imagine UNKLE themselves must, what with their impeccable production and godawesome catalog.

It’s the effortless cool that David Holmes projects. Or Death in Vegas. Or the Stones themselves, back in their heyday. The Black Angels classically-rockist vocals aid greatly as do their tasteful insertion of huge, distorted riffs.

†‡† – goth bb.mp3
Google-unfriendly †‡† (a.k.a. ritualzzz) take to the airwaves with a darker-than-darkwave collection of killer bass and disembodied screams, all moving at a menacing, zombie-esque pace.

Some people have bandied about the term “witch house” to describe this sort of post-gothic, post-industrial electronica that dwells at the deeper, deadlier end of the genre pool. It’s a terrible term, conjuring up Blair Witch sequels and weekend Wiccans dancing around candles and incense. But what would you call it? Goth-tronica? Death disco? Nightmare pop?

SALEM – King Night.mp3
Returning to their signature death disco sound after a dalliance with chopped and screwed hip hop, SALEM dial up the evil in this audio rendition of an apocalyptic midnight mass. The suffocating sounds of a black celebration as hell reigns on earth, summoned by ritually abused drum machines and overdriven amps.

Those who manage to pull themselves from the primordial sinkhole will be haunted by a Hallelujah chorus of the damned. It’s enough to make the living envy the dead. All hail King Night.

[Need a track removed? Looking for a glimpse of daylight? Goth-tronica? Seriously? Email me at 2timegrime@gmail.com.]

-CLT

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Heavy Rotation Vol. 5

July 5, 2009

Another week, another set of fine tunes to soundtrack whatever activities you have planned for a fine 4th o’ July weekend. Whether it’s yardwork (those corpses won’t bury themselves!), a family outing (those corpses won’t bury themselves, kids!) or just hanging around the house waiting for law enforcement to arrive (What did I say about the corpses? Kids? Who remembers?), these insta-classics will warm your heart and swallow your soul. Who’s ready to testify?

Click here for previous versions.

FUck%20Buttons

Fuck Buttons – Race You to My Bedroom
Nearly ten full minutes of apocalyptic electronics and fuzz, all slowly and steadily building like the little fucking psychedelic engine that could. There are lyrics, although none that can be readily deciphered. Brutal in an impeding doom sort of way.

holy_fuck_lp_small

Holy Fuck – Super Inuit
A very high-quality live capture of the Fuckster’s in concert. Powerful drumming, lots of electronics tweaking and what sounds like a flute somewhere in the mix. Add some Suicide-esque echoed vocalizing and we’re off to the fucking races. Best served loud.

SALEM

SALEM – Haffa
The claustrophobic sound of drowning, occasionally punctuated by Casio-quality handclaps and drums. Dirty, gray and suffocating. Suitable for the whole family, although probably not yours. Yours either. Maybe play it through once or twice first before calling the kids in to gather round the hi-fi.

Video for “Dirt.”

colorlessrecord

Belong – Late Night
So you say you like that drowning feeling you can only get from SALEM? But the handclaps and cheap-ass Casio drumwork are too “pop-ish” and leave you feeling like you might survive the encounter? Enter Belong, who remove the rhythm section and bury the vocals even further, turning the drowning feeling from unintentional to self-inflicted, with their cover of Syd Barrett’s Late Night.

r-763428-1156322190

m83 – Teen Angst
The amalgamation of one man’s quest to make the perfect My Bloody Valentine song, only using sequencers and synthesizers instead of guitars and $500,000 of label-destroying funds. Staccato bursts of drums, soaring vocals and a propulsive set of keyboard washes. Highly recommended.

All files in one convenient zip. Click thru to download (link opens in new window).

Heavy Rotation V. 5

[All music posted on Fancy Plans… is kick ass and too awesome to be contained. All music is also posted temporarily and, due to it’s high level of ass-kicking, should not be distributed without a prescription and care should be taken while operating heavy equipment or dancing around the living room (clothing optional, but do remember that the blinds are open/kids are still awake).
Should you wish to have your brilliant artistic statement forced back into confinement, please email me at 2timegrime@gmail.com. Feel free to leave a comment, as that will probably be noticed sooner.
By all means, if you like what you hear (and you will), please support the totally rocking artist(s) by purchasing some music or heading out to see them live.]

-CLT