Music News

Salem: King Night

Artist: Salem

Title: King Night
Release date: October 26
Label: Iamsound

There's a little town in Michigan called Traverse City, about 2 1/2 hours due north of my hometown of Grand Rapids. Traverse City is, more or less, the northernmost town of considerable size before you get to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, as vast and desolate a place as the Sonoran Desert, only with pine trees as far as the eye can see instead of saguaros.

Anyway, Traverse City is ostensibly a tourist town right on Lake Michigan. It's got a great zoo featuring only animals indigenous to Michigan (though no wolverines, sadly) and is birthplace of former Suns star Dan Majerle and Michael Moore, whose Traverse City Film Festival is among the many summertime festivals in the town, most of which celebrate awesome Michigan-esque fruits such as cherry. There are a bunch of wineries, a cute downtown with mom-and-pop storefronts, some high-end bistros, and a surprisingly lively nightlife, especially if you're a sunburned Jimmy Buffett fan. It's sort of a Cape Cod of the Great Lakes. And for about three weeks in August, it's just about one of the most beautiful places in the Midwest, if not the whole country.

That Traverse City is home to the band Salem seems odd to me. Not because virtually no notable rock musicians have come from Traverse City but because the city's bucolic lakeside setting is so incongruous to the mayhem found on the band's debut full-length. 

Generally, I hate it when people refer to this kind of band or that kind of music as "weird." But the adjective damn near applies to King Night, a bad dream of a record if there ever were one released this year. I guess some people are labeling Salem with such ridiculous phrases as "witch house" and "rape gaze" -- and why not? 

All synths, samples, and manipulated vocals, the 11 songs (including two rap songs) on King Night are not brutal or dangerous or even abrasive, but their is in underlying sense of menace and discomfort. It's the kind of music that might run through your head when you're lying in bed, trying to sleep, but it's too hot to fall asleep. It's an all-electronic soundtrack to your next fever dream.

Trapdoor - Salem by absentminded

Best song: "Release Da Boar"
Rotation: Medium
Deja Vu: Traverse City in the dead of winter. Not such a nice place to be.
I'd rather listen to: Not Crystal Castles, nor Sleigh Bells, nor Caribou.
Grade: B+

"Nothing Not New" is a yearlong project in which New Times editorial operations manager Jay Bennett, a 41-year-old music fan and musician, will listen only to music released in 2010. Each Monday through Friday, he will listen to one new record (no best ofs, reissues, or concert recordings) and write about it. Why? Because in the words of his editor, Martin Cizmar, he suffers from "aesthetic atrophy," a wasting away of one's ability to embrace new and different music as one ages. Read more about this all-too-common ailment here. The "Nothing Not New" Archives:

October 27 -- The 88: The 88 (B)

October 26 -- Warpaint: The Fool (B+)

September 28 -- No Age: Everything in Between (A-)

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Jay Bennett
Contact: Jay Bennett