[sic] Magazine

SALEM – King Night

There are a number of reasons to be very grateful for Salem (or indeed their typeset variant SALEM ). Whether this sinister Michigan trio are classified as a re-emergence of darkwave, or as drag, or illwave (a variant of chillwave, of course), or witch – or indeed wytch – house, they deliver their genre-straddling and innovative debut LP without any of the smugness that stems from beating ones imitators to the punch. And, unlike so many of their tail-grabbers – a notable exception being the very worthy and likeminded ensemble White Ring – they do it under a pronounceable guise, one free from symbology, if not allusion.

Morbidly carving out its niche from the belly of shoegaze, the aggressive end of dark dance and down-tempo rap King Night is surprising and entirely powerful – something that will come as no surprise to those that have been following the band’s ascent from the controversial depths of the Yes, I Smoke Crack EP to the Water EP, from which only the King Night-highlight “Redlights” now makes the grade.

From SALEM’s evocative choice of band name to their foreboding artwork, from their edgy promotional shots to their sanity-questioning vocals, from their echo-y compression to their clanking industrionics King Night is seriously dark stuff. It combines the creeping claustrophobia of Burial ‘s Untrue, with the alien washes of Cocteau Twins , only with more bass – lots more bass.

If Sleigh Bells appeared to own 2010’s speaker-crumpling market, take note of what crushes the levels precisely 22 seconds into the titular opener. This sort of raw theatric shows just how puerile Treats was as “King Night” the track goes onto blend of “Ave Maria”-like atmospherics with War Of The Worlds-level epicness.
John Holland ‘s droning synth lines seem to trawl the depths of hell with Trent Reznor as captain and it’s as exciting and urgent as any cut you’ll hear this year.

Later, “Traxx” bolts on a series of metallic clanks and hisses to its similarly flexing echo and distant whispers, running with a early 90s ambience once it crawls out from the shadows. Whereas, “Asia” ripples with static and malfunctioning drum machines that gallop while the tempo drags coursing on anthemic synth lines taken directly from the most primal of the shoegaze canon.

Former single “Frost” is a slower exercise still in clapping beats and randomly arpeggiating drum sequences. Its disturbing vocal chatter comes courtesy of Heather Marlatt , who elsewhere spirits herself away on gales of intangibility and Gregorian chant. It’s a trick she does so perfectly above the walls of static that comprise “Redlights”, a track which audibly bleeds its influence later into the relatively up-tempo offering “Hound”.

Jack Donoghue steps out from behind the beats on “Sick” providing a slow motion screwed-rap turn that flits in and out of some urban nightmare over beds of ghostly chant. Next, “Release Da Boar” is a drugged out bridge built on vocal pulses and roaring synths that lulls and beckons the album back into Donoghue’s territory for “Trapdoor”. Above screeching tyres and spiralling synths, his slowed vocal morphs into the centrepiece of some dystopian crunk anthem, antics he indifferently reprises for “Tair”.

King Night closes with an overloading of equipment, and the squalling static of “Killer” sounds like what the conspiracy theorists wanted to find when they so painstakingly spun all their records in reverse. At every turn, SALEM are not for the unadventurous. From the very opening strains of King Night they enter deep into places most fear to tread, beaming back their strangled missives from beyond and haunting the living with their screaming murmurings of the dead.

Advised downloads: “King Night”, “Redlights” and “Killer”.

~King Night is out now on IAMSOUND .~