Saturday, August 29, 2009

EP review - Secrets in the Salt "Krill Through Baleen"

I know, I know, this title is looking very familiar - but Secrets in the Salt ended up in communication with more than one of us, and when Jess and I became aware that we were both working on reviews for the same album, we decided, with the help of course of the lovely miss Goldie, that the best solution was to provide both reviews and let you, the audience, decide who to believe. ;)

When I received Secrets in the Salt’s EP, the first thing I noticed is that they have a flair for presentation. The cover art is very simple, diagonal rainbow stripes with “Secrets in the Salt” in all-capital 1980’s style lettering in the yellow section. The CD is printed with a swan made out of two mirrored S’s. I looked at this CD, and I wanted to listen to it.
The first track is called simply “Intro”. Made to sound like an old wax cylinder recording, distant saxophone over staticy sounds. The first proper song, “Hello Sam” definitely didn’t disappoint. Starting with an organ melody and moving to percussive organ chords, it’s a pop song so perfectly formed that just thinking about it starts the words and melody rolling through my head. The instrumentation is simple – mostly just simple organ and a cymbal with guitar and full drums coming in towards the end of the song. The words go from normal to morbid and strange- opening with “Hello Sam, how is the painting” and continuing to “With your bones ground – to the finest powder ever spread around…” all the while continuing the same catchy tune.

Track 3, “Stale Geometry” continues in a similar musical style, this time with repeatedly strummed offbeat guitar chords carrying the main theme, and mobile bass and tambourine holding down the beat. Of course, the organ comes back for a break later on. This song has more of a mysterious or menacing feel. The vocals are deeper and more strained feeling, with some melodic “ooh’s” and “la’s”. The lyrics make very little sense, but that adds to the fun of the song.
Track 4, “Cavity” is the weakest song on the album. It contains some of the most attractive lyrics – “sweet smell of christening”, “being born to myself with a lighter geometry”. The instrumentation is only acoustic guitar and organ, no percussion, with some melodic mallet instrument coming in towards the end, which is one of my favourite parts of the song. However, the seemingly nonsensical lyrics, probably meaningful only to the writer, which are charming in the prior track come off as a bit pretentious and tiresome when set in a more introspective, quiet context, removed from the bass and drums that keep “Stale Geometry” from being... stale, which unfortunately, Cavity kind of is. The lyrics are thoughtful, the melodies beautiful, but the whole package just comes off wrong.

Track 5, “Sparrow” returns to the format of the rest of the album, with a catchy beat and driving guitars, with the addition of an occasional country-like twanging guitar melody, and finishes off with some pretty vocal harmonies.

The final track, “Sleeves”, is more subdued than most of the EP, but still has a beat and some Beatles-type vocal harmonies holding it together. The middle of the song has a break involving some well-done whistling. The end of the song devolves delightfully into barely-audible bass noodling and whirring electronic noises.
All in all, Krill Through Baleen is decent, though definitely not amazing, with the exception, of course, of “Hello Sam”. However, these guys definitely have the know-how and creativity to write an enjoyable, successful, better than average pop song, and my communications with Neil, one of the band’s guitarists, as well as a peek at Secrets in the Salt’s myspace, show that this EP is an early effort not representative of where the band wants to, and probably will, end up. This combined with their excellent graphic design and pleasant but aggressive enough to be effective self-promotion suggests that this may not be the last we hear about Secrets in The Salt. I for one am looking forward to their future endeavors, and hoping to catch them live eventually. Their next show, according to the Internet, is September 5th at Duff's Garage.

1 comment:

Jess Gulbranson said...

Great review, Amber! Strangely, the track I liked the most on KtB was "Sleeves." It was subdued, but there was a nice meandering sort of menace to it.