Album Review: Salem - King Night (Iamsound)

More rewarding with each listen, 'King Night' is as characterised by its wisps of Southern hip-hop and celestial overtones

Album Review: Salem - King Night (Iamsound)

9 / 10 ‘King Night’ is sick. Not just in the sense that it’s outstandingly good but in the fact that it seems extremely unwell. The skin of this album appears jaundiced, its flesh infused with thrush and lungs filling with liquid. John Holland, Heather Marlatt and Jack Donoghue, who have a murky past in hard drug abuse and prostitution, write about what they can see and how they feel refracted through the cracked prism of narcotics and sleep deprivation.

Those who’ve been following Salem for the last year or two will no doubt be initially wrong-footed by their debut, which is a lot more dense and monolithic than the ‘Yes I Smoke Crack’ and ‘Water’ EPs and their killer mixtapes. However it rewards constant and obsessive replaying. The old favourite ‘Redlights’ flickers into existence once again, but this time given extra creeping urgency. Jack Donoghue’s sickeningly chopped and screwed raps (‘Sick’, ‘Trapdoor’) are oppressive and threatening, and owe a debt to the cough syrup stumble of Southern hip-hop as well as the frantic beats of juke. Indeed it takes the angelic (but morally blank) vocals of Heather Marlatt (‘Frost’, ‘Traxx’) to help balance this out alongside a celestial sound recalling the screengaze of Ulrich Schnauss and the shoegaze of Cocteau Twins.

You can call this drag or witch house if you like but regardless of its genre tag this is monumental. As Professor Stephen Hawking said recently, God’s fingerprints cannot be found in creation. Philosophy is dead. We live as we die, with no control and little understanding suspended in a void near the dying ember of some cataclysmic accident we have no hope of comprehending. But look on the bright side: what a majestic vantage point we’ve been given. If, like Salem, you can see glitter and beauty in the chaos then you really should join them.

John Doran

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