Posts Tagged ‘blues


kim salmon and the surrealists – grand unifying theory

The recent whereabouts of Kim Salmon have been much talked about and discussed among the fans of Rock. Or so we’d wish. But the man’s kept quiet for a few years and therefore one has to ask: how does he feel? He’s been around, playing random gigs in Australian joints and continuing the Scientists reformation, but a new record was long overdue. Since 2007’s Salmon, a interesting (and sadly abandoned?) instrumental project, and the same year’s Sedition, a live album showcasing the Scientists’ return to venues, he’s maintained a discography silence. Until a few months ago, when this was released, the first Surrealists album in a dozen years: probably his strangest record. I’m aware they are possibly Salmon’s weirdest act, but still, most of their quirkiness derives from being tongue-in-cheek or just for shits and giggles, always residing in that awkward line in between soul and parody. But this, this Grand Unifying Theory, oozes strangeness in its structure, focus and, who knows, goal.


There’s two short opening songs in the vein of early Surrealist releases, that is, sleazy drugged-out punk blues with Iggy-esque vocals, much howling, guitar strums here and there, cocky words (“We are the elite, don’t blame us”), caverns and jack’n’coke. À la Jon Spencer, but looser. The rhythm section provided by drummer Phil Collings (that IS his actual name) and bassist Stu Thomas in them both is remarkably funky. Slightly different is perhaps the third track, “Rq1”, which has punkrockish, even hard rocker, leanings. These few compositions, which amount to nine minutes, turn to crumbs when the title track kicks in. 24 minutes of steady extravaganza, probably Salmon’s most ambitious stunt yet. After a bit of noisy distorted wankery (too extended), in which the instruments groan and create expectation, the bass strikes a solid line, soon followed by the wah-wah of Salmon’s fuzzed out guitar. Hendrix spirit at first, it actually evolves into some sort of disfigured, obscure Funkadelic track. And all the same, the swamps are ever so present: the muddy sense of Salmon, his very australian tone, remains. There’s a definite krautrock ambiance (only not as clinical), and the improvising, alternating treatment of the instruments also brings to mind electric (and funk) Miles and the European school of free jazz (there’s moments of little ‘tar noises, weepy bass and cascading drums that’d make you think Salmon’s a fan of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble – ’tis much more restrained, needless to say). The jazz conception is obvious, especially in the spacing of the trio. The fragments in which the bass and drums duel even sound stoney. And then the track degenerates, and it dies.


What could come after such mammoth exercise? Some more filth. “Pathological” is a draggy, sludgy blues in the tradition of young Nick Cave, female choruses included, “Predate” has a more furious pace but the same dirty approach, “Childhood Living” is rocky and catchy, and “Kneel Down At the Altar of Pop”, a hardrock superstar kind of title, features an excellent, jazzcore bassline. But I don’t know, man, it’s gritty and sounds all muddled and deranged. The album’s a fucking mess. As stated above, it is strange, but it’s just Salmon. I don’t know if he intended this to be a compendium of his facets. As if he wanted, particularly with the title jam, to revisit rock music, specially his own, which would explain the title. Two things are clear: he’s having loads of fun, and he’s cut loose. The result is not what could be expected of him – but it is. Irregular and perhaps not all that memorable. Yet, that’s partly the point, the aloofness, the detachment. The sick, swampy rock the Beasts of Bourbon championed is here (even their Stones echoes), diluted, but it is. Salmon continues to unfold danger. There is a tension, a sense of discomfort, when listening to his guitar and yells. In a time in which such visceral rock is not genuinely fashionable, material such as this is more than welcome. I mean, what the Drones do is nice, but it’s not scary as what the Scientists or some of them oz Amphetamine Reptile bands (King Snake Roost, Lubricated Goat) managed to evoke. Listening to “Revhead” and shitting in your pants. Yeah, that kind of thing.

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‘Come with your ears… leave with your ears!’

December 2018
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