Salem - Fires in Heaven Music Album Reviews

Salem - Fires in Heaven Music Album Reviews
On their second full-length in a decade, the despondent witch house pioneers return with an alluring invitation to join them in the depths. 

When the trio of Midwest malcontents in SALEM released their first EPs over a decade ago, they, like many young people in America, were staring down a dead end. As the critic Larry Fitzmaurice pointed out last year in an essay reflecting on the legacy of chillwave, much of the music that arrived in the early ’10s was implicitly engaged with the turbulence of the era. Still dealing with the hangover of two interminable wars, and with economic prospects decimated by the long wake of the 2008 financial crisis, it was hard for many to feel hopeful.
Part of the appeal of SALEM at the time was in how their early EPs and their 2010 album King Night reflected this societal despondency. Largely composed of oozy, unsettling electronic music that burbled in the middle-ground between shoegaze and DJ Screw tapes, their songs were desperate, longing, and lonely. SALEM stared dispassionately into the eyes of a dying world and then, suddenly, they went dark. Over the ten years since King Night, the band has been quiet. They released a companion EP the following year, but since then they’ve only emerged for a handful of remixes and one member’s unexpected production credit on Kanye West’s Yeezus.

Now a duo after the departure of founding vocalist Heather Marlatt, principal members Jack Donoghue and John Holland haven’t said much about the timing of their return, but it seems no accident that their second full-length Fires in Heaven arrives as the world is yet again in turmoil, facing down ecological disasters and social unrest, not to mention the economic uncertainty and the global health crisis brought on by the mismanagement of an unprecedented pandemic. Unfortunately, the world hasn’t changed for the better in the last decade, which seems to be the mindset with which that SALEM approach this record. Everything is still pretty depressing, and so is their music.

On the morose opening track “Capulets,” they nod to the fact that they’re emotionally in more or less the same place they were ten years ago. Sighing over a twisted sample from the Prokofiev ballet Romeo and Juliet, Donoghue murmurs about the mundanity of existence: “Ask me what i’m doing with my life / Ain’t shit to tell y’all.” It’s the same kind of stretched-out, dejected song they’ve made since their inception. Some of Fires in Heaven takes this mentality to extreme places. “DieWithMe,” for example, is grayscale and gothic, dreaming of the release of the afterlife underneath an instrumental that sounds like an ’80s 4AD release tape at half-speed.

The record’s closer “Not Much of a Life” is one of the more hopeful sounding moments, looping a dreamy vocal effect and snowblind synths in a disorienting swirl that feels a little like Slowdive’s electronic experiments. But even that track is gloomy at its heart, its title echoing menacingly like the intrusive internal monologue that greets you on sleepless nights: “It’s not much of a life you’re living.”

This sort of bleakness is familiar territory for the duo, but Fires in Heaven shows a newfound clarity in their expression. Mixed by Shlohmo—a fellow traveler in downcast beatwork—and mastered by frequent Kanye collaborator Mike Dean, this record finds SALEM excising a lot of the murk and mire from their previous compositions. They still occasionally bury vocals in a haze of effects, but their instrumentals are crushing now by design, their synth lines starker, the distortion more piercing. They’ve always been capable of expressing harsh feelings, but they seem now more able than ever to echo such sentiments in their music. Fires in Heaven is a more alluring invitation than ever to join them down in the depths.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Salem - Fires in Heaven Music Album Reviews Salem - Fires in Heaven Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Wednesday, November 11, 2020 Rating: 5

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