Big Black-style throbbing electronics, draped in sheets of white noise with horrorcore aesthetics and a snail’s pace hip-hop acapella on top – how’s that for a musical approach that could go either way? Yet with Salem, the whole sordid equation makes sense.

The Michigan-based trio might recall half the best hi-noise bands of the last couple of decades, but Salem’s influences and the way they put their music together is unique. In the space of two EPs, Yes I Smoke Crack on Acephale and Water on Merok (both of which feature ’Redlights’, the band’s best song to date), they’ve created their own inimitable musical badlands, somewhere between sharp industrial realism and a Codeine dream.

“When people have varied interests they come out in a way that is unified”, explains Salem’s John. “Because the person puts them all together and makes them make sense together, no matter how different the subjects are… The three of us combined forces to create something none of us were making on our own.” “We listen to a lot of screwed and chopped rap and juke”, continues Heather, “but we also like classical, choral music and chants. So we’re influenced by the composition elements of both genres I guess… I think [Salem] was the combination of all the things we were separately working on.”

If Salem were a colour they’d be somewhere between “white” (Heather) and “dark purple” (John), and the main touchstones for their sound are “the ocean, the forest, a swamp, a river [and] an abandoned building.” Which sounds about right really, especially the latter. Salem’s world is all dark streets, dim lightning and general degradation. Given Merok’s current crush on slocore collectives – as well as Salem, they’re putting out future material from the similarly-minded Big Pink and Teengirl Fantasy – and the label’s recent run of success (Klaxons, Crystal Castles), it’s not hard to put two and two together and realise that this stuff’s going to be massive next year. But Salem are a cut above, and any hype they’ve had so far is more than justified.

Tom Lea



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