The Cutout Bin

A collection of discarded or otherwise forgotten music.

-My fileserver is free, and you get what you pay for... so try rightclicking the mp3s and selecting "save link target as". You may have to do it more than once.

-Please see post #1 "Begin the begin" (3/24/06) for the raison d'etre for this blog. If you object to your music being posted here, email me and I will remove it.

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Saturday, May 13, 2006

Kevin Salem

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Score one for serendipity. In 1994, I was trolling Schoolkids Records in Raleigh and came across Kevin Salem's debut solo disc "Soma City". I remembered that Salem had been in Dumptruck, a band I quite liked, so I bought it. After getting home, I discovered my error- Dumptruck had been founded by the songwriting duo of Seth Tiven and Kirk Swan. Swan left after two albums and was replaced by Kevin Salem, who did not write or sing on the one Dumptruck record on which he appeared. I'd mistaken Salem for Swan, but it turned out all for the best.

Salem is a brilliant songwriter who fronts a solidly rocking band on his first two albums- "Soma" and 1996's "Glimmer". I've always felt the epitome of studio technology was reached circa 1975, and producer Niko Bolas (the guy who did Neil Young's "Living With War") dials in a warm '70s analog grit on those two albums that suits the songs to a T. The kick drum sound alone in "Run Run Run" absolutely slays me. "Glimmer" is a little rawer than "Soma", but they both exhibit the same world-weary vocals and rough-and-tumble playing that manages to recall '70s Dylan, Stones and Neil Young while still tipping a hat to the post-punk world with high octane aggression. Salem's band deserves credit for being able to groove, even on the fast stuff- by knowing when to stay a little behind the beat and play it loose without missing a note. It's not easy, but they make it sound like it is. "Glimmer" is another CD I always bring in to the recording studio to measure my own engineering work.

Salem's relationship with his label disintegrated immediately after "Glimmer"'s release, and the band split up as well. It took him five years to issue a followup, and 2001's "Ecstatic" is very different from the first two. Salem's writing is as sharp as ever, but he integrates contemporary influences in ways that don't always work (looping and computer manipulation pop up throughout, "It's Only Life" contains the wildly incongruous contribution of a rapper). By anyone else's standards "Ecstatic" would be a great album, but for an artist of Salem's caliber it's a bit of a letdown. To his credit though, the loss of Bolas (who still mixed three tracks) and his crack band from the first two albums isn't the obstacle one might imagine.

Kevin Salem is also a producer with a lengthy resume, a pursuit he seems to have been pursuing more seriously since he hasn't released any music of his own since "Ecstatic". I hope we haven't heard the last of him.

Run Run Run.mp3
from "Glimmer", 1996

from "Soma City", 1994

From "Ectatic", 2001

UPDATE: As of 12/06 Salem has a new (to me, anyway) website, which claims he's planning a 2007 release, as well as re-releasing his three previous albums. Something to look forward to in the new year!


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