Tag Archives: salem

Video Rundown: Lykke Li / Buraka Som Sistema / Salem

Here are a trio of videos that have caught my eye, presented in order from most cinematic to least.

Lykke Li accompanied the video release for dream pop ballad “Sadness is a Blessing” with a poem, a brief message that the clip illustrates beautifully.

I know I Broke
Your heart, it was never
My intention, all I
Ever wanted was to

Former graffiti artist Tarik Saleh, who also directed “I Follow Rivers,” brings the same Nordic restraint to this video. Stellan Skarsgård stands in for Lykke’s father; a bit of Swedish casting by number. Lykke is as charismatic as she is on the record, drinking vodka and finding her muse in a staid restaurant.

Buraka Som Sistema is back with babytalk kuduro banger “Hangover (BaBaBa).” The video features animation reminiscent of M.I.A.’s GIF-shifting promos for MAYA, matching the song’s jacked up energy factor with frenetic visuals. Throw in some daggering and hypercolored graphics and you’ve got yourself a video.

Saving the most disturbing for last, Salem returns with “Sick,” a video for one of the finest examples of goth trap house on King Night. A YouTube collage of gang fights, bedroom freaks, BMX riders, and the band’s own performances, the video doesn’t have the intensity of “Skullcrush.” Still, it keeps Salem knee deep in “some evil shit,” as the detuned rap by Jack Donoghue promises.

Album Review: Salem – King Night

Due to the nature of how we listen to music in 2010, there are few surprises left. Before an act releases a proper album (a medium whose time may very well be up), they are dissected and analyzed like a frog on a 9th grade biology table. And just as sure as that frog has sat on its last lily pad, musicians are rarely afforded the chance to make a second impression.

On their debut LP King Night, Salem doesn’t seem to care about that. Or about anything else.

If you’ve heard them by now, you know what to expect. Chopped-and-screwed drum machines, epic synthesizer melodies, spooky moans and drugged-out raps. Salem’s distinct brand of drag is what sets them apart from countless witch house acts, more eager to insert triangles and crosses into their names than to make interesting music. But if you’ve heard Yes I Smoke Crack or their symbiotic remixes of Gucci Mane and came away unimpressed or turned off, King Night won’t change your mind.

Throughout the album, Salem gets deeper, darker, and more intense than ever before. For music that revels in drone, it is addictive in its dynamism. The title track opens the album, with bits and pieces of “I Love You” and “O Holy Night” fused to minimalistic trap beats and the echos and feedback of a mournful melody. “Asia,” the second single (I use that term lightly) off the album continues the death march with a drum corps’ intensity. The faux-snuff clip picks up where “Skullcrush” left off.

The heavily processed vocals of Jack Donoghue could pass for Gucci on songs like “Sick,” “Trapdoor,” and “Tair.” John Holland and Heather Marlatt stick to singing (again, loosely), exchanging groans and whispers on “Release the Boar” and “Frost.” On the latter, Marlatt’s vocals waft over footwork-inspired beats and waves of synths that hold – wait – is that a sense of “hope” amid all this darkness?

Arguably the group’s strongest song, “Redlights” is back yet again; the shifty, stuttering anthem is revamped for The Big Time and sounds great. “Traxx” plods along with an industrial sample that can’t help but evoke the “Law & Order” sound, but with off-kilter percussion that again references footwork. By the time the last jangly guitar chord drones on closer “Killer,” the listener is left with a sense of foreboding dread that they can’t quite put their finger on.

Salem knows what they are and what they do best: gothic trap music with a hint of mystery (even if unfortunate interviews and even more unfortunate live performances have lifted the curtain a bit). King Night succeeds by being a pitch-perfect set of upsetting mood music. Even if that’s what you expected.


Mixtape Monday: Drag the lake

“Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.” Inscription at the Gates of Hell, or another post about drag and witch house? You decide! Today’s Mixtape Monday takes us to the darkest reaches of the Internet, with new mixes from Salem and the sick folks behind (the NSFW) Put.A.Spell.

Salem’s I Buried My Heart Inna Wounded Knee is a nearly-unlistenable mix of Goth crunk – and I mean that as a compliment. There’s no tracklist, but would one really make a difference? Salem drags and screws tracks until they are barely recognizable ghosts of the originals; mixing in the Velvet Underground’s “Femme Fatale” is brilliant. Salem continues to make the i-dose version of purple drank. Their debut full-length King Night is set for a September 28th release, and this mix should stave off the tremors until then.

Put.a.spell (what I’ll be calling the force responsible for these mixes, since they’re only labeled with the quintessential witch house symbol ‡) recently released two equally disturbing mixes, Summus Exussum Ervum and Beasts in Drag.

Summus Exussum Ervum, which roughly translates to “burn the high weeds,” touches on everything cold and industrial. From Throbbing Gristle to Fever Ray, the mix is the perfect soundtrack for your next invocation or ritualistic sacrifice. Compared to Salem’s mix, it is practically Top 40.

Beasts in Drag is more crunk than Goth, relying on drag versions of Gucci Mane and Playboy Tre (from the Adult Swim x Beaterator ATL RMX album), among others. As the mix closes, it fades from GR†LLGR†LL’s gloomy “Lollipop” cover “Slowlickin” to “If You Are But a Dream,” by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, the bluesman best known for “I Put a Spell On You.” That inclusion alone shows that the musicians behind drag and witch house have a sense of humor, even if it is sick and twisted.

Dragged and Screwed (or, witch house cover songs)

The latest development in electronic music is the sonic darkness known either as drag or witch house. Equal parts chopped-and-screwed hip hop and gothic industrial, the mysterious scene is all over the internet yet difficult to pin down, due in large part to glyph-filled band names that are both unpronounceable and unsearchable.

With new releases from Disaro or Tri Angle dropping seemingly daily, it’s getting difficult to keep our triangles and crosses straight. So apart from Salem, where should you start with drag? How about some macabre makeovers of pop and hip-hop songs?

San Francisco’s oOoOO has released an EP that features several gloomy cover versions of formerly-upbeat dance tracks. The title track, “No Summr4U” is a a reworking of Nocera’s 1986 hit “Summertime, Summertime” which replaces the freestyle melody with a stark beat and hypnotic synths. “PCKRFCRMX” is short on vowels but big on dissonant keys and cut-and-paste Lady Gaga vocals.

Witch house heads must see something they like from the Haus of Gaga, because oOoOO is not alone in reworking the pop star of the moment. Mater Suspiria Vision has turned her songs into delay-heavy drone-fests. Not only have they given a mindfuck remix to “Alejandro,” but their take on both the song and video for “Paparazzi” is truly twisted, and not for the faint of heart.

SALEM proved that drag and hip-hop are a natural fit with their Gucci Mane edits. ? NO VIRGIN ? takes a shot at some trap music with a version of Gucci’s “I’m the Shit.” NO VIRGIN’s appropriately titled Downer EP is full of similarly pulsing scarefests and is available for free. If you’re into that sort of thing.

Whether you call it drag, witch house, or goth crunk, this music is not for everyone. Sludgy drum machine beats, grim synth lines, and samples of everything from gunshots to child-like pleading (!) may not be everyone’s cup of tea. But sometimes it pays to not be afraid of the dark.

Salem keep pushing that Goth crunk

Salem makes scary music. Music that exists somewhere between chopped-and-screwed, industrial, and dubstep – a dreary, grating, drugged out amalgamation that is challenging and unforgiving. And I can’t stop listening to it.

This week, Salem released a mixtape for DIS magazine, an art outfit that fits the Salem worldview. The mix, entitled Raver Stay Wif Me, is 32 minutes of both familiar and obscure tracks, twisted and manipulated to the edge of recognition. The titular raver is paid tribute by classic tracks like “Better Off Alone” by Alice Deejay, “Sandstorm” by Darude, and “Can’t Stop Raving” by Dune, trance tracks whose hypnotic affect is still apparent, even if the music is better suited for cough syrup sipping than Ecstasy popping.

Download SALEM – Raver Stay Wif Me (courtesy DIS magazine)

It may be an act, but only Salem is twisted enough to include a track by a convicted sexual predator: South Park Mexican‘s “Vogues” is a record-skipping center piece of the tape. Too sick for you? They include “Unchained Melody” and “Young Forever,” classic love songs that just seem wrong in contrast to the rest of the mix.

Not much is known about the Michigan trio of John Holland, Heather Marlatt, and Jack Donoghue; they don’t give many interviews, or take photographs, or humor the social media crowd. Instead, they keep a public image that mirrors their music: dark, mysterious, unnerving. Their music videos don’t give many clues, either, except that the band may need psychological help. Check out the NSFW clip for “Skullcrush,” a video that makes M.I.A.’s “Born Free” look like a Disney film.


Raver Stay Wif Me is another required listen from a group whose limited press EPs Water and Yes I Smoke Crack are equally challenging and rewarding. And if all this is too dark for you, check out their remixes of Gucci Mane, a match made in Hell.