Just a little over a month ago, while interviewing for a one-year visiting professorship at a rather glorious Rocky Mountain university, I received an email from the U.K. from someone named Dave Smith of a new prog band called “Salander.” I could never explain why rationally, but I knew I liked Dave immediately. I’m sure having a momentary email break from intensive interviews and breathing in the fresh air of my beloved American West didn’t hurt my mood. That Dave is equally a fan of Big Big Train certainly didn’t displease me, either.
Well, one thing led to another. We corresponded a bit, Dave sent me a link to his new album, and I asked him to become a progarchist. You might have read his several pieces he’s already posted here. He’s a great writer and reviewer, and I’m very glad to have him as a citizen of the republic of progarchy. “Very” isn’t nearly a strong enough descriptive, but you get the point.
Well, let me state definitely, Dave’s album, “Crash Course for Dessert,” will almost certainly make into my top 10 for 2014 and probably my top 5. Holy schnikees this is amazing stuff.
I don’t know where the name came from, but Salader is the last name of the fictional character in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larrson. I assume this is the connection, but don’t take this as gospel.
As it turns out—much to my shock—Salander is only two guys, each named Dave. Dave Curnow and Dave Smith. Here’s the official writeup:
Influences. Everything is influenced by something else and that creates something different. Dave C loves the blues and Guitar influenced rock. Led Zeppelin to Devin Townsend. Dave S loves Prog from early Genesis to Big Big Train and Glass Hammer. They both love the music of Pink Floyd and the lyrics of Jon Anderson. Salander was born at the start of 2013.The two Daves have been work colleagues and friends for years and had been playing in a rock /blues band that played covers. The two Daves started to write some originals. Dave S wrote the music and Dave C the lyrics. After leaving the band they started to record some of these songs in Dave S’s home studio. The tracks were recorded layer by layer starting with either a drum pattern or a chord sequence. Lyrics would then be written by Dave C or drawn from his vast collections of poems and songs written over the years. In September 2013 the concept came together for Crash Course For Dessert and recording took 3 months. Dave S took a further 6 weeks to mix and master the album. Due to financial constraint and the fact there are only the two of them, there are no plans to play live, although it can not be written out entirely. They are now working on the follow up to Crash Course For Dessert.
Dave Curnow. Lyrics. Lead Guitars. Rhythm Guitars. Lead Vocal on Ground Proximity Warning and Take Me away
Dave Smith. Music. Keyboards. Bass. Drum Programming. Rhythm Guitars. Spanish Guitars. Lead Vocal on all songs except Ground Proximity Warning.
Well, ok. Feel free to take a moment to digest all of that. . . .
There’s nothing quite like wearing one’s influences on one’s sleeves. This seems especially true for two English guys named Dave. As I glory in the sheer aural pleasures of this album, I hear elements of Big Big Train, Cosmograf, Talk Talk, World Party, Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, as well as Trevor Horn’s early 1980’s production style and Thomas Dolby’s funk period (this was the most shocking element of the album!). And, yet, in the end, as with almost any great art, the album very much belongs to Salander. Three things tie together all of its various styles and fusions—a wall of sound, an earnest maturity of lyrics and music, and a lot of psychedelia.
The first time I listened to the album, I thought, “Wow, that’s really interesting.” The second time, I thought, “Wow, that’s really, really interesting.” On the third listen, it hit me what they were doing. And, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t come up with true words to match my feelings for this album. On the fourth and all subsequent listens, I’ve just simply and immeasurably enjoyed the flow of it all, taking it for the beautiful thing it is.
While I very much like all nine tracks, the standouts for me are Track 4, “Desert Sands,” a Cosmografic space tune; Track 7, “Take Me Away,” a Dead Can Dance mid-1990s tune with plaintive haunting poetry masquerading as lyrics; and Track 9, “Princess,” the perfect conclusion to a mesmerizing album, revealing some intriguing theological and existential symbolism.
I have only two criticisms of the album, neither of which really amount to much. First, I wish the mix would have increased the volume of the vocals a smidgeon. While no one will regard either Dave as possessing a “beautiful” voice, their vocals are excellent, and each vocalist knows what his abilities and limits are, vocally, and utilizes them wonderfully. As the mix stands, the vocals essentially serve as another instrument—but they deserve a bit more.
Second, I wish that the two Daves would have linked and meshed all of the tracks, one into another, with no silence between them. While I think “Crash Course” could be one song with nine parts, I also think it might have worked best as three songs with three parts each. The one really funky track, “Make Me Dance,” which feels like a Trevor Horn 12-inch remix from 1982, would feel a bit more integrated.
These, however, are nothing but very minor thoughts. The more I listen to the album, the less these two criticisms make sense.
So, in conclusion—check these guys out. Check them out now! “Crash Course for Dessert” is an outstanding album that deserves to be widely heard and distributed. A real joy.
To purchase their music (at any price), go here: http://salander.bandcamp.com/album/crash-course-for-dessert