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Salk Vacchin - Rock Egypt

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Artist: Salk Vacchin

Album: Rock Egypt

Label: God Mountain

Review date: Jun. 3, 2003

Unique Ideas Given Free Reign

Trust Hoppy Kamiyama to uncover the bizarre and entertaining. The man behind the God Mountain label, Kamiyama is a renowned Tokyo producer who's produced bands such as the Pugs, DemiSemiQuaver, and eX-Girl. Now he brings us Salk Vacchin, three girls from the island of Okinawa. Apparently the trio began messing around with a cheap minidisc recorder, and discovered strange reverse special effects that inspired them, and from there... Well, this is pretty damn difficult to describe.

Let's start with a note from the God Mountain web site, about the label's intentions: "There are many musicians who do not have their personalities to popular music scene. An expression is made only with ability to express original personality." It's undeniable that the bands from God Mountain are original, and Salk Vacchin is another which doesn't really have any comparable peers, though they call what they do "New Space Folk Music."

Titles like "Sable Tour," "Sao Tome Principe in Avocado," "Denfarle" and "Monsieur Hee Hoo" may or may not offer clues to what's up here; but probably not. "Sable Tour" is the first piece, and is actually somewhat misleading. Its simplicity belies some of the bizarre sound collages that follow. The trio combine piano trilling, a fast rolling snare, and group harmonizing which manages to be in several keys at once while still somehow working. Things really start with "Sao Tome Principe in Avocado," which opens with strange sound effects: applause, a cat, a creaking door, birds chirping. Cheap drum machine then comes in, together with an odd wavering synth line. The vocals are like a chanted invocation, Patti Smith reincarnated as a Japanese teenager, only to be swallowed up by weird snippets of sound splattered around like an audio Jackson Pollock.

Other songs are cheerful ditties like "Maltese World," with its calm organ tones, chiming bells, tinkling piano, and pretty vocal harmonies. "Denfarle" features pleasant harmonies over a scattered snare beat and chanted main vocal, as cute little synth sounds sproing and burble in the background.

"Yoru no Mado" picks up the pace with fast-paced piano and drums, high-speed vocals -- essentially rapping -- alternating with a vibrato-filtered sing-song chorus. At times the group approaches near-No Wave stylings with completely out-there vocalizing, pounding piano and synth, and incessant drums driving forward with bulldozer intensity. But it's still somehow always got a sense of humor; the trio are probably having the time of their lives.

The title song is a bit of a change, with some surprising pop-funk bass playing supporting the clattering drum machine, tricksy piano, and "tan-tan-tan" vocal rhythms. "Grapefluit" (sic) is a dramatic piece with almost-out-of-tune vocalizing and ominous organ-like synthesizers. The short album closes with "Ukusadie," another pretty piece with gorgeous echoing vocals, cheapie Casio keyboard, and tinkling bells.

It's not always a good thing to be completely uncategorizable, but in this case it's definitely a good thing. You're not likely to hear anything else like this soon; the combination of low-fi approach, hi-fi recording, and apparently untainted musical ideas is refreshing. It's great to find a case of some kids with unique ideas being given the chance to make them a reality in their own way. Kudos to all involved.

By Mason Jones

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