Thank God some musicians are still thinking, writing, and playing in this deliciously unorthodox direction. Peter Kerlin purposely composed the five tracks on Salamander for two basses, two vibraphones, viola, organ, and percussion, taking a distinctly againt-the-grain ground level upon the kind of ersatz chambery direction one might expect of such an agglomeration… but with distinctly unexpected twists, turns, and back-flips. The result manifests as a highly satisfying blend of Penguin Cafe Orchestra, Thinking Plague, Long Hello, Can & krautrock, Curlew, Trummerflora, Stereolab, Zappa, 5UUs, neoclassical gestures and grins, and a filter of unidentifiable mode unique to bands like his aggregate. F'rinstance, catch the off-kilter Steve Reichian neo-phase elements in Snake Eats Electric Blanket (a Beefheartian/Zappa-esque title if ever there was one).
Nor is Mr. Kerlin unaware of his antecedents, quite the connoisseur of exotica. His roster of musicians is culled not only from highly recognized off-mainstream Brooklyn players but also those who've sat in with John Cale, Anthony Braxton, Hans Joachim Urmlir (Faust), and others of note. I probably should mention that Salamander appears on the Innova Label as well, a sub-division of the pristine Naxos, so that those familiar with its output will instantly be apprized of the level of quality and strangeness. This of course includes fans of ECM, Japo, Enja, Ogun, and various (and too damn few!) other purveyors of refined post-urbanity: noise, madness, mercuriality, and psycho-mimetic surreal episodic art and pleasantly wrenching brain twisties.
There are no horns, by the way. What sometimes seems as though there might be, are the squawkings and complaints of violas as they're tortured to new expression and woofery, especially amid the Alice Coletraney Ballad of the Bewildered Herd, a susurration of ceaseless strainings towards an unknown something, God only knows what, in the red rock deserts of the Colorado Plateau…I think…I could be wrong…that's what I got out of it anyway…though it wouldn't surprise me a bit if my next listen showed something completely different. It's that kind of music. Thus, I wouldn't recommend slotting it in after The Bangles, Michael Jackson, Shania Twain, or Night Ranger. Think more along the lines of…well, all the ensembles I cited in the second paragraph and what might have been alternate soundtrack music for outré TV programs like The Prisoner or films by Herzog and Fassbinder.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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