The Saltire Wave
Still bored as fuck with the music industry
Downliners Sekt is officially the most talked about band on thi
s site, seeing as I have already written two posts about their previous releases. There’s a good reason why I mention them whenever they come out with something new. They ask me to for one. But it mostly has to do with the sheer quality of their music and the philosophy that backs it up. As I have always mentioned before, Downliners Sekt are crafting music and releasing it all for free on their website as a symbol of rebellion against the music industry. I, not being a great fan of how the major record labels handle their business nowadays, respect artists like this who try to make a difference or at least show that great music can be found without great cost, if any, to fans.
However, I promised myself I wouldn’t talk too much about the philosophy behind the band because I wanted to save that for whenever Glenn and I manage to successfully set up a podcast so that I can weave that into to talk of In Rainbows, which Downliners Sekt seems to have strong feelings about, as well as Trent Reznor’s recent activities. But for the rest of the post let’s just talk about the music itself while keeping it in our heads that the band is not doing this for a living. I hesitate to call what they do a hobby. Community service might be a good word. But they do not make much of a profit off of what they do I would assume.
Anyway, The Saltire Wave is Downliners Sekt’s second studio album to date. It definitely has that same industrial/breakbeat/ambient quality that Statement of Purpose had, but it possesses a much more distinct sound all the same. One of the key difference is that the previous album had stronger roots in traditional electronic-based industrial sounds whereas The Saltire Wave branches out a little bit more. There are definitely tracks that make heavy use of that distorted, grinding, guitar-driven sound found in music by the likes of Nine Inch Nails and Skinny Puppy. “Point Omega” is one of those tracks on The Saltire Wave, but it is unique in that it doesn’t have quite as repetitive a structure as the verse-chorus format of typical pop music, which can even be found in instrumentals. “Just Like You Imagined” by Nine Inch Nails is a great example of an industrial instrumental that is repetitive in this fashion, without detriment mind you.
Another key aspect of this album that sets it apart from its predecessor is its reliance on much more conventional instrumentation, which is not to say that Downliners Sekt is sounding clichéd. I’m referring to the fact that there is a much more obvious rock presence in the form of guitars as opposed to the stronger presence of synth keyboards in Statement of Purpose. This stylistic departure is noticeable as soon as the very first track, “Scope Creep,” kicks in with the solitary electronic twangs of a guitar.
The Saltire Wave also makes much more use of distortion and white noise. Sometimes I feel like I might as well be crumpling paper next to my ears while listening to this album for how staticky things can get. Actually, all that distortion doesn’t bother me at all, I just felt like cracking wise. In fact, it adds to the album’s ambience in a shoegazing kind of way in that it makes everything kind of blend together all the more. There’s a strange unity that distortion provides despite it’s turbulent nature. It is almost a form of percussion in this sense.
However, this album does have one weak point: it’s too good. This is one of those incredible albums where there are no particularly weak tracks, so I have a hard time playing favorites, which plays hell on me as an editorial writer. But if I had to choose a couple of songs beyond those I already mentioned, I would have to go with “Panic! Sonic Monk” and “Shulgin (Part II).”
“Panic! Sonic Monk” stands out in my mind for its ability to shift around in tone and style throughout while still smoothly transitioning from one segment of the song to the next and keeping consistent with itself. It’s hard to do that in an instrumental, especially one that lasts over nine minutes, while keeping the listener’s attention. “Panic! Sonic Monk” makes me think of classical music as I idealize it, which is a form of music that generally does not have very specific imagery attached to it through lyrics; therefore, the listener is allowed to let their imagination flow with whatever the sound of the music evokes within their mind’s eye. “Panic! Sonic Monk” is one of the better examples on The Saltire Wave of that evocative yet non-specific kind of song that sends one’s mind ablaze with creative thought.
“Shulgin (Part II)” is a slower and more somber track that starts of sounding like it’s going to be an acoustic number, until the high-pitched screams of electric guitars slowly creep into the track and remain as an aggressively chaotic overtone to an otherwise subdued song. As may be inevitable, I probably tend to show trends on this site in my tastes and in my writing style, and one of those trends is for me to enjoy any song that can pull off any sort of sonic paradox. The dichotomous relationship between the smooth and the chaotic sounds in “Shulgin (Part II)” is that kind of paradox that I enjoy so much. It is a very interesting technique that always manages to draw attention and keep the listener tuned in.
Speaking of keeping tuned in, I look back upon my initial reaction to Statement of Purpose and remember getting the e-mail request from Downliners Sekt to talk about their album. I was skeptical of how good an entirely free album released on the Internet could be. It was refreshingly shocking to hear just the first track and how incredible it sounded, much less the album as a whole. It was a necessary reminder that quality does not necessarily come from the top of music chain and that it need not come at a high price. And then Downliners Sekt expanded their musical horizons and outdid themselves on The Saltire Wave, which again provides the previously mentioned reminder. I’m already looking forward to their next album to see what they produce next and how their sound will continue to differ and, hopefully, improve. I’ll stay tuned in. I hope you will too.
Download The Saltire Wave by Downliners Sekt FOR FREE!
Downliners Sekt – Scope Creep
Downliners Sekt – Panic! Sonic Monk
Downliners Sekt – Shulgin (Part II)
Downliners Sekt – Point Omega
For more information on Downliners Sekt, visit their MySpace page or their record label… oh wait… nevermind.