Saltillo
Ganglion


4.5
superb

Review

by Matt Wolfe EMERITUS
May 17th, 2008 | 27 replies


Release Date: 2006 | Tracklist

Review Summary: "Such a lovely melody is running through my head. Let me play it for you."

Portishead, one of the three distinctive jewels in the trip-hop crown, may finally quench the ever-increasing thirst of all of the genre’s fans tomorrow, with their first album release in over a decade, in ‘Third’. I am one of these fans, no doubt about that, but there is no swell in the back of my throat, in fact, my tongue is as wet as a water-fight in a carwash. Why? That is down to my recent discovery of movie-score and ‘Sunday Munich’ mastermind Menton J. Matthews’ trip-hop/modern classical project ‘Saltillo’ and their 2006 album “Ganglion”.

Borrowing and utilizing aspects which make each jewel shine so bright in the coveted crown; Saltillo has managed to make an album which is at once dark and solemnly moody, uplifting and heart-achingly intense, cool and dangerously catchy. Bobbing and weaving in and out of genres, Saltillo never quite stays still, and even when it does, it hides behind the pillars of ambiguity, and is all the better for it. The chamber orchestra compositions give the album a fierce individuality when showcased against its obvious influences, yet accessibility is never compromised as this is one of the most listenable trip-hop albums I’ve ever heard.

A sombre violin tune on ‘A Necessary End’ begins the album, to be closely followed by the first of many vocal samples sitting atop of expressively broken beats. Not opting for the upbeat first track, we are plunged into an ocean of melancholy, a tale of death and meaning, from which there seems no return. This track immediately showcases Matthews’ impeccable timing and his wife Sarah’s hauntingly poignant voice. But it is surpassed by the next track, ‘Giving In’, possibly my favourite track on the album. Sarah Matthews’ voice here is just stunningly moving in its mellow, fragile resonance and it really gives the song a humanly warming quality that would be lacking without it. ‘Remember Me?’ is the first track without vocals, and it flows with a splintered rhythm which is insanely hard to not tap along to.

‘Hair on the Head of John the Baptist’ is just an excellent track. If you are to download a track which puts Saltillo under the spotlight, this is the one. If DJ Shadow were around to score Shakespeare plays, they would have sounded something like this. A bluesy soulful voice bellows out the ultra-catchy line “hair on the head of John the Baptist” to a dense surrounding of intelligent breakbeats and simple pianos. One of the albums highlights is when the song appears to be over, ending to the quote of “I loved you not” only to suddenly pick back up again in dramatic fashion. Energetic and focused, ‘Blood and Milk’ highlights Matthews’ special talent of picking out and placing perfect samples in a way that only Shadow himself exceeds. Shadow’s ‘Right Thing’ may come to mind when listening to the trip-hop heavy ‘Backyard Pond’. Extremely scattered in its approach, an anaesthetizing melody is laid out over complicated blips and screeches and ethereal samples, all coming together to create a surreal jigsaw of easy-to-swallow, hard-to-digest complexities.

Rounding up the album, ‘Grafting’ sounds as if the earth itself managed to find a violin and a drum machine and construct an, ironically, otherworldly sound. Extremely organic but strangely disconnected, the plaintive violins are interrupted by the fluctuating raw intensities of Mercer’s distinctive voice, while the backbeats keep the song tied to the ground. Sarah Matthews returns for the penultimate track ‘I’m On the Wrong Side’ and is much welcomed by the listener. Her voice isn’t perfect, but it hangs so delicately in the album’s dark mist that you get the feeling that if it were any different it may just collapse. A very short track, it brings Portishead to the forefront of the memory bank. Finishing with a completely piano-made track, '002 F#m', Matthews brings the album to a close with elegance and style.

With “Ganglion”, Saltillo has truly thrown down the gauntlet over what it means to create a truly original trip-hop album in today’s music scene. It’s not perfect of course; ‘Praise’ is an oddly stale and skippable track and ‘A Simpler Test’, though a great song, features turntablism which is too frantic and electronics and samples too crude and impersonal when put against the record’s other more humane songs. Whether it will stand the test of time that the crown jewels have remains to be seen, but for now, it quite dramatically stakes a claim for there to be a new throne constructed in the trip-hop hierarchy, one which could only seat the intricacies of Saltillo’s beautiful, fractured, wholly immersive neo-classical creation.



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user ratings (80)
Chart.
4.1
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
irishmanshibby
June 21st 2008


355 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

just found this on (ebmarassingly) myspace music. sound pretty amazing though, im definitely going to look into it. nice review too

irishmanshibby
June 24th 2008


355 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

yeah this is really really good

MassiveAttack
July 26th 2008


2688 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

great review man really nailed it

StreetlightRock
Emeritus
August 24th 2008


3776 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Very very cool album, I finally got this album after reading this so long ago. I love the Shakespeare references in A Hair on the Head of John the Baptist, really cool.

Metalikane
September 24th 2008


851 Comments


Man this is so good. More people need to give this a listen.

handoman
October 17th 2008


2386 Comments


Yea this is really good.

HandsomePete
October 18th 2008


2 Comments


It'll be a future classic once people hear about it.

fireaboveicebelow
October 18th 2008


6837 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

wow not many comments on this, I'm surprised

handoman
October 18th 2008


2386 Comments


Exactly what I was thinking.

charlesfishtitz
October 18th 2008


784 Comments


this really isnt that good

Zoo
October 18th 2008


3759 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yes, when you're retarded.

rasputin
March 4th 2009


14555 Comments


This has some good tracks but the review severely overrates it. 'A Necessary End' is superb though.

charlesfishtitz
March 4th 2009


784 Comments


pretty sure there are no good tracks

Geist
May 2nd 2009


371 Comments


Honestly, this album was the defibrillator shock to the chest this genre needed for me. Very listenable, incredibly layered, and very literary and- surprise!- identifiable samples. Shakespeare, Edgar Allen Poe in "Blood and Milk", I think there's even Pride and Prejudice in there somewhere.

Portishead didn't do it for me with Third. Finding this did.

irishmanshibby
December 6th 2009


355 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

true im nervous, but why do you think im mad?

Meatplow
December 12th 2009


5524 Comments


This is quite impressive, I really like it.

beans
January 29th 2010


2332 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this is quite an amazing album, really enjoy Giving In and A Necessary End

Meatplow
February 6th 2010


5524 Comments


A Simple Test is so good

sparkz
April 4th 2010


25 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This album is amazing.

"Portishead, one of the three distinctive jewels in the trip-hop crown"

Which are the other two?


Minus The Flair
Emeritus
April 4th 2010


862 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

dj shadow and massive attack



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