Review Summary: The humming of fluorescent lights
Blessed’s post-punk has always been subtly sinister, its edges mostly masked behind a veneer of sprightliness and straight-backed rhythms. Salt
turns up the threat levels in such a way that they bleed out of the cracks of its facade — a plastered smile with a blank stare, not quite able to contain what lurks behind it. The album is winding, twisting, methodical as it surgically drills in its hooks; it circles around, trying to manage its restlessness all the while accumulating tension. Devo comes to mind, though Blessed’s sound is more taut, not quite as evidently tongue-in-cheek.
has a certain nervous energy, jitteriness immediately apparent from its first few seconds as staccato chords and a rapid, one-note bassline punctuate through “Rolled In Glass”. Often, though, its nervousness ends up being traded for low-lying anxiety, hidden behind moderate tempos and deceptively monotonous vocals that reveal uncomfortable musings (“you create problems to solve them”, goes “Thought” apathetically). Eventually the dread bursts through, and the transition from “Pill” to “Anchor” is particularly revealing — the former, relatively upbeat, is followed up by the troubled latter, bringing heavy reverberation, droning, and cold mechanical percussion. After “Anchor”, Salt
seems as if it has dropped all pretence of feeling normal; “Disease” is unfailingly bleak, with drumming that feels bogged down and an ironic, wearily chanted line of “hope for the disease to heal itself”. And in “Caribou”, the skittish bassline and snappish guitar twangs no longer come off as mere nervousness, but instead as something that represents a deeper dysfunction — an inability to cope any longer, a resigned collapse that is signified by the final wash of noise.
What’s perhaps most disconcerting about Salt
is how it tries to colour in its cold, clinical surfaces. I mentioned that the album is somewhat deceitful; I think a large part of its intrigue comes from seeing how exactly it deceives, and how it comes to stop caring about the act. The refrain of “Purpose and Conviction” is misleadingly reassuring, bright and multi-hued until a warbling drone haunts the background; “Pill” moves around with ease, featuring a colourful syncopated passage constituting the closest thing to fun that the album gets. Even the somewhat sluggish “Zealot” has chiming synth flourishes, though the light they shine is a bit too harsh for comfort. There are times when Salt
seems to be imbued with life (in actuality, just a facsimile of it); eventually, it betrays a half-dead nature, running on machinery and bitter concoctions. “Warmth in the shadows / alone it smells so stale”, mourns “Purpose and Conviction” in a line capturing one sort of deprivation that Salt
is menacing, it’s because it presents rather clearly a mental and emotional state that we instinctively fear — vestiges of colour remaining only on the surface, internal mechanisms rusting. It’s absolutely draining to fake it, but the alternative isn’t much prettier — “you live, you cry / you live, you die”.