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SALEM – I’m Still in the Night EP

on December 01, 2011, 7:59am

Ten years ago, King Night would’ve likely slipped through the cracks, just another weird art house record that not many would attempt to make much sense of. Some wouldn’t like it, a few would like it, and most would pass on it. No big deal. The current musical climate, though, one in which a Best New Music anointment holds infinitely more weight than chart success or radio airplay, afforded King Night a ton of attention, to a point that’s almost absurd for an album whose music is so inherently insular. It’s unfortunate that most of the attention King Night garnered focused on everything but the album itself: Usually it was the group’s very DGAF early live performances, their perceived privilege, or, in nearly every case, the array of ridiculous, blogosphere-approved buzzwords tacked onto their music. You’d be hard-pressed to find a negative review of the album that doesn’t start with either the words “witch house” or “rape-gaze.”

SALEM themselves have kept mostly silent since their debut’s release, dropping the occasional remix to prove they’re still alive and kicking, suffusing the tunes of everyone from Britney Spears to Interpol with their demented 808s and pitch-shifted vocals. I’m Still in the Night comes as a surprise follow-up, dropping less than a week after it was announced. The EP begins with a title track that quickly opens up with a bloodcurdling yell, followed by a volley of drum-machine hits and a blast of droning bass. “Baby Ratta” plays out rather differently, though, its leaden, overcast ambiance broken occasionally by a high-pitched synth line, while the haplessly caricatured swag of “Krawl” makes for the EP’s only misstep.

The EP’s highlight is one of SALEM’s finest points to date, re-imagining Alice Deejay’s late-’90s club anthem “Better Off Alone” as a grim, seven-minute dance dirge, complete with murky synths and ghostly vocals. The track succeeds at the seemingly impossible, making a monster of the original’s signature cheery Euro-pop synth line. Though they’re clearly content with sticking to the palette they worked off of on their debut (read: they’re still in the night), SALEM prove that to be a good thing, showing they’re capable as ever of conjuring up the bleakness that marked King Night.

Essential Track: “Better Off Alone”

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