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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Ruby - Salt Peter

Name: Ruby
Album: Salt Peter
Year: 1995
Style: Trip Hop/Pop, Industrial
Similar Bands: Massive Attack, Tricky, Bjork, Cibo Matto, Portishead, Shakespears Sister
"One Word" Review: Haunting Steam Powered De Ja Vu
Based Out Of: Seattle, Wa (London/Scotland)
Label: Work Group, Creation Records, Sony Music Entertainment

 Salt Peter - Cover, Liner Images, Tray Photo
Salt Peter - Liner Notes, Back, CD

Salt Peter (1995)

  1. Flippin' Tha Bird 4:09
  2. Salt Water Fish 3:29
  3. Heidi 4:04
  4. Tiny Meat 4:04
  5. Paraffin 3:36
  6. Hoops 3:50
  7. Pine 4:08
  8. Swallow Baby 5:32
  9. The Whole is Equal to the Sum of its Parts 4:07
  10. Bud 4:19
  11. Carondelet 7:06

Album Rating (1-10): 6.5

Members & Other Bands:
Mark Walk - Producer, Writer, Engineer, Mixing, All Instruments (Pigface, Skinny Puppy, ohGr, Saturday Knights, David Byrne, )
Lesley Rankine - Producer, Writer, All Instruments (Grizzelders, Silverfish, Pigface, Therapy?, Monster Voodoo Machine, Rockingbirds)
William Rieflin - Mixing, Extra Drums/Raving/Guitars (Allmusic credits)
Scott Crane - Asst Engineer
Eric Anderson - Bass (State Champs, Fuglees, Brigade, John Ottoman)
Matthew Donaldson - Object Photography
Rankine - Artwork & Additional Photos
ED Lindsay - Photo of John Rankine
Joesph Cultice - Photo of Lesley
Toby Egelnick - Layout

Unknownness: I have no memory of what this album sounds like, but I assume I heard of them at one point. I probably knew one song from MTV back in the 90's because I purchased the CD in a used clearance bin at the old Phila Record Exchange years ago. Maybe someone I knew recommended it or had it. None-the-less, it looks like it will be overly complex, intellectually dark indie rock. This is based on the texture picts and objects that make up the album's artwork. The spaced out lyrics/font give it a potentially poetic (intellectual) aesthetic. However, the photo of the singer in the CD tray reveals what could be either gothic to industrial to rave-techno. Lets see...

Album Review: The band name comes from the fact that both members have grandmothers named Ruby. The album was made with almost 100% computers and no band. She had a touring band for live shows, but Walk was not part of the performances. Two albums and a slew of remixes followed, all while Rankine continued using the moniker Ruby.

“Flippin' Tha Bird” starts of with haunting, backwards playing vocals and music. The trip hop nature sticks around with more haunting keyboard and mechanic percussion. An acoustic guitar is added into the mix at the chorus, and the vocals are pushed up to the front a little further and illustrate a dynamic range. The music reminds me a little of what Bjork was up to with her remixes (Army of Me) at the same time.
“Salt Water Fish” starts out immediately catchy with a high hat percussive beat and haunting whistle, reminding me of Cibo Matto. This song is very dance catchy, with pauses in the momentum that only build anticipation. The vocal harmonies beckon the darker parts of Shakespears Sister. The song fades away as if the techno dance truck that was playing the show backs out of the high school gymnasium.
“Heidi” has a swirling effect and haunting guitar as it begins. The vocals have a built in tension as they overlay each other and project over the minimal music. They growl, reverberate and shudder over the syllables making each note extra meaningful. This feels like it would be right at home on Cibo Matto’s recent concept album “Hotel Valentine.”
“Tiny Meat” is the second and best known single, reaching #22 on the US modern rock chart. It brings more hip-hop elements in with scratching and dropping beats. The vocal melody reminds me of Elastica, with little confident growls and yowls in accent. This is a pretty solid, energetic tv show montage song where the goal would be to show training or building something.  
“Paraffin” was the first single. It possesses Portishead like skipping back beats and Bjork like vocals and organ. The song drives on methodically, with a glowing organ and cold, frigid beats. The vocals, brief pips and reserved tone, feel like they are visiting a foreign land. The song winds down with singular keyboard notes and the repetition of the chorus: “Now I smell like paraffin”
“Hoops” was the third single. Beginning with an echoing simple drum beat, a deep synthetic bass drum kicks in to keep tempo. The song shuffles into trip hop style with industrial themes and haunting wood block technique. The wood block and warbling sonic distortions, like an inter-dimensional rift, take turns finishing out the track.

“Pine” has a repetitive, natural object clanking start, followed by a whining miserable string. That style is abandoned for a rush of marching and meandering synthetic bass. As a bridge, the elements pick up in energy and volume and clash like a battle. They rest again, letting the vocals have a go. After the wave of sound hits again, the song pauses to reset. It still chugs along, dropping the title here and there, and a couple of radio show sound effects help create the tense atmosphere, which just fades out.
“Swallow Baby” starts with some spoken word, and then slides into ear shot with a huge Big Audio Dynamite or Soup Dragons-like techno beat. A siren and cymbal percussion cruise by in the background, while jazzy elements and applause samples are layered in the front in sporadic bursts. A vocal solo feels like the track is going to end, but it comes back for 30 more seconds for spoken crowd-vocal samples and the same techno beats the song was built on.
“The Whole is Equal to the Sum of its Parts” quietly begins with a chanting-like synth beat. Flute is overlaid as the dark vocals creep up. After a minute, the whole song explodes with a wall of sound. The skipping-chanting synth beat grows louder and more prevalent, and a warning alarm melody gives the song a new urgent tempo. This is only to drop away, replaced by alternating sections of quiet and bombastic audio. The ending minute features a beat similar to how a transformer would transform in the old cartoons, or how the transporter would beam someone up in Stargate.
“Bud” is perhaps the jazziest, kitchen sink percussion, Tom Waits-ish track. It is dark, sexy, urban, and competent. It could simultaneously be performed in a speakeasy, as well as a Gothic warehouse show. The poetic lyrics tumble out without care, and shift between distorted old-tyme amplification, and clear as day whispering.
“Carondelet” continues with the distorted vocal effect, like a tired carnival barker feigning interest in her wares. The music is sinister and growing, but nothing too dangerous. At 1:30, a swirling, watery electronic melody brings in a sunnier outlook, but the old tyme vocals are still breathy, whispering their sad melody. The singular atmosphere is drug out for the entire song, the most lengthy, at just over seven minutes. Alternate, more confident, near-spoken vocals are added here and there, but the liquid melody permeates to the very end's fade.

Stand Out Track: Bud

Full Album on Youtube
Popmatters Interview 2014

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