Music Review – Saltillo “Monocyte”

In keeping with the tradition I started with my last review of “Indra’s Web” by Rena Jones, here is another review of an artist I have enjoyed without knowing squat about them, and wasn’t bothered enough to google.  Until I realized I would look like an idiot doing a review of an artist I know nothing about (other than the music, which is what I really care about).

My guess was that Saltillo were members of an artists commune in Scotland.  Perhaps Ireland.  Google the truth, if you care.  I’ve got a guinness right here that agrees with my first impression.

This album has violins, cello and other traditional instruments over top of (usually) distorted break beats.  I want to say gritty production, but it’s grit contrasted with smooth and clean.  The feel of this album reminds me of Crass playing Current 93 songs with Scorn producing the beats.  But that’s just ‘feel’, it doesn’t sound like Crass but various elements including TV dialogue complete with all the hiss and noise you get from holding a walkman up to a TV has the Crass ethic all over it.  C93 pops into my head because of the way the violins sometimes saw away in frenzied bursts.  Also there is existential poetry contributing to the mood.  There are choirs and harpsichords over distorted hip-hop beats complete with scratching.  And all of this is just a bit disjointed – but that’s exactly the anarchistic flavour I would expect from an artists commune in Scotland. . .

It’s mostly instrumental, with dialogue/spoken word on perhaps a quarter of the songs.  There is a girl singing on one track early on and again at the end the album.  She reminds me a little of Shirley Manson, and at first listen I thought it might be that girl from the Sneaker Pimps  – although google will tell you otherwise I’m sure.  I assume she is a guest artist here, but she is fantastic and I hope she visits more often.

This is powerful music.  Sometimes it sounds like a room full of cellos and violins all carving out slabs of melody in an intense race to fill the sonic spectrum.  Piano and other traditional instruments play supporting roles.  One song has classical guitar drenched in reverb and delay with some distorted Bonham pounding underneath.  Another song has half speed break beats holding it down while mournful cellos weave tension into each other.  (this is actually something I was trying to achieve with the track “Funeral” on Temple of Abraxis, except that I can’t play violin, I just own one, like a neglected pet.)

I like the way the album nods back and forth.  Sometimes the drums push the song forward while the strings hang back slowly waving flags at the tempo.  On other songs it’s the strings that urge the track on, hacking out the tempo with sharp stabs.

This album has mood and style in boatloads.  It has great playing.  Did I mention distorted beats?
So go buy it already.  I got mine from E-Music, who apparently are also too lazy to use google since their biography for the band is just a Wikipedia entry for the city Saltillo Mexico.

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