Here’s something you might not be aware of: there are large numbers of young people with ADD who spend all day posting satanic imagery on the blogging-for-dummies site Tumblr. At any given moment one of them will post an image of a dead body, an all-seeing eye, a graveyard, a pentagram, an upside-down cross, or a still from Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist. Follow them long enough and one of them will inevitably post a song or the album art of Salem, every Child of the Corn’s new favourite band.
Salem is a three-piece from Chicago and Traverse City, MI made up of John Holland, Heather Marlatt, and Jack Donoghue. They’re young, they’re sexy, and their album art and videos all have an extremely slick aesthetic. Salem’s debut EP, a long sold-out white vinyl, came out in 2009 and had the best title of all time, Yes, I Smoke Crack.
Salem’s sound takes elements of ambient electronic, hip hop, and juke, and then mixes them in a very black cauldron with a litre of codeine syrup. Some people have labeled it witch house, a genre that probably won’t be getting its own section at HMV any time soon. I prefer to put it like this: Salem sounds like the apocalypse.
Since Yes, I Smoke Crack, Salem has quickly become a press darling. In über cool Dutch gay magazine Butt, John Holland frankly admits to being a teenage prostitute so he could buy drugs (even more damning, he admitted to working at American Apparel). Gothic art star Terrence Koh — who also happens to be Lady Gaga’s piano maker and an Emily Carr grad — photographed Salem for style bible V Magazine. And they recently performed at The Creators Project, sort of a hipster TED conference that’s organized by Vice Magazine and Intel.
There are also some indications that Salem might not quite be the breath of Jehovah — at an SXSW showcase put on by The Fader in March, they were booed offstage. But for the most part, the early accolades are well deserved, as Salem has a refreshingly evil sound. Inaugural full-length, King Knight, comes out Sept. 28 on IAMSOUND. It’s an excellent, dare I say brilliant debut and a lock to make every web-based magazine’s Top 10 of ’10 list. If this is what the goths are listening to these days, pass me the black nail polish so I can get my brood on.
published august 2010 in the tyee