By Christian Groves and Erin Finnegan
Friday, September 16th, 2011 – indie-experimental group Saltee joined The Institute of Production and Recording for Adam Levy’s DIY-360.
Enter the launch: Carnage live samples a hard hitting beat box (complete with harmonica solo?). The ground work has been laid for an unyielding blend of harmonious dissonance (that I could hum along to). This is crazy! Was that guitar I just heard? Was it a cello? The trickery doesn’t add up! And what appears a candy layered assortment results in a chemical free trip of ears playing tricks on eyes. The opening curtain demonstrates nothing less than a perfectly crafted sonic disclosure. I thought to myself “Adam, you’ve done it again!” And the gods smiled as applause filled the room.
If you think I’m kidding, you weren’t there… but you should’ve been…
I’m not sure if I felt confused or informed at such an introduction but it was clear Saltee had earned the full attention of everyone in the room. Jacqueline (cello), Mike (guitar) and Carnage (beat boxer) are accomplished, at the very least, and boundless at the most. Here’s the story…
Cellist Jacqueline Ultan’s musical background is best described as conventional; her father was a classical composer in the 60’s. But, even though Jacqeline’s closest familial influence came from a more traditional place, she’s a classically trained player whose tastes have often been informed by a funky-rock sound. And even though her performance history has been traditional, she always knew the “normal orchestra” would never be in her future. It’s obvious she’s comfortably at home in the Saltee environment: an environment which requires structure with lots of room for her to improvise.
Carnage (Terrell Woods), a virtuosic Minnesotan beat-boxer, grew up loving everything about hip-hop. He eventually trained himself to make beats and other un-humanlike sounds using his mouth. Saltee makes use of his technology skills as well; he uses a floor sampler during live performance that helps him layer his rhythms. Because of this his beat-boxing turns into a virtual percussion section complete with sound effects. In Woods’ style, skill meets improvisation in a very unique way.
Mike Michel plays guitar; “I guess I’m what you would call the rock n’ roll guy. I’ve been paying guitar since I was twelve and I love everything about a hard, aggressive song.” He plays the spaces well. His role in Saltee may get aggressive, but his playing style is highly experimental; many of the sounds he requires are unnatural for a guitar to produce, but he makes it do what he wants it to anyhow. When waxing philosophical, he feels his limitations as a player have shaped his sound. I’ve never heard steel drums emulation on guitar before Saltee, but almost everything Mike did caught me off guard.
So how is it Saltee survives the Twin Cities music scene?
For his DIY 360 series Adam Levy has typically surprised me. This quarter especially has brought an unlikely cast of musical uniformity to his Friday morning IPR presentations. And, to be fair, the types of artists Adam has chosen to feature have included an eclectic and varied cast of musical voices rooted in, and very much representative of the Twin Cities music scene. So it was fitting to hear him ask Saltee, “What about the twin cities causes such cross breading of music?” After a moment of looking a little stumped, Mike responded: “People are forced to be creative. We have such harsh winters where we are confined in our homes and we are forced to think. I believe that really defines us not only as a music scene but as a state as well.”
Mike’s response to Adam wouldn’t be complete without adding that Saltee’s creative personalities, along with Adam’s, do as much to advise the “cross breading of music” here as do the long, cold winters. When communities appreciate diversity in art, art creates culture and occasionally makes room for creative genius to flourish. And, it can give way for original musical voices like Saltee to enrich our lives.
As this week’s DIY-360 came to a close, Saltee left us with a final passion-based song and some words of wisdom. “If you really want to make money in this industry, do what you’re good at to create money to put towards what you love,” said Mike, “We all teach to make ends meet; [though] we love teaching, we love creating music more.”
If you’d like to hear Saltee again, check out their show at The Red Stag on October 15th, or The Aster Café on October 29th (Halloween show).