Salander is a Durham (UK) duo comprising Dave Smith (guitars, bass, Mellotron, organ, piano, synths, loops, vocals) and Dave Curnow (vocals, synths, lead guitar, rhythm guitar guitar), who have released two previous albums. Crash Course For Dessert (2014, see review) and STENDEC (2014, see review) were both warmly lauded by my Background colleague Henri Strik. The bands follow up release The Fragility of Innocence was originally released in March 2015, but re-appeared quickly afterwards last November, remastered and with three added bonus tracks.
It's not easy to comprehend what including three bonus tracks on the album now offers in added value to the album, which, I have to say I find completely baffling in both its concept and delivery.
Central to the concept is a statement by Jacob Bronowski, the mathematician and man of letters, who presented the case for the humanistic aspects of science. The statement explains how Auschwitz was a result of man's arrogance, dogma and ultimately, ignorance through believing they have absolute knowledge with no test in reality. Now that's a huge truth to digest. In parallel to this is the story of an eight year old Icelandic girl and her mother, the ideas for both threads becoming increasingly intertwined. Curnow is responsible for the story and lyrics while Smith takes care of the music. They play all the instruments though there are guest appearances from Fractal Mirror's Frank Urbaniak who plays electronic drums on three tracks and vocalist Nihal Eleftheriou, who appears on two.
What is not in doubt is the painstaking work the two Daves have put into making this album. The attention to detail is immense. However, the concept of the album is hard to follow. Trying to focus on a statement about the philosophy behind the genocide of millions of innocent people and relating it to the life of a young girl in the snowy depths of northern Europe is confusing. This all comes home to roost in the final track Race Against The Machine, the denouement of the story where it would appear a fire extinguisher somehow also becomes a murder weapon on top of the grisly end about to befall the story's young heroine. Forgive me if this is the incorrect interpretation but this is how it comes over. This track also epitomises the whole issue with the production of the album. Guitars and keyboards come in far too high in the mix over the other instruments, and indeed the vocals. The song jumps around and the piano sections are simply not executed as well as they could be.
The three bonus tracks aren't bad with some nice guitars on The End Of Passion while Sea Soliloquy is a gentle, pleasant, atmospheric proggy instrumental. However, the questions hanging over this album can also be applied to many of the home-grown musicians currently recording albums in their front rooms, studies or their garden sheds. They are - for whom, in a relatively limited customer marketplace, are they making this music and do they actually listen to other music currently out there?
I regret I will have to take a slightly opposite view to my colleague about Salander's style. As there's for me personally very little here that I would recommend to a wider listening audience unfortunately.
Where to buy?
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