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Salvatore / Salvatore / Portrait of David | Clingfilm / Fresh / These Days Are Hard To Ignore (Racing Junior)
Salvatore may hail from Oslo, but their spiritual home is surely 1970's Germany, home of the audacious electronic meditations of Faust, Can, Cluster, Neu! and other visionaries. These two Salvatore albums may be carved from the same stone, but are successful and engaging to varying degrees.
'Clingfilm', the elder of the two, is a collection of ten instrumental pieces assembled over the course of the last two years, musically alluding to the cream of the Krautrock crop. Drawing inspiration from Kosmische Germany is one thing, but the failure to contextualise these ideas in a modern musical setting renders this musical experiment a pale facsimile of the original blueprints. The opening salvo of Halloo! comes across as the bastard offspring of Neu!'s Hallogallo and one of The Clean's excursions into the depths of the Velvet Underground. Elsewhere, we find ourselves in a territory previously inhabited by Cluster, with the ambient synthesiser wash and cosmic blips and bleeps of Schnee underpinned by a layer of distant drumming. The overall mood of Clingfilm leads to a sense of disappointment, as one's impression is that Salvatore have the potential to eclipse their limitations.
Perhaps Salvatore themselves have realised the restrictive nature of such a homage, for their latest release, 'Fresh', is in no way past its musical sell-by date. Although the experiments of its predecessor are still very much apparent, it seems that this time around, Salvatore have a collective desire to rock out. Their stall is set out with the motorik mayhem and treated, squalling guitars of the album opener, Get The Kids on the Street- It's a Party. Indeed, 'Fresh' has more in common with the breakneck broadsides of Trans-Am or the rocking repetition of Finland's Circle, than with mere Kraut copyists. Here we see the more extroverted side of Salvatore's muse, flexing its muscles, as prowling Joy Division/New Order bass lines (The Seven Colours of Gnaff) rub shoulders with lopsided break-beats and dub FX. (First Red, Then Nothing). Instead of being placed on some pedestal, the spirits of Cluster, Harmonia and Neu! have come along to party till they puke. 'Fresh' sees Salvatore hitting their musical stride, and one looks forward to their forthcoming collaboration with Tortoise's John McEntire, which may well be the catalyst for exploration of unfamiliar territories.
In addition to these dual releases, comes the solo project of Salvatore's multi-instrumentalist Ola Flottum, under the moniker Portrait of David. Recorded at home on basic equipment and adorned with minimal string embellishments, this is a far more introspective affair than the group collaborations. A tidal wash of eerie synthesisers and cymbals lap around stark piano arrangements, over which Flottum intones his breathy, confessional vocals. The melancholic desolation of these pieces are not too far removed from the luscious mood pieces of Vincent Gallo or the fractured alt-country blues of Will Oldham. This wistful selection of minimalist songs and musical vignettes is the perfect counterpoint to Salvatore's instrumental overhaul. Judging by the strength of this collection, one would welcome further side projects from the Salvatore collective.

Simon Berkovitch
CWAS #9 - Winter 2002