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beery vision in a beautiful, restless crosshatch flux. Heather lifts herself away from the earth and up onto the broad, wooden beam at the head of this small jetty. The water below us is clear and turquoise. The sky is, too. No one else is around, and the forest that wraps the lake is thick, the only noises coming from constantly buzzing cicadas. In our isolation and air so still, time begins to slow, mislaid in the water’s endlessly merging lines. When Heather — a blonde betrayed by dark roots, pale sex parts clung to by spare, white bikini cloth — enters water, she does so vertically. Rigid arms straight coming up from her curves, fingers pointed, stretched to tip. A last, deep breath, then her feet leave the beam behind, sending her face first into the lake. She emerges, eyes flushed with blood, hair lank and damp, tugs at the material hiding her breasts, then sets out in a front crawl towards Jack, who lays further from land, long-hair splayed in the water and shouting wordlessly at the sun. John, yards from me, won’t get wet: he sits there with his head in his hands. The way Salem swim reveals more than just their meat; it reveals what they are to each other, too. Heather, who has an office job that pays regularly, is easiest to read: her movements seem to be thought out, and in many respects resemble what you or I would regard as logic. On the evidence of the three days I spend in Traverse City, Jack’s life seems to consist of ceaselessly pursuing a gut feeling through moments, traces of each one disappearing upon impact with the next. This seems to make John — his brown eyes as wise, sad and deep as wells — nervous, though Jack reveals the “massive amount of respect” he felt as he watched his friend sleep last night with his newly-tattooed face (a dollar sign Jack

put on his right cheek like a sad kiss). The three of them seem to love each other very much and, in truth, Salem are some of the most real people I have ever met — the sort of people who make me and my earlier expectations feel stupid, and whose emotional complexity prevents them, really, from being any ‘sort of people’. During the time I’m in America, theirs are the only conversations that extend beyond pointless, say-nothing small talk. You overhear it everywhere — from holidaying businessmen biking by the lakes, and their clucking wives in the hotel lobby. It’s their extreme sensitivity which makes new album King Night — out, weirdly, commendably, through Columbia in the UK — vulnerable to an ugly, desperate darkness, just as it makes it vulnerable to other things people don’t pick up on as readily because of its overwhelming emotional murk — beauty, joy, fear, love, comedy, lust, hope. Salem’s songs are chaotic and flushed, and seem to feel everything, all at once. Their transmissions are vivid but unrecognisable, as impressive and as hard to read as strange, new lights in the sky. You can see why they confuse people. “We’re just trying to report back everything we’ve experienced,” explains Jack. “You know what I’m saying? If you can tell me there’s nothing in life that’s fucked up, then we’ll take everything fucked up out of our music.” Burt Bacharach: listen to Salem. Gene Simmons: listen to Salem. Fearne Cotton: listen to Salem. The latter would be particularly interesting to observe, given that her sheer emotional pallor — unrivalled, in my experience, anywhere else in the world — renders her face the ultimate blank canvas. What would this music do to you, Fearne Cotton? I long to sit you

in an empty room and use you as a mirror in which I can more easily observe the muddled, emotional contours of Salem’s minds. I imagine your face contorting itself into a thousand sycophantic, faux-empathetic gestures simultaneously; eyebrows frowning in fauxconcern; lips like exploded fruit, caught between a faux-smile and whatever emotion the word ‘eek’ pertains to; nose crumpled in disgust like a fucking crashed car. If she survived, someone would need to devise her a new expression solely for the purpose of responding to Salem. If she survived… Sorry… Jack? “It’s the easiest thing for people to simplify us to, ‘Oooh, they’re really fucked up and dark. Don’t turn the lights off…’” He makes a kind of ‘welcome to the ghost train’ gesture with his hands. You must be able to see how and why people are unsettled by your music, though, haunted as it is by synth rushes that seem to rip and tear at their own burning skin, rhythmic patterns mangled into unnatural shapes by vortices of delay, the wail and moan of disembodied voices promising to “slit your wrists, little lamb”? Often, different parts of same songs seem repulsed by each other, generating a perverse, trapped tension — holy choral flights like unison bird flocks rise to cure codeine-slowed, ‘chopped and screwed’ rap leers. People don’t always like perverse tension, Jack. It worries them. “Do you feel it’s more realistic to be vague with vocals, the music, the message, but put a truer feeling across?” he asks, rhetorically. “Because to me, that’s how I experience things. Whereas songs that are super clear, loyally depicting a situation…” He winces, shakes his head, his reference triggering an immediate flood of images — Jagger

Words by Kev Kharas Photography by Brendan Telzrow and Salem

Charm ing

Profile for The Stool Pigeon

The Stool Pigeon Music Newspaper Issue 028  

Featuring Nile Rodgers, N*E*R*D, Ice Cube, Salem, No Age, Cee-Lo Green, DJ Roc, Freddie Gibbs, Gonzales...

The Stool Pigeon Music Newspaper Issue 028  

Featuring Nile Rodgers, N*E*R*D, Ice Cube, Salem, No Age, Cee-Lo Green, DJ Roc, Freddie Gibbs, Gonzales...

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