I’ve never been a fan of the concept “lo-fi.” It’s a positively bizarre idea to apply to music indiscriminately, regardless of tone or form or content. For indie rock bands to even use the concept as a descriptor does nothing other than strive for a past that they misunderstand. Aping the past is a sin egregious enough, but to mimic something prima facie, misunderstanding -- or worse, and more likely, choosing to not attempt to understand -- is outright disgusting. Music, in my mind, should be more than smiling fun stylizations, and the choice to consciously lower music’s fidelity is symptomatic of this endemic, falling back on this crutch instead of making something truly worthwhile. If I don’t get to hear every nook and cranny of the music, and there is no contextual reason for it, I probably don’t need to listen at all. Regardless, this is only tangentially related to the review at hand, but let’s think of it as the Greek chorus bringing us up to speed and setting the scene for what’s to follow.
Just around the time I acquired Salmon Run, I was becoming fascinated with things that sounded old, decayed, forgotten, empty. The mere act of entering a space that is, in actuality, all of those things feels at once dangerous, adventurous, and alienating. And its hard to deny that it’s the aural aspect that manifests those responses. To know you’re in a setting devoid of what was once full of life and commotion brings the silence up to the level of suffocation. You can trace most sounds back to yourself, but the outliers are outright terrifying. Environs such as these evoke a conflict in the mind, one of nearly complete comfort and safety, yet at the same time imbued with absolute unfamiliarity and danger. Our mind knows that it is only in places such as these wherein terrible fates await us.
But this sounds like our natural, "primitive" state. Everywhere was dangerous. Outside the tenuous safety of numbers, even the most familiar of haunts held potential destruction. An unseen, misunderstood predator could be lurking; a foe as unassertive as a broken leg from a misstep always threatens. And in order to have a modicum of preparedness against inscrutable adversaries, we perk up our ears for inexplicable sounds. But, for the bulk of our experience, this results only in unnecessary, extraneous alarm. In essence, in order to survive, we must make peace with the feelings of utter helplessness and loneliness. Of course, these are obstacles that we (who have CD players and listen to Graham Lambkin) have been almost completely divorced from. It is only the most deviant experiences that can rekindle that spark of absolute fear.
On Salmon Run, we are subjected to a carefully constructed array of sounds that evoke in the same way an abandoned site does. Greeting us on this psychological journey is a haunting contralto aria and accompaniment, a loose thread of which is immediately and uncannily picked up by a mélange of tinny, disturbing sounds in the middle distance, only to be replaced by the same accompaniment, absent our diva. Was it her breakdown we heard but clearly should not have? Has she been replaced by a castrato, with a chorus of mourners to usher him/it into the horror? From here, we are treated to peaceful, reassuring noises, lulling us into a lazy sense of safety until they are deftly juxtaposed with indefinite but jarring sounds of human misfortune. The splash of a soothingly warm bath, but just outside we can hear a nemesis with steely implements. Chirping birds and wind chimes, but deeper we find a growling terror. A library of classical music codified to foreshadow horror. Unintelligible mutterings and screams. A (relatively) small set of sounds such as these are the currency of Salmon Run. In this seemingly simple way, with this mostly pedestrian vocabulary, we are witness to a sum much greater than its parts, one unlike anything you’ve heard.
3. The Brendan Drill
4. Jungle Blending
6. The Currency Of Dreams
7. Graham Cementspawn
8. Baby & Fox
10. The Bridge To Aria / Salmon Run