Geoff Farina New Salt (with Luther Gray and Dan Littleton)

[Xeng; 2005]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: instrumental jazz/rock/blues, experimental
Others: Karate, Daniel Lanois, Califone, Friends of Dean Martinez

Since most of the Karate devotees have probably already absorbed this Farina excursion by now, this review is more for the rest of us. It may be that some exposed to the band have, like myself, taken exception with the vocals (a little emo perhaps), so here's your alternative. This music -- based off of accompaniments the trio scored live for silent films by Samuel Beckett, Man Ray and Jean Genet -- is not all that similar to Karate. There's much less rocking out and much more sheer, ginormous waft. But Geoff's typically bracing, texturally rich guitar work remains in the forefront.

I'm reminded, especially on the title track, of Richard Thompson's tense, incremental guitar work for the Grizzly Man soundtrack. Aside from the manic, free jazz drumming, this song approximates the grim edges hemming in on nature's splendor. The drumming adds a more bustling vibe that agitates the elliptical, two-note progression of the backing guitar (perhaps it speaks to the silent film accompaniment that inspired this album, but I couldn't tell ya). The song has a strong 'blindly escaping' kind of feel -- reeds and branches and vines whipping you in the face continually as you try to become as lost as is humanly possible. I can see why Farina and Co. opted to release this music as an album. It's supremely evocative stuff on its own, and considerably more delectable than Yo La Tengo's own film-inspired improv The Sound of The Sounds of Science.

Though, to be fair, this is a totally different sort of music. It's less user-friendly, since the drums tend to keep things pretty untethered. At times, everyone seems to be going in their own separate directions, but these tracks tend to be the shorter ones and add well to the overall massive atmosphere of the LP. Also, the more propulsive tracks manage to feel all the more stoically anthemic after you've been hit with some of the messier, harsher passages. "Point Judith" is the most like a Karate track, since it's the most melodic and velvety tune on here (thanks to Gray's comparatively settled, brushed drums). The song's a terrific example of how heartache music can take flight instead of sagging into depression. It's got a solid, In A Silent Way kind of feel that makes it a definite highlight next to the epic title track.

New Salt is ideal music for all thoughtful, slow-going souls out there who can't crystallize a moment enough. I shoveled my front walk while listening to it, and the music made the task feel less like backbreaking chumpwork and more like something worth savoring. It's yet more fantastic music for everyday meditation. Restless, yet sluggish. Forlorn, yet clear-eyed. Soothing, yet abrasive. Sounds like your average confounding dayspan to me.

1. Harmonia
2. New Salt
3. Liquor Store
4. Song for Che
5. Point Judith
6. Couch Arizona
7. Pouring Water on Stone

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