Salander is the British musical project of Dave Curnow (guitars, vocals) and Dave Smith (keyboards, drum programming, bass, occasional vocals, guitars). They describe their project, which is based in the Country of Durham, as a songwriting partnership. They say that influences are important because all music is influenced by other music which eventually creates new music. For example, Dave Curnow loves blues and guitar orientated rock from acts that ranges from Led Zeppelin to Devin Townsend. However, Dave Smith loves progressive rock that stretches from early Genesis to Big Big Train and Glass Hammer, but they have common musical interests as well. They both love the music of Pink Floyd and the lyrics of Jon Anderson. Of course I became curious after reading this and I was wondering whether I could hear all these influences on their debut Crash Course For Dessert.
Well, to be honest: after listening to this musical concept the above-mentioned influences appeared to be less important than I thought. The concept of this album is much more important for the musical direction, but first you have to understand what the story's all about to appreciate the music. Crash Course For Dessert deals with a man who's flying his beaten up plane across the desert. While doing this he thinks back of his last relationship and the regrets that followed. After he has crashed he realizes that he's still alive and that he has to make a decision. He has half a million dollars in a locked metal case, but it's going to be a tough walk to try to find help. So, does he take the case or does he leave it behind..? Then he encounters a beautiful woman sitting at an oasis. She's being held against her will as a trinket and plaything and she begs him to take her away. The remainder of this story is for the listeners to find out...
To visualize this concept the music has been well adjusted to the things that happen with the protagonist. For example: while listening to the opening track Reminiscence you really get the idea that this music could have been recorded in the North African deserts. The sound of a tabla is well-mixed with western sounding keyboard parts. You also hear the sound of an aircraft in trouble at the start of the second track Ground Proximity Warning. The aggressive parts − with traces of music by the space rockers of Hawkwind - represent very well the problems the pilot has to survive from what seemed to be a deadly crash.
On the next piece Out Of The Wreckage the vocals represent the desperate feeling of the pilot when he gets out of the plane alive. What to do next? A Pink Floyd-like guitar sound cries for more help! While listening to the instrumental Desert Sands you can almost literally feel the desert sand blowing in your ears and nostrils. This is a very mellow Hawkwind-like keyboard piece on which the electric guitar has the lead. The sound of Pink Floyd returns at the start of All The Money In The World by the way the electric guitar is played accompanied by acoustic guitars. While the song progresses elements from the music of Barclay James Harvest come to the surface, especially in the vocal parts by Dave Smith in combination with the acoustic guitar riffs. The next track Make Me Dance, a Miles Davis-like up-tempo dance tune, is again instrumental. For the first time the female voice of the princess who is hold in captivity can be heard.
On the longest track Take Me Away the tabla returns. This works out well with the strong and calm keyboard parts. Some Spanish guitar played by Dave Smith together with beautiful flute samples, guitar and synthesizer solos, provides this song a lot of variety. The shortest track is Anywhere But Here, a kind of computerized vocal piece. It's a nice introduction to Princess, the final track. Again the Floydian guitar parts appear on this rather mellow composition. Also the piano parts clearly go in the direction of the style of Pink Floyd's Richard Wright. The beautiful string synthesizer passages strongly give the feeling of longing and friendship. The final part made me think of Camel; an outstanding end of Crash Course For Dessert.
Dave Curnow and Dave Smith recorded the music for this album between September 2013 and January 2014. At the time they hoped that there must be at least one other person in the world who would like it too. Well, I don't know whether I'm that person or not, but I do know that Salander accomplished something worthwhile listening to. I enjoyed Crash Course For Dessert from the opening notes of Reminiscence until the dying notes of Princess despite the fact that I didn't hear the aforementioned influences, which can be regarded to be a compliment! People who want to experience this album must check out their bandcamp website to download the music!
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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