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Salon Kingsadore - Hotel Azteca
Just look at the conveniently coffee-shop friendly Richard Ashcroft, surely the very embodiment of this blandward spiral and its terrible depths. Didn’t his music used to mean something to people? And how the hell is his new material - the soulless tripe that apparently passes for music - selling by the bucket-load, when the first two Verve albums (despite being classics) sold so few that it lead to the break-up of the band? Of course, the answer is simple: bland and inoffensive equals radio-friendly, TV-friendly, coffee-shop-friendly, and so on. But why complain about that? Surely, each to his own and all that? No. I’m sorry, but the whole thing is so transparent, so painfully insidious, that before long the bland, soullessness of Ashcroft starts to overwrite the beauty and power of the Verve; the frankly boring and derivative Zero 7 make you doubt whether Air were ever really inventive.
And this is where the facts start to get a little shaky. Sigur Rós become "The Band That Did The Theme Music To Planet Earth." Takk suddenly appears everywhere. Previous albums become deleted, then curiously reappear bearing ludicrous price tags and stickers saying "Specially Imported from Iceland" and "From The Band That Did The Theme Music To Planet Earth." The first Takk-related deaths are reported, then swiftly denied. Ashcroft announces his true identity as the Second Coming of Christ (inadvertently coinciding with the release of his new double A-side and subsequent tour). With caffeine as the catalyst the world soon explodes in an overwhelmingly monotonous, Starbucks-sponsored shade of beige.
So there you have it: variety is important.
Thank God then, for New Zealand’s Salon Kingsadore, who, despite recording a fantastic (though dangerously coffee-shop friendly) self-titled debut, are not content simply to retread the same old ground. The debut album occupies the band’s isolated, though thankfully pleasant and introspective niche of "Instrumental Psychedelic Surf Jazz." Imagine, if you will, an upbeat Album Leaf, or a more blissed-out Tortoise and you won’t be far wrong. Without a doubt the debut is an unusually happy album, but with a tremendous emotional range always played against its overriding innocence such as you might find in the playful psychedelic pop tunes of the Olivia Tremor Control’s Dusk at Cubist Castle. This is summer music alright, but with depth, beauty, sincerity, and feeling. It would’ve been so easy…so easy for them just to gravitate toward the Ashcroft-centred world of mediocrity, to become the next pre-packaged Zero 7, obligatory Prozac for the masses, delivered surreptitiously with a morning coffee in the form of background music. But no!
The first thing that hits you upon listening to Hotel Azteca is a difference in the production. It feels as if things have been stepped up a notch, loose screws tightened, levels adjusted and effects refined. Alongside this (and clearly a result of it) the album has a newfound sense of space At first impression, opener and title track “Hotel Azteca” seems to wallow in this newfound awareness, beginning where the previous album left off, with the familiar sun-drenched acoustic guitars. But all too soon this apparent wallowing becomes stretched out into a more confident sound, bringing the song into a territory you’d normally associate with an epic, soaring Pink Floyd jam. It’s almost as if this track acts as the transition from one album sound to the next, since as soon as it ends we are confronted by a barrage of jazz-funk which clearly marks Hotel Azteca’s departure from it’s predecessor.
It seems fitting that this second track is entitled “Economy and Space,” which encapsulates the band’s new direction as one which attempts to utilise fully the possibilities of studio recording, to create a greater range of sounds through an awareness of dynamics and by keeping layers distinct and uncluttered. And this is where the comparison to Tortoise returns for a new reason; tracks such as “The Bulb” “Loma” and “Coloured Silence” echo the sheer sense of scope and awe which John McEntire’s band only managed to capture on 2004’s It’s All Around You. But this association also helps to highlight that when Tortoise embrace a more epic sound they also feel cold and calculated, whereas Salon Kingsadore, on the contrary, become more funky, driven and danceable.
That’s where the album really shines. Despite being carefully crafted and produced, it retains that all-important ‘live’ feel. So I guess that’s where the comparison falls apart. And I’m glad. I’m glad it’s difficult to pigeonhole the album. I’m glad it’s very different from the last album. And no doubt I’ll be glad if they decide to be equally open-minded with the next record, because that’s what music is all about: variety and experimentation. And anyway, this band deserve better than being played in some shitty coffee-shop through some tinny little speakers. Help fight the musical ennui; make this, rather than Ashcroft, your soundtrack to the summer, play it fucking loud and pass out on the sofa or dance around like a loon…with coffee or otherwise.
Alan Miles - The Silent Ballet
Salon Kingsadore - Hotel Azteca ****
Though they cite jazz as a point of reference, on their second full length CD this Auckland instrumental combo stays pumped up from start to finish. The roomy production, fuzzed- out guitar and big drumming place this firmly in the tradition of surf rock.
I can’t think of too many other local groups remotely like this, with maybe the exception of Greg Malcolm’s Surfing USSR project. But the Salon are a more conventional, purist undertaking. Economy and Space is a fitting track title – there’s a lot the current generation of well- schooled local jazz noodlers could learn from this group.
Tracks such as Coloured Silence, The Bulb and the title track are less concerned with instrumental prowess than with clear, clean delivery and solid moods. Guitarist Gianmarco Liguori and Keyboardist Billy Squire create some tasty colours together and there’s some nice use of extra percussion.
In maybe a further nod to authenticity, there’s even a short drum solo before Danger Deep. There are disappointments, too, where maybe the recording studio has not been so kind. Jack Palance has a uneventful passage of sound sculpture, but mostly this is a perfectly distracting genre piece. Makes you wonder where they might go with it next.
John Kennedy – Dominion Post
SALON KINGSADORE - Hotel Azteca
Salon Kingsadore are a Kiwi band named after a hairdressers in Invercargill. But this a world way from your usual jingle jangle southern Kiwi indie band. With no vocals, Salon Kingsadore merge retro shades of Bacharach with loungey licks of Shadows guitar and a snap tight rhythm section.
Hotel Azteca, their second album, has a live smokey feel, as if played in the depths of the night.
Swirling flamengo tinged title track Hotel Azteca sets the tone from the start. Economy and Space follows, a series of big band bams, flavoured by attacking arrows of guitar.
The album's highlight, The Bulb sits mid album at track number five. It's armed with keening keyboards, crisp jazzy drumming, wah-wah guitar, stretched out to a luxurious and unhurried six minutes plus. There's even a drum solo to kick start Danger Deep.
Haul this one out at dinner and you'll soon have guests tapping their fingers and asking what it is.
The Marlborough Express
Matthew Crawley bFM
The sophomore record from Auckland's somewhat overlooked instrumental imaginary soundtrack combo! Hotel Azteca incorporates the Morricone-esque sounds from the previous record, while replacing one guitar with driving organs - and introducing new percussionist extremista!
This sounds like the soundtrack to a dinner party in the 1960's, where the slightly conservative guests accidentally take acid and wind up having a meaningfully awesome dance-trip in a desert and... Anyway I'm totally "digging" it and so will you be, soon enough.
From Real Groove
Kicking off this months Noisyland is the impressive Auckland Instrumental quartet Salon Kingsadore with their second major release; Hotel Azteca is a similarly exotic album, but with more of a live feel, than 2004’s self titled album.
The songs breathe with callous charm and slippery surety, yet there’s been no seismic shift in focus – just a tightening of the screws here and there and a desire to jam away until a strong (but certainly not overwhelming) set of songs presented themselves.
A dramatic funk was captured on Economy and Space and The Bulb sees SK in an epic jam that oozes emotion and a calibre of urban reflection they’ve not previously mined. All this despite a couple of alterations to the make up of Salon Kingsadore; now only one guitarist and a drumming change. To the latter, the drumming from Chris Dawson is fairly top- notch and he gets a chance to shine on Danger Deep, which has a deft solo as an intro.
All and all a nice release that’s sure to get your feet tapping, if not your rear off the couch.
Adrian Osman – Real Groove
Its time to get away.- Salon Kingsadore-"Hotel Azteca"
It may not be possible to have a holiday at this frenzied point of the year; however that does not mean you do not need one. You could spend hours of your routine visioning yourself on a distant destination.
But, what if you could experience the feeling of a holiday without leaving your home? Salon Kingsadore’s latest album is your ticket to a holiday in a sun-drenched paradise.
‘Hotel Azteca,’ is typical of Salon Kingsadore’s musical journey through an instrumentally curious style of composition. This time, they have reached for the sunscreen and heated up their style with their splash into smoldering sands. As well crafted as this album is, instrumental albums are always a challenge to grasp the audience’s attention. ‘Hotel Azteca’ is affirmative, blithe and imaginative. It certainly has the ability to transport a listener to somewhere remote which is an appeal in great need by many during this season.
The nine track album is concise with it lasting just over 30 minutes.
The opening, and title, track is appropriately forthright with the ‘Hotel Azteca’ theme. It establishes the mood of the serenity of a late summer afternoon and is a radiant beginning. From there, the following couple of tracks are pleasant enough, but lack that certain something that pulls the audience right in. The songs are not terrible; they can just lose the full attention of a listener because they fall slightly similar. This is the difficulty of instrumental albums, as they are near the point of becoming just background music.
However Salon Kingsadore should not be written of as uninspired. Each track is great, some tracks just exceed others. They possess soul throughout their music which timidly flaunts the talent of the individual musicians. In the middle it may unravel slightly, but when track six, ‘Acapulco Gold’ swings by it lifts the listener back up to the focus. ‘Danger deep’ commences with a drum solo, which feels out of place, but is impressive, and revives the ambition of the album. By the distinguished final track ‘Jack Palance’, the album is reminded of the dazzling vibe it began with, and suddenly you want the journey to last for just a little bit longer.
Salon Kingsadore are definitely a promising act, one that would have an exciting live atmosphere. Yet, this album does not justify this atmosphere, and can not live up to the high standard of their overall sound. Nevertheless, the album is a delight. It’s bubbly and positive, and is something diverse to brighten up any CD collection. Truthfully, the album is a soundtrack to a tranquil vacation, and it keeps in tune with its upbeat self throughout the duration of it. For everyone out there, it is time you checked yourself into an experience at ‘Hotel Azteca.’
Gianmarco Liguori: Guitars
Billy Squire: Keyboards
Hayden Sinclair: Bass
Chris Dawson: Drums and Percussion
Recorded at Earwig Studios, Auckland.
Engineered, Mixed and Mastered by Darren McShane.
Photography & Design by Greg Hodgson.
All songs by Liguori, Squire, Sinclair, & Dawson
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