Salivary Stones (Self-released, 2010)
For: Belong, Tim Hecker, Microphones
Byline: Uhmm... cleverness escapes me right now. Look, just do yourself a favor, scroll to the bottom of this post, download this record and listen to it. Do it now. Please.
Timeliness. It’s an essential component to the music blogging world. Granted, many bloggers (myself included) are guilty of jumping on the bandwagon a little late. Chris Rehm’s new album arrived in our inbox just a short couple of week ago, and already Forest Gospel beat us to the punch on this one. But hey, Thistle’s got some ridiculous good taste (if you haven’t yet, please peruse his excellent top 100 list of the decade), and this certainly isn't a competition. We here at the Tome simply wish to emphasize and reiterate the importance of Mr. Rehm's work here in 2010, especially since the guy is doing everything completely on his own. Thistle wisely called Salivary Stones “The new white noise. The new experiment. The new texture. It is the new dirge and the new substance of clouds and the new manifestation of Ra.” Yeah, those are some strong words. That’s why he used them. Chris Rehm’s voice is indeed a strong one. Strong and mighty.
His music is constructed with broad and sweeping strokes of static and noise, blending flavors and colors together in a thick soup of tasty, piping hot harmonic porridge. “Salivary Stones” enters with a shocking blast of noise. But it’s not just distortion - no. This is noise that is pregnant with meaning, conjuring up vidid imagery that comes off as psychedelic, yet grounded in something very real and tangible. “Salivary Stones” is a fitting title as the track is the sound of a dry, coarse gravel grinding against itself, dripping with an oozy perspiration of melodic harmony that pours out in waves of emotion. Perhaps the short record’s strongest moment comes next, with “Don’t Leave Me Blue.” The song builds from a hypnotic pulse that rolls along in a way not unlike Panda Bear’s “Comfy in Nautica,” Rehm deftly arranging melodic snippets that lay like sheets on top of one another. Sounds violently scrape against themselves as if Rehm is bowing electronic frequencies like stringed instruments to produce these glorious sounds. The whole thing culminates with an epic climax of a soaring, sharp and searing melody that’s guaranteed to raise goosebumps.
The record continues along at a consistently high level of beauty, scaling tall mountains and diving from high cliffs into peaceful waters of moody meditations that recall Kid A’s ambient moments like “Treefingers.” But the most surprising moment comes last with “Soggy,” a jarring (given what precedes) shift to a more grounded, acoustically based guitar song in the vein of Microphones’ Phil Elverum. Here Rehm is gentle, honest and touching, and unveils his beautiful, fragile voice.
There’s something exciting about this release to me, though, that is hard to pin down and describe. Most of it has to do with the fact that Rehm came to us out of nowhere. I’d never heard of the guy, or his previous incarnation as Aphrodisiac, so to have this seemingly random, unbelievably great album show up and immediately consume my life, instantly shoot to the tip of the top in terms of best releases of the year, is both astonishing and wonderful. But we, the bloggers, aren’t the ultimate trendsetters. We’re not some kind of prophet-troupe of writers out to spit the new doctrine. We just love great music. And it’d be a shame for us to sit idly by and watch a guy like Chris Rehm get lost in the folds. No, it’s merely our job to share this music, and our thoughts on it with you. The real speakers of the new gospel are those like Mr. Rehm. Listen to what he has to share with you. Listen and wonder about what the possibilities of doing it for yourself might be. Gather those thoughts, hit record on your tape deck or laptop, and chronicle your reactions to the world at large and to your peers around you. And please. Send us your tape when it’s done.