Here’s the thing, I dislike house music. Not intensely, nor with the ideological zeal of my Drum and Bass fueled younger days, but sufficiently that when that plodding, metronomic beat winds up I immediately start looking for a reason not to like it. I have a similar prejudice when it comes to meeting Welsh people for the first time, despite the fact that in every case I have grown to like the person within five minutes of meeting them. Ah, good old fashioned home-grown intolerance.
You can imagine my consternation then, when the opening track of Salton Sea came through with that most dully predictable of beats. This was an album that I was expecting to like (despite the house/pop tags) mainly due to its inclusion on the largely peerless Friends of Friends label, but also because in my gradual growing up process, house music has become less of an annoyance and more of an acceptable means to an end.
True to form within five minutes my apprehension had receded and as the album got into swing it became a bit more enjoyable. Tomas Barfod takes the same approach as Dubstep/Funky crossover giants SBTRKT in using idiosyncratic arrangements to accentuate more poppy, approachable memes and despite seeming quite simple on first impression there’s a subtle depth to most of the tracks . Not to the extent of The Field or Four Tet’s 4/4 efforts, but certainly enough that repeat listens reveal a level of detail that not only compliments the overall sound but also adds much needed credibility to an album that could almost be classified as pop.
The opener aside, there’s a few gems on here. I particularly enjoyed the brooding, slo-motion disco style of “Python” and in spite of the encroaching gag factor “Til We Die” is quite enjoyable, reminiscent somewhat of Lykee Li’s more dancefloor orientated efforts. However, one personal point of contention is “Ecstesizing” which despite being one of the standout tracks on the album, sounds a bit too much like a stripped rehash of Moderat’s “A New Error”. It just about manages to get away with it through some subtle tweaks and variations, but the similarities are still glaringly apparent.
So, all in all it’s not bad considering its SBTRKT and Jamie XX-esque crossover appeal. Salton Sea will probably prove to be quite popular. In spite of its relative simplicity and lack of edge I reckon this is the type of music that otherwise unconverted people probably need to listen to in order to approach the vast and terrifying world of electronic music and that in itself is a good thing, especially considering the amount of crass, diluted music which is clogging up the mainstream right now. In light of this it would be unfair to judge the album harshly and I would wholeheartedly endorse giving it a listen if you want a light and enjoyable romp through pleasant, easily digestible sounds.