On their debut EP Mothsong, Saltwood strikes uncomfortable chords that tell a story of self-doubt. The young group hails from Melbourne, Australia and consists of six former jazz students from Victorian College of the Arts at the University of Melbourne. Although their jazz background seeps through each track, the EP as a whole fits much more comfortably into the indie/folk genre.
Imagine the fiddles and vocal twang of First Aid Kit replaced by a trumpet and softer harmonies. The resulting sound has elements of Beirut’s A Candle’s Fire with the vocals and vibes more closely aligned with Joanna Newsom.
The title track of the EP “Mothsong” contains the most obvious jazz undercurrents. A powerful trumpet winds through the song, tangling itself up beautifully with the other instruments and then smoothly letting the vocals take its place. The vocals primarily consist of one voice, but light harmonies drift seamlessly in and out. This song punches softly; it’s precise and restrained. On this track, Saltwood gets its footing just right.
The three tracks that follow “Mothsong” further a sense of melancholy and uncertainty. For example, on the track “Lazy Heart” Saltwood laments “if I were sure enough, if I were bold enough, if I were brave enough.” Although these tracks don’t contain the same amount of force and driving power present on “Mothsong,” they successfully tell a story and produce a cohesive feeling.
On “Lazy Heart” and other tracks, the instrumentals often lay low, letting the slightly off-kilter, throat-lump inducing vocals take the lead. I often found myself wanting more jazz and instrumental power in between these vocals.
The EP was recorded and pieced together at home under the guidance of the band’s former trumpet player/mix master, Fabian Acuna. Although not apparent upon listening, each track required a slightly different recording method. The resulting sound is surprisingly smooth.
With their jazz foundation, Saltwood’s restrained sensibility and cohesive melancholic tone shows potential to bring a new perspective into the indie/folk scene currently crowded with sweethearts.
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