Project Description

KIM SALMON

@ Smith’s Alternative

21 September 2017 (Live Review)

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Kim Salmon

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If Kim Salmon isn’t on your list of artists to see, your list sucks and you should tear it up and start again.

Everett True, grunge music’s foremost documentarian and biographer, claims a line can be drawn directly from Salmon’s early work with The Scientists to the birth of the Seattle scene and its dominance of the early 90s. Subsequent work with Beasts of Bourbon, Kim Salmon and the Surrealists, on solo albums and with Mudhoney has established Salmon as one of the most innovative artists the country has ever produced.

Salmon himself cuts a diminutive, unassuming figure. Dishevelled and exuding a slight bemusement, he takes the stage with no introduction and no sense of ceremony. The first set is semi-acoustic, with most tracks coming from the E(a)rnest record, which is apt because there is an earnestness to the way he approaches most of the show. He’s sincere in such a completely unsentimental way that it makes the genuine sentiment under the surface of so much of his music all the more effective.

The upside of playing in a venue like Smith’s is the sheer accessibility of the artists. Salmon genuinely engages conversation with a group of ageing punks who sound like they might have some kind of shrine to him back at their sharehouse.

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The acoustic stuff he plays is really something else; there’s a Lou Reed sensibility to it, with a falsetto vocal and an atonality that almost makes for a Neil Young with Crazy Horse sounding venture. But it is the second set where Kim Salmon shows the room why Kim Salmon is Kim Salmon. The guitar work is revolutionary. It’s not that he plays in a way that other guitarists couldn’t, it’s that he plays what they won’t. He takes the music places nobody else is either game or inspired to go. Even now, nearly forty years after obliterating musical conventions and reinventing what Australian music thought it could do and be, his work sounds cutting edge.

His band, in the form of bass player Sam Worrad and drummer Douglas Galbraith do an impressive job of keeping up and the rhythm section forms a crucial part of the final sound. But watching Salmon you get the sense that he could be banging a couple of old paint tins and plucking a length of fishing line and he’d still make music to unravel you from the inside out.

There is a reason why the drivers behind the Washington scene were so drawn to his work; it’s groundbreaking but in an understated way. It isn’t flashy, though there’s no denying his technical proficiency, but it presents itself matter-of-factly and invites you to reconsider what you think you know. The whole thing is pleasingly unsettling.

If you can find a way to see Kim Salmon, do it. If you can’t find a way, keep looking.

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AMNPLIFY – DB