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Monday, April 2, 2012

Saltillo - "Monocyte"

Artist: Saltillo
Album: Monocyte
Year: 2012
Label: Artoffact
Genre: Electronic, Trip Hop
Website:  http://menton3.com/




This is the long awaited and much anticipated follow up to 2006's Ganglion which was quite the interesting release. Personally I had thought this project to be dead, and am quite glad to see it is not so. Monocyte is apparently the soundtrack to a comic book being published by IDW Publishing. If you are familiar with the previous works of Saltillo than you will have a fairly good idea of what you're in for on this release: a plethora of violin and cello melodies coupled with trip-hop esque drums and dark atmospheres.

Good stuff:
+ Certainly one of the main focuses of Saltillo releases are his violin and cello playing. These instruments sound absolutely beautiful on Monocyte - the recording job is supurb; they sound huge, thick and clear. The melodies are catchy and distinct, and as such this record is instantly recognizable as the work of Saltillo.
+ The overall dark mood. The cover art of the album is a pretty good indication of the mood - dark, cavernous ambiance with strange, creepy folk and industrial-tinged orchestra playing within. All with a sense of corrupted antiquity (similar to Rasputina and the like).
+ Again, this record utilizes kind of trip hop-y beats. It sounds like an acoustic drum kit, which fits well with that kind of sound, though it is typically highly distorted giving it a gritty, slightly industrial tinge. Sometimes this sounds really good, plays off the melodic content well and serves to aggrandize the overall atmosphere.
+ Unfortunately, female vocals make less of an appearance on this album than previous work, but when they do appear they sound very good and fit extremely well. On the track "If Wishes Were Catholics" the addition of the vocals takes the piece to the next level with the way the vocal and instrument melodies interact and play off of each other. I wish there were more tracks with them!
+ Overall, the production and mixing is solid.

Bad stuff:
- Sometimes the drums come across as overly distorted & lofi which causes too broad a clash with the beauty and clarity of the melodic elements.

As a conceptual work, it is hard to judge this when you don't have the graphical content of the comic as reference (the art of his that I've seen is dark, interesting, and quite well drawn, so I'm sure the comic portion of this is very much worth checking out). That said, Monocyte works well enough as a stand alone collection of audio. It's certainly a bit "out there" and not for everyone, but fans of trip hop and dark, industrial-influenced weird folk should enjoy this immensely. If you liked his first album than I'd wager you will enjoy this as well. Pick it up if you're looking for something different and well-crafted.

Overall Rating: 8/10

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