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Enos Slaughter - Saloth Sar

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Artist: Enos Slaughter

Album: Saloth Sar

Label: Sound@One

Review date: Oct. 21, 2004

Taking as their namesake a baseball player with perhaps the second greatest name of all time (the illustrious Rusty Kuntz possessing the first), Enos Slaughter are a New York trio featuring members of NNCK, Sunburned Hand of the Man, and IZITITIZ, among a host of other side and one-off projects. Recorded at the studios of the venerable WFMU radio station in early 2003, Saloth Sar represents the groups' first foray into compact disc medium, with a vinyl release having already in the can (also at the hands of the NNCK-helmed Sound@One). While their overall sound is not unlike any of the groups just mentioned, the greatest point of stylistic similarity is probably Sunburned. Much like that group, Enos Slaughter has a penchant for hazy wanderings and somewhat claustrophobic instrumental textures. Slaughter dismisses any stabs at Americana, though, in favor of murky moog-and-guitar derived figures. As can often be the case with a lot of improvised music, sometimes it works brilliantly, and at other times it wanders far off the beaten path of anyone's interest.

Complicating things is the album’s overall aesthetic theme. Adorned with photos from Cambodia's S21 prison archives (a former high school turned holding ground for the sake of housing many of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge prisoners) and brief statements regarding the "secret" war carried out in that country at the behest of the United States, the album takes on a distinctly political nature. However, when this is contrasted with the musical contents of the disc, it leaves one to question the true agenda here.

The music contained herein has no telltale sign of political sway, with the sounds ranging from decent to superb, often within a couple of minutes in the same track. "Pol Pot" (or "Lon Nil" or "Tuol Sleng," depending upon which part of the liner notes you happen to be reading) starts on more exploratory ground, with Marc Orleans' guitar and David Shuford's electric bouzouki and moog squeezing out drug-hazed lines in contrast to Carter Thornton's "multiple musicc [sic]" contributions. The effect is one of queasy mal de mer, with a series of undulating waves and groans building up to a feedback soaked climax that calls to mind some of the great, damaged psychedelic noodling of the past. "Lon Nol" (or "Brother Number One" or "Comrade Duch," once again depending) mines instantaneous noise territory, pluming the depths of lazy chording and ray-gun electronics before settling into a gnawing, wheezing modus that carries the piece through.

While much of the material of this ilk doesn't necessarily give itself away easily, this is doubly if not triply true of Enos Slaughter. As it stands, links to constituent parts' other gigs remain tangential at best, for the sound these three cook up is their own distorted, homebrew that doesn't immediately call to mind anything. There are individual sounds and passages here that are worthy of note, and yet at the same time one would be hard-pressed to find a way to tie it all together. It feels more like an initial practice or an off-night at a show; there’s a great deal of promise to be had in the various directions this trio wander off in, but their seeming inability to effect any sort of progression, be it logical or purely intuitive, hinders Saloth Sar.

By Michael Crumsho

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