Syndrone: Salmataxia
Merck Records

Naturally one notices Salmataxia 's distinctive cartridge packaging first, and then the cover's elegant silver-black patterns whose small shapes resemble pharmaceutical tablets—a perfect visual analogue, as it turns out, to the dark and hallucinatory music that lies within. Like two other recent releases, FZV's Precedent and Traject's Strengir Hrynja, Salmataxia strives by implication to argue that the genre of claustrophobic machine-funk most definitively created by Autechre isn't yet played out.

Syndrone's sculpted electronica reminds one of Autechre's Confield and Phoenecia's Brownout, if not the Schematic style in general. It's a defiantly cold music whose surfaces possess a brilliant glossy sheen. One admires it the way one does some impeccably crafted and conceptually advanced weapon, impressed by the technology involved in its production but unsettled when witnessing it in action. The opener “Cachexia” immediately announces that Salmataxia won't be an exercise in easy listening as nightmarish, post-apocalyptic sounds conjure a terrifying picture of a blasted landscape. Pulverized pinging beats appear, bringing some semblance of structural stability to the detonating dissonance that blasts forth all around, until the piece implodes, collapses, and then segues into the calmer stutter of “Where For Art” and its sound field of alien clicks and distant moans. Percussive skitter, splatter-funk patterns, congealing electronics, and bone-crunching beats emerge throughout the disc's thirteen tracks in similar manner, although some calmer interludes like “Ntrld” intermittently appear.

Salmataxia is Travis Stewart's second Syndrone release for Merck following Triskaideka (in fact the Miami-based label's premiere outing) and is no doubt a more mature and accomplished statement in comparison to the first. The only problem with it is that, for all the respect it induces for the high quality of its construction and execution, it impresses less at the level of originality, so indebted is it to a style already established by others. While Salmataxia argues with conviction that the genre isn't entirely played out, what it needs to remain vital are original advances upon the existing style and an emotional range that extends beyond the darker, nightmarish moods that artists like Syndrone favour to an exorbitant degree.

May 2004