Chris Murphy

Salton Songs: Electric Violin Music

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Part of a conceptually unified series of albums put out in 2004 and 2005 by Kufala Recordings, Salton Songs is subtitled Electric Violin Music. It's the most conventionally pop-oriented disc of the lot, setting the steely whine of Chris Murphy's subtly electrified lead instrument against synth-heavy instrumental backings that borrow about equally from the not-as-dissimilar-as-one-might-think world of '70s progressive rock and present-day downtempo electronica. Murphy's solos on the album's most immediately catchy track, "Reactor," might put the historically minded listener in mind of the more rococo edges of European psychedelia and prog, but the dance-oriented beats and buzzing synths are thoroughly up to date. Similarly, the opening "Shallow Water" owes as much to the Orb's ambient house grooves as "Cane Sugar" does to David Cross' frenetic violin on Larks' Tongues in Aspic-era King Crimson. Although the guitars and keyboards throughout Salton Songs are heavily treated with reverb and other forms of sonic processing, Murphy's violins are left relatively unadorned throughout the album other than the occasional judicious application of echo, which gives the album a curious tension between the traditional and the experimental, an edge that helps put over songs that might otherwise slide too far over the line into fusionesque easy listening.

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