Though the individuals that make up the highly individual musical collective Arms are credited with attributes that make them appear like so many droids in tech-based company, Salt Notice is no Devo-type brave new electronica world. In fact, apart from some occasional turntablism as found on the hip-hop funk grooves of "Build On The 9s," Salt Notice is au natural indie rock, full of real instruments and real voices with something very definite to say.
Arms consists of Paul, a bassist, in fact, but a "Detail and Tangent" merchant on his liner note resume (there are indeed multifarious tangents that add to Salt's appeal, so thanks Paul). And there is Pete, who is a drummer, but admits to "Research and Development." Then there is Ben who is a guitarist and singer, but lists himself as influential on "Memory and Harmony." Ben brings shadowy politicization to the experimental ending of "Handcuff People," and takes the lead to let you know that the system has nothing on him in "Separation of Church and Spirit." Lastly but no less impressively, there is Izea - "Diplomatic Plate Tectonics"? - a very vocal brown dog who gets a word in here and there, adding to the equality-for-all sentiment apparent throughout the album.
Outside of its serious weighty documentation, the song comes off like a biblical epic from a stage musical a la Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. But that's okay, because what politics needs is a little lightening up, a little humor. Then we might be able to take it more seriously.
This is a dissidents stew not for the fainthearted or fickle pop fan. There's a basic freedom of speech and civil liberty ethic at work here that allows indie rock to mix with hip-hop and funk, and even the odd show tune. Or is that showstopper? Either way, seek out Salt Notice at cdbaby.com/arms.
Linda Laban is a freelance music and movie reviewer of some 10 years standing. Her current diversions: "The novel, darling." Naturally, darling.
This won't be for everyone. If you have any insecurity with religion, my recommendation is to skedaddle outta here or risk being offended. If you like to have your beliefs challenged as you listen to some pretty crunchy alternative music, then begin downloading now.
Vocalist Benson Sebastian rants rather than sings, but this isn't the rap-metal that's so common these days. The theme seems to be about pseudo-Christians who use religion to their own means and benefit. Sebastian's rants are broken up by a very singable and mosh-worthy chorus. I admit that this tune took me a few spins to sink in, but another band that has a similar political stance comes to mind: Midnight Oil. Yes, like Midnight Oil, Arms does not hesitate to share their beliefs with you. It's a damn good thing the music rocks along, or this could be hard to take.
Is it due to higher forms of electronic mediation that the spoken word is making a comeback? It was signifying in the ghetto streets, folk-rock poetry in the Village and rap in the oversized speakers of a Suzuki Samurai cruising the streets of Boston with the top down, blasting the neighborhood. Now, as another wave of word washes over us, we find M.L. Liebler setting beat to the beat with the Magic Poetry Band; John Trudell speaking his truth to the electrified pulse of native American drums; and Hakim Bey delivering immediatist rants to the accompaniment of temple bells and shakuhachi flute.
All of which brings us to this month's new album pick, Salt Notice. This is the second release by Arms, a trio comprising Benson Sebastian, Paul Winkler and Peter Caigan, with guest appearances by Sebastian's dog Izea. Yes, he's John's son (Benson, not the dog), but don't let the lineage prejudice your expectations. Salt Notice is highly political, socially and spiritually relevant and funky to boot, with rants like "Separation Of Church And Spirit," in which Sebastian harangues abusers of religious power: "The things you gave back to the people were by mistake! At best they were inevitable! The gifts you claimed to give you've been stealing for as long as you've existed! You made money out of our work and our resources, then try and sell it back to us already spent, as if it's a favor! As if we have the debt! Your responsibility always comes way late, way little and way loud. You repent only to save your ass, and only for as long as it takes to save it. Your power is illusory and our fear is temporary."
In "Judas & Company," Sebastian takes on racism and white guilt: "And white people are frantic to look ahead now `cause looking back makes us sick. New politics are invented defensively. We squirm with our parents' guilt and say shit like `I didn't do it, man. Don't blame me.' And we didn't, and most of us wouldn't but we've gotta take some responsibility. Because these days inaction is the most effective tool of hierarchy... the new slavery." "I listen to hip-hop music more than I listen to anything," says Sebastian, explaining his love of spoken word and fat-bottom music. "Two of the three members of ARMS are drummers." Sebastian's CD changer currently features Black Star, the new Public Enemy (There's A Poison Going On) and Dr. Israel.
Date: Sun, 20 Aug 2000 08:43:14 EDT
This is tom i met u at the Mobil in Danville pa. U gave me a copy of ur latest cd and asked me 2 drop u a line to tell u what i tyink. well to be honest with u i didnt really like it. i thought it sent a mixed message and was to say the least "different"
You can buy Salt Notice online at CDBaby.com.