By Eoin McKenna
“I’m Still in the Night” is the third EP from the Chicago-based band Salem. It features four tracks and is the follow-up to the band’s genre-defining second release “King Night.”
Salem is one of the first bands to explore the genre “witch house,” which features synthesizers, distorted vocals and samples, and dark themes.
The EP begins with the track “I’m Still in the Night,” featuring what appears to be chopped and screwed Native American chanting, electric guitar riffs, synth and Southern rap drum machine backing.
The song is sparse and does not feature much variation, yet the odd combination of sounds combined with the mood the track conveys makes “I’m Still in the Night” fascinating, showcasing Salem’s ability to combine sounds that would not be conventionally featured together.
The second song on the EP “Better off Alone” is a cover of the 1998 Alice Deejay hit track by the same name. The original track by Deejay is poppy, upbeat, and could be considered a traditional break up song.
Salem’s take on “Better off Alone” features echoey, slowed, and distorted vocals, backed by a sonic soundscape filled with a slowed drum loop and hazy synths. At times, the music and vocals fade into each other, creating a significantly more experimental sound than that of the original DJ track.
Lasting for a total of 7:18, “Better off Alone” is a track that gives the listener time to reflect and connect with the mood and atmosphere Salem is creating.
The third track on the EP “Krawl,” could be considered the centerpiece of the EP, featuring the signature chopped and screwed rap vocals from Salem lead, Jack Donoghue, with lyrics heavy on profanity, triumph, and what appears to be a conversation with an individual being held captive.
The backing track featured on “Krawl” is filled with droning distorted sirens, disorienting synths, and repetitive drum machines all coming together with Donoghue’s lyrics into one of Salem’s most manic and lively songs ever.
The final track on the EP is “Baby Ratta,” a song which distorts one line into music and lyrics. “Baby Ratta” also features a myriad of sound effects, such as animal sounds, weapon sound effects, and others, all coming together to create an ethereal track.
Once again, Salem effectively defines the genre of witch house on “I’m Still in the Night,” and while some parts of the album feel familiar, Salem knows how to keep the listeners surprised with fresh and innovative sounds.
Although the genre never saw mainstream popularity, we see its influence permeate to the largest cultural phenomenon today. Lead singer for Salem, Jack Donoghue, was a collaborator on Kanye West’s 2013 release, “Yeezus,” which features samples, electronic sounds, and drum lines that are distinctly witch house inspired.
And one could argue that those heavily influenced by the sound of “Yeezus,” like Texas rapper Travis $cott, carry the genres influence, and help it permeate the modern mainstream.
“I’m Still in the Night” is a 5/5 album, and is highly recommended to any fan of experimental music.