Friday, August 30, 2019

SALT, The Loneliness Of Clouds, 2019

Album Review

By Henry Lipput

SALT is a new group made up of both French and American musicians. In addition to Stéphane Schück on guitars, electric sitar, and keyboards, Fred Quentin on bass, and Benoît Lautridou on drums, there's the psych-pop maestro Anton Barbeau on guitars and keyboards and Ken Stringfellow on guitars, keyboards, and percussion.

Schück, Barbeau, and Stringellow first joined up in 2016 to support the recording of the late Scott Miller's last album Supercalifragilistic Game Theory. They were joined by Schück's old bandmates Quentin and Lautridou and, as SALT, they rehearsed in Berlin and Paris to developed The Loneliness of Clouds and recorded the album in Abbey Road studios with Stringfellow handling production duties.

You may be familiar with Barbeau and Stringfellow, the two Americans in the band. I've reviewed 2016's Magic Act and last year's Natural Causes by Barbeau for CoolDad; and he played on, wrote, and produced the fantastic Little World album for the wonderful Allyson Seconds. Stringfellow was part of The Posies who released some very fine albums in the 90s and beyond including the vocally amazing Dear 23. In addition to supporting R.E.M. on tour, he and his Posies partner Ken Auer joined Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens in the Big Star reboot.

The Loneliness of Clouds is very much a group effort, but because Barbeau translated and co-wrote the lyrics with Schück and sings lead on almost every track, it sometimes seems that this is another Anton release. It sure points in that direction with song titles like "Blast With Happy Guru," "Miracle Soul Pow(d)er," and "Shiny Leather Sun." 

The main difference between Barbeau's other albums and The Loneliness of Clouds is that SALT is a proper group and not Barbeau leading a group of side men (if you want to refer to the likes of former XTC songwriter and bass player and now half of TC&I Colin Molding and Robbie McIntosh of Pretenders and a stint with Paul McCartney as sidemen). This is a side to Barbeau that we don't often see or hear, and it would be great to have SALT take to the road.

SALT is a terrific band and has a Beatles and XTC vibe drawing from records like Revolver and Oranges and Lemons as well some recognizable Barbeau sounds. No matter what he's singing Barbeau has distinctive phrasing, and this even feeds into Stringfellow's vocals on "Blast With Happy Guru" which becomes a sprawling psychedelic workout and highlights the power and range of SALT the band.

The Loneliness of Clouds is out now on Beehive.

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