Pink Saliva

Tropical Fun & General Lightness
Sono Sordo S02

By Ken Waxman

Don’t be fooled by the tile of this album by Montreal band Pink Saliva (PS) The two-CD set is anything but light and fun. That’s because the 24-tracks consist of moderato-paced oscillating drones, percussion pivots and brass squeals that in a (Morton) Feldman-like fashion unfold slowly while squirming forward. On the other hand, band members Alexandre St-Onge who plays electric bass and electronics; Michel F. Côté, whose skill encompasses percussion, steel guitar and all manner of electronics; and Ellwood Epps, who varies his trumpet sound with a series of mutes; are canny enough to limit their compositions to between two and four minutes.

Overall, the tunes’ appeal is in how precisely like light bulbs in a socket, the musicians’ ideas adhere and subsequently illuminate. For instance a track such as “Mario & Salvio” is measured out in double bass thumps, making rhythmic sense of brass squeaks and hamster-wheel-like cranks, while “(J. von P.)” transforms from doom-laden drumming, as it’s opened up with molecule-sized brass bites to reach a theme of satisfying nonchalance. Like its subject matter, “Nixon à la television” shows that the band can be down and dirty in its exposition but by its conclusion use focused string pulses and relaxed drum pops to direct the narrative to soar sympathetically upwards.

Tropical Fun & General Lightness easily proves that the trio members are experts in creating the musical equivalent of Instagram photos or pointed tweets. But without appearing to be too old-fashioned, longer tracks with more extensive solos would demonstrate how well PS stacks up against the wok of earlier, innovative improvisers.

-For The Whole Note April 2017