Demos of the Week | Juniper Rising & Salt Flat
By Erika Elizabeth
I work at a used record store in a college town, which means I’ve gotten fairly used to a steady influx of maladjusted teenage burnouts looking for beat-up Led Zeppelin records and Pink Floyd posters for their bongwater-stained dorm rooms. And most of us would feel pretty secure looking on at those kids as painfully behind the times, but watching so many of my friends get worked up over Black Flag reunion tours or new My Bloody Valentine albums this past week has been making me feel more and more like I’m behind the counter at the record store all over again.
It’s frustrating, though not at all surprising, to see all of this attention paid to the established, the canonized, the familiar, when there’s so much happening for the first time in the NOW that goes without comment – the future Black Flags that you can see now for five bucks in some shitty basement with 10 other people, the modern My Bloody Valentines who are putting out tapes that don’t bring the internet to a grinding halt when the news of their release is announced.
I’ve been wanting to do a sort of companion feature to the Single of the Week that the esteemed Mike Turner and I have been doing on a much-less-than-weekly basis, or at least a mutation of it – one that would focus on things that are still somewhat ephemeral in the sense that they haven’t been committed to a piece of physical vinyl yet, but are maybe hanging out in some dimly-lit hallway of the internet as a bunch of downloadable zeroes and ones, or on a cassette copied in a small edition of 50 because more and more people would have to make a point of traveling to the thrift store to acquire the equipment necessary to play it.
So here’s the first installment (suggestions for a snappier title welcome). Is this a worthwhile venture? I’d hope so. At least I won’t break the internet with it.
I was born and raised in Texas, which, if I’m to believe the impressions of most of the people I meet, means I should probably have some sort of genetic predisposition toward country and western music. Juniper Rising’s interpretation of the form speaks far more to me than the stereotypical Southern strain, though – this is country music for the city’s dark alleys and filthy gutters, inspired as much by the Dolly and Tammy as it is by the psychedelic nuggets of the 60s and the stripped down Crampsian garage revival of the 80s. There’s just the right amount of surfy guitar twang and reverbed vocals to please the neo-girl group worshippers out there, plus as much lap steel as you can get away with being from Brooklyn without making a total asshole of yourself. Right now, these songs only exist in the digital realm, but a proper cassette is coming out soon on Burger Records. Aside: Holly (vocals/guitar) and Diana (drums) were two-thirds of the recently defunct American Sun, who occupied a rawer, more punk-informed corner of the same garage (the one with all of the Dead Moon records).
Part of what makes Salt Flat so great is how awkward and rough around the edges they are at times, and honestly, that’s how the best pop music usually is. It’s raw, it’s honest, pimples and all. The drums stutter and the vocals crack and the recording is just barely on the audible side of muddy, but the boy/girl harmonies are so sweet and the “ahhh ahhh ahhhs” in the background are so unassuming and the guitars are have that patented early 90s fuzz and if you close your eyes for a minute, it’s almost like you’re listening to some third generation dubbed cassette of a long-lost Rose Melberg band. They’re offering you a nine-song demo tape for about what it would cost you to score a hand-me-down, tape-capable boombox, which you should really do anyway. Aside: Christine from Salt Flat is also in Sourpatch, another posse of Bay Area popsmiths who get me right in my soft, lo-fidelity heart.