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Andy Webb
Retired Admin
4 stars Any band takes a risk when they experiment with music. Music, an art that has been tested in nearly every way, shape, form, and style in nearly every conception of the human imagination, never ceases to transform itself in the face of the listener. So, when any band takes the common understanding of rock music and starts to play with it, my first reaction is to take the music with a grain of salt (small pun). However, luckily the Norwegian band SOT (short for "Salt of Tusj," these guys seem to like salt), their experimentation with avant-garde structures is easily digestible. The band's debut, Kind of Saltz, is an eclectic blend of many different styles mashed together tastefully to make a very interesting album from this young band of talented musicians. The band, formed of three experienced Norwegian musicians, a guitarist, a drummer, and, uniquely, a tubist, effortlessly combine the three guys' many influences, ranging from jazz to folk to metal to pop to much more in between to make a very unique sound.

At first glance the music seemed to be a combination of the dissonant ferocity of Orthrelm, the aggressive and avant tendencies of Koenjihyakkei, and some jazzy folk artist that I haven't discovered yet. Further inspection led me to discover a bit of influence from Zu, Univers Zero, and other avant flavors. But of course the music has sounds that personally I have yet to put my finger on where it came from. The widely eclectic and experimental style certainly keeps the listener on edge, and, on top of the all-encompassing sound, the band seems to have an almost attention deficit, as they switch from theme to theme as if with the breeze. The emphasis on complexity and odd time signatures makes the music a little difficult to keep track of, but overall the fast-paced action of the beat and instrumental agility makes it a nice joy ride.

With a tubist in the band, it's hard to not almost focus entirely upon the "odd" instrument in the mix. Indeed, the low-tuned brass is prevalent in many parts of the album, giving a great dynamic to the already diverse sound. While the brass bass is not always there, Lars Andreas Haug is always present in some form, whether in trumpet form, vocals, or indeed lending the signature low-end grumble of his tuba. Of course the rest of the band is in no way not present either! Skjalg Reithaug's intuitive and creative guitar lines create a fantastic harmony with Haug's varying instrumental contributions, and Anders Hunstad's rhythmic contributions to the album create the quintessential backbone to the entire album. One thing I always like to hear in an album is when each member truly has a quintessential role in the formation of the music on the album, and that quality is certainly present on Kind of Saltz.

Overall, I was very pleased by this album. It goes without saying that three professional musicians with nearly (if not over) 20 years' experience in the music industry will carry a degree of professionality in their recording and composing. While at times the music may seem quirky, the guys still keep it together instrumentally, melodically, and technically. The songs are well-arranged, tight, and extremely well-performed, displaying a strong sense of diversity and innovation. Away from all the technical critique, the album was a blast to explore, and hosts a myriad of multifaceted dynamics for the listener to discover. Whether a particular harmony between instruments is put together in a genius way or a whole swath of arrangements just fits perfectly, the album is chock full of many great moments put together very well in a cohesive and pleasurable way. 4 stars.

Report this review (#594470)
Posted Thursday, December 22, 2011 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
4 stars 'Kind Of Saltz' - SOT (8/10)

Salt is a useful thing. Historically, it was used as an imperial currency, and today, we use it to season fries. Salt now also has the distinction of being the apparent inspiration between Salt of Tusj, a remarkable new act from Norway. Better known as SOT, this left-of-centre jazz trio's debut album 'Kind Of Saltz' dropped at the end of 2011, and what a way to wrap up the year it is. Although jazz fusion is a fairly well-traversed style of music now, SOT replaces the typical trumpet or saxophone fare with a tuba. Combining that with an already experimental sensibility, 'Kind Of Saltz' is both fun and challenging. It is good to hear such a unique take on jazz.

SOT will undoubtedly draw comparisons between other acts who pursue an avant-jazz format. The apocalyptic quirk of Univers Zero first comes to mind, but SOT is an entity of their own. Thanks in large part to the tuba playing of Lars Andreas Haug, SOT is a sound of jazz fusion, taken from a different angle. Although the tuba is the defining trait of this band's music, each band member brings something equal to the table. Skjalg Reithaug's guitar tone borders on metal at times, and Anders Hunstad is not afraid to caffeinate his jazzy drum patterns with an equal measure of energy and charm that conjures images of Animal from The Muppets. Much of SOT's sound goes down this avant-garde, energetic route, although there are also times where they gear their sound towards something softer. These dynamic changes are often quite drastic; for one, the prog freakout track 'Støtten' is pushed up together with the mellowed out 'End Of Saltz'.

SOT does tend to travel around the board, but 'Kind Of Saltz' has a solid sense of flow and cohesion to it. Reithaug's guitar tone does not change all that much throughout the album, sticking primarily to a pair of clean, or distorted tones. The production is consistent, but dry and lacking resonance, and this is one of the few weaker areas of the album. Although there are usually a couple of recurring ideas floating around in each song, much of the playlength shows the band members playing off each other, and this is the primary strength that SOT boasts. Although some of the songwriting can feel jagged and transitions between ideas rough in patches, the musicians' 20 years-plus experience making music is very evident. Although the instrumental lines aren't technically boggling on their own, the fact that SOT are able to perform so tightly as a group makes 'Kind Of Saltz' work.

Report this review (#595822)
Posted Sunday, December 25, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars The debut album from this Norwegian band who consists of members with 20+ years long experience from the music scene. But Sot is a total new entity again.

King Of Saltz is a stewing pot of metal riffs, tijuana mexican jazz, samples, normal jazz, bebop, funk and most of all; avant-garde/RIO. The music is performed with tuba (which doubles up as bass too), guitars and drums.

The result is a heady album with a lot of superb melodies, twists and turns. Not to mention, the many different moods which prevails through the album. The gloom is created by the tuba and the sometimes distorted guitars. The tivoli feeling is created by some nifty guitar picking and the tuba too. That means this album is one a heck of a ride and a great album which should appeal to all avant-garde/RIO fans out there. I am hugely enjoying this album.

4 stars

Report this review (#624494)
Posted Wednesday, February 1, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars I love it when a band arrives on the scene with a statement this strong. Kind of Saltz, the debut album by SOT (Salt of Tusj), demonstrates a band in fine control of their instruments, a variety of styles, AND a sense of caring for the listener as opposed to just showing off. The lineup is guitars, drums and tuba - definitely a unique sort of power trio, but one that works quite well!

Opening track "Schlatan" makes an important statement: Turn the volume up and listen. This is complex, dense music that borrows heavily from the background of the band: metal, jazz, and pop - but especially from the metal and jazz aspects. But this is in no way jazz-metal, despite the heaviness and jazzy music; the start-stop and jarring tempo/mood changes seat these guys comfortably in the avant-prog realm that they have landed in.

At their most engaging, SOT are frantic and heavy, but that is not the only ingredient to their sound. Their compositions show a great understanding of various moods and how to contrast them effectively; the quieter part in the middle of Saltpetersyre, with its lovely horn lead and contemplative guitar accompaniment is a perfect example of how this band can create more soulful moments; and the juxtaposition between that and the frenetic parts it is sandwiched between only emphasize it's value.

(In general), I have found with this album that the guitar tends to lead in the higher energy parts and the tuba plays in the more soulful parts. This is a great formula that really demonstrates the strengths both of the players and the different textures they are able to create. All of this is underpinned by the excellent drumming of Anders Hunstad, who manages to make all the crazy time shifts (both temp and signature) followable.

The only thing I'm not quite sure about is what is with all the salt; I am sure there is some history or story there. Either way, it shows up in the bands name, the albums name, and in several track names.

Report this review (#629680)
Posted Friday, February 10, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Although all of the musicians in SOT have had quite a bit of experience in the Scandinavian musical landscape, Kind of Saltz is their first recorded effort as a collective unit. And what an impressive debut it is! SOT is a band that's tough to put your finger on, and their arousing blend of jazz, metal, avant-garde, and progressive rock is nothing less than mind-boggling. Very much like some of Frank Zappa's more zany works, the music on Kind of Saltz spans numerous genres through quirky and seemingly disjointed compositions, and yet they somehow sound cohesive and memorable. SOT has delighted listeners with their very unique and interesting debut, and fans of forward-thinking music would be doing themselves a major disservice by not giving it a spin.

On Kind of Saltz, SOT's sound is best described as a meeting point between jazz fusion, avant-garde rock, instrumental metal, and even touches of post rock - while the overall tone of the album is rather dark at times, the frenzied melodies and spastic arrangements often reveal a rather quirky atmosphere. In this regard (as well as a few others), SOT's music sounds like an up-to-date, heavier version of The Mothers of Invention. The music is quite complex at times, deceivingly melodic, and captivating throughout the album's entire duration. Part of the reason why Kind of Saltz is such a successful effort is that, stylistically, I can't think of any other act who does quite what SOT does. Their enticing avant-garde take on jazz fusion and metal has never been previously done in this sort of fashion, and I think this is at least partially do to the rather odd instrumentation by rock music standards. Including Lars Andreas Haug's tuba playing is without doubt a rather odd decision, but I think it works perfectly. This under-appreciated instrument adds a dimension to SOT's music that couldn't have been obtained using a standard 'bass-guitar-drums' format, and this strange (yet highly successful) choice of instrumentation is yet another thing that sets Kind of Saltz apart from anything else out there.

After just one listen to Kind of Saltz, it goes without saying that the other two-thirds of SOT also do their jobs exceptionally well. Skjalg Reithaug's guitar work is the centerpoint for many of the compositions here, and his fluid soloing and rock-solid riff delivery is always interesting and well-executed. Anders Hunstad's drumming often veers on the complex and intricate side, and he always plays these intricacies with complete precision - overall, it's tough to label SOT as anything but an extremely tight, well-rehearsed trio.

The instrumentation isn't limited just to tuba, guitar, and drums either, as I also spotted some keyboards, trumpet, and vocals (delivered in a scat-singing sort of way) before Kind of Saltz was over. Overall, this is a varied and immensely entertaining listen that all fans of experimental progressive rock should check out sooner rather than later. I always have a great time when I give Kind of Saltz a listen, and I have a pretty good feeling most other readers will as well. This is an excellent debut from SOT - I'm definitely curious to hear more!

Report this review (#690842)
Posted Monday, March 26, 2012 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Kind of Saltz" is the debut full-length studio album by Norwegian avant garde rock/metal act SOT. The album was released in late 2011 through Sotanic Sounds. SOT consists of three very seasoned musicians in Skjalg Reithaug, Anders Hunstad and Lars Andreas Haug, who during the last 20 years have been involved in a wide plethora of projects ranging from pop music to jazz to progressive rock and avant garde.

...the main instrumentation on the album are guitar, drums and tuba. Besides those three main instruments the music is occasionally coloured by instruments like saxophone, trumpet, trombone, guitar synth, piano and some no word/lyrics vocals. The latter work more like an instrument than "regular" vocals. While all instruments add to the soundscape, it´s the presence of the tuba that really sets SOT apart from most other acts. I had no idea tuba playing could sound this cool. Most of the time tuba player Lars Andreas Haug lays down some really wicked basslines on the tuba to compensate for the fact that the lineup doesn´t feature a bassist, but he often add other "non bass" type sounds to the music too.

Despite being fairly complex and challenging, the music is actually surprisingly accessible. That´s not exactly something that can be said about most avant garde rock/metal releases. I hear influences from jazz, chamber classical, avant garde rock/metal and more than a nod towards Frank Zappa. Even though the music is mostly instrumental there´s still a great humour/silly element present and a strong sense that these three guys are having great fun.

"Kind of Saltz" features a strong organic sound production, which further enhances the listening experience. That coupled with the outstanding musicianship and the adventurous songwriting make "Kind of Saltz" quite the enjoyable album. It´s the kind of release where I´m kept on my toes all the way through the playing time. New stylistic elements are introduced constantly and you never know where the songs go. While that may sound chaotic, in reality that´s far from the truth. SOT are skilled songwriters who manage to keep the songs together and incorporate hooks and recognisable elements. A 4 star (80%) rating is fully deserved.

Report this review (#705250)
Posted Monday, April 2, 2012 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
4 stars SOT are a dynamic trio of avant jazz metal innovators, hailing from Norway, who have released a vigorous spirited debut, "Kind of Saltz". The orgiastic music jumps in spasms with blocks of jazz epilepsy, and then entrances in the next stanza with lucid sinuous strands of tranquillity. The guitars are always on hand to bring the melodic lines from the hand of Skjalg Reithaug. The tempos are everchanging and jolt the ear driven by sporadic percussion by Anders Hunstad. The final augmentation is the low ominous tones of the tuba expertly played by Lars Andreas Haug. It is perhaps this instrument alone that elevates the music above the average band, as there are few bands who use the tuba with such finesse. As a Euphonium player from the past myself, I can really appreciate the dexterity of the tuba playing, knowing how difficult it is to handle that brutish brass monster.

The album is instrumental apart from some odd Magma like vocal intonations that come across as part of the music rather than lyrics as such. Occasionally there are some odd dialogue effects and whimsical scat vocals similar to Focus' Thisj at times. The tracks tend to utilise a variety of styles rather than maintaining the one, and this is essential to the development of the music and the sheer exploratory nature of the band. At one place you may be blasted with spasmodic jerks of guitar and then on the next track there will be passages of calm tuba. There is an infectious exuberance in the sound, a band that is clearly inspired and content to play the way they feel in a non-conformist manner, and this is refreshing.

The music is out of the box in tracks such as 'Schlatan' that opens with a cavalcade of boisterous brass seizures, and guitar distortion, until it settles on a semblance of a melody before motoring back to jump start expulsions; simply delirious wake up music. The lead break is killer and then there is a brass embellishment replacing a bassline, sounding a bit like the aliens in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind". The tempo slows down for a time until we return to the breakneck speed of the opening and then it ends abruptly; astounding music.

Some tracks are quirky and short, others are more complex and avant. It never gets too much for the ear and grows on you after a few listens. The hammering guitar riffs are off the scale in places but it is the tuba that always appeases my senses. It is such an odd instrument to hear in this style of music but it seems to work perfectly and the album would not be as endearing without it.

'End of Saltz' is perhaps the highlight of the album, opening with a familiar guitar melody sounding like the harmonics in the intro of Metallica's 'Sanitarium'. Then it moves into the jazz odyssey of outlandish avant prog, it never wears out its welcome as the tracks do not meander on one rhythm for too long, but rather lock into a melody or a densely layered time sig, and then get out without fanfare. SOT know how to bludgeon the listener with hammering riffs, and then pull back to allow the instruments to breathe sailing on the crest of a soundwave.

'Tzar Saltan' is another stand out track with an Arabian flavour initially, and then it spirals wildly into fast outbursts. It then slows back to the opening melody. Without warning, it screeches back into the frenetic tempo, before jumping to a metal rhythm and then some quirky melodies that are humorously familiar. It moves into a strong rock guitar figure, and then some high piercing vocals evolve into a new instrument; this is where I am reminded of the work of Thisj from Focus. It is a wonderful way to close the album.

The packaging is very intriguing consisting of a front cover of a salt factory expelling some kind of billowing smoke. An emu screams in terror in the foreground. The factory is oddly designed with tuba bells on either side and an enigmatic parlophone phonogram bell in the middle. This same bell appears on each illustration in the booklet. In the inner sleeve we see that the factory has lifted off as a rocket and is joining its airborne state along with some hot air balloons in the whitened sky. The picture hidden by the CD shows the phonogram bell attached to a cart in some abandoned warehouse with some emus wandering around. The back cover portrays the darkened image of the band. It is an effective design and so compelling that I wished there had been more pages to enjoy.

Overall, "Kind of Saltz" is a powerhouse debut from this adventurous trio, and the bold and brash approach to the music is inspirational. The music is replete with weird and jagged guitar phrases, enmeshed with some hyperactive drum time signatures that move well outside the standard 4/4 rock signature, and punctuated by effervescent tuba and vocals. It is tight, punchy and easy to enjoy. I recommend it for its inventive slant on the music that is always brimming over with complexity and innovation.

Report this review (#902980)
Posted Thursday, January 31, 2013 | Review Permalink
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
4 stars When SOT were suggested for inclusion, long time ago, I immediately liked the samples and gave my vote. Then I have forgotten them until I have seen a review on the home page. Now I'm happy to suggest this excellent album to everybody likes non-trivial music, a bit of experimentation and good musicianship. This is not a challenging album. Of course it's not very radio-friendly but I'm sure that rock specialized radios wouldn't have problems in putting some of the songs on air.

This is a trio, and as everybody knows, a trio is the most difficult line to play in from a technical point of view, and the first thing which hits the ears is the use of Tuba instead of bass. Not as strange as it could seem, it contributes in giving a jazz accent to what I can consider eclectic prog. It's curious that the music reminds me to the great Pekka Pohjola and the Bass is totally missing.

I love the hard intro and the challenging signature of "Schlatan", the "Canterbury influence of "Tusjpan" and the grotesque, a little Oldieldish "Bartof".

The lazy tempo of "Follower" and its mixture of jazz and heaviness is exciting, "Saltpetersyre" is between Crimson and Yes, and hearing the tuba in unison with the guitar is amazing.

"Dan Avsagde" is a short Tuba solo followed by "Statten" which is one of the most challenging tracks, between chamber rock and jazz. Very tasty but not easy. Its calm and quiet second half is very ambient and its jazzy final is exciting.

The album proceeds with "End Of Saltz", reminding me of Soft Machine but with a Floydian guitar and the omnipresent Tuba. Short but great. "Oftebrua" is more RIO oriented, a track which totally justifies the inclusion of SOT in this subgenre, but still with a Canterbury flavor . A lovely track with a fantastic jazz piano.

The album is closed by the longest track: "Tzar Saltan". It's a track made of many different things tied together, but not just a patchwork. Even if the structure seems to be not recursive, it flows without sudden breaks. Also on this track, the unison of Guitar and Tuba is remarkable, especially when the guitar is distorted and heavy.

A 4.5 stars album. I rate it with 4 by now but I could change my mind with the time. Strongly suggested.

Report this review (#928288)
Posted Monday, March 11, 2013 | Review Permalink
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars It's very hard to know where to begin with the knockout debut album from Norway trio Sot! Comprised of three musicians with 20 years experience in a diverse range of musical styles, one of them a tuba player that replaces the need for a bass player (which instantly makes the listener raise an eyebrow!), the band tears through a bafflingly eclectic amount of genres and styles to make a huge musical statement. How to describe it...take the slightly unnerving atmosphere of an RIO/Avant prog band, the spasmodic twists and turns of Frank Zappa, the hyperactive kinetic attack of math rock, then throw in a pinch of the best of Canterbury, loopy jazz diversions, metallic riffing, all topped off with a love of all things King Crimson and you might have your foot in the door to understanding what the band is up to here. All of these are present right from the first track, tightly played with an exhausting energy, and it just even gets better from there.

Percolating tuba pumps through the slightly tense middle-eastern motives that run around `Tusjpan', a mix of `Power To Believe'-era King Crimson with it's maddening repetitive and almost metallic melodies, quirky synth solos, dialogue fragments and powerful rattling drumming. Some very spiky energy on this one, and despite the mix of directions, it all hangs together beautifully.

The two distinct sections of `Follower' brings an early album highlight, at first a more serious and sedate piece with a somber guitar melody, steady drumming, and wordless sighed female vocals. This all creates a very moody reflective atmosphere before an abrupt and sudden Gong-like cut-in plus some heavy brooding menace before eventually drifting back to the first part with an added sorrowful trumpet outro. Great stuff.

`Saltpetersyre' is a crunching metal blast spiced up with waffling jazzy tuba, devil-may-care spiraling guitar fury and raging drumwork.

`Stotten' is deeply and darkly funky one minute, slowly grooving, unnerving and hypnotic the next, with a psychedelic synth solo the Ozric Tentacles would be very proud of in the middle and a drifting ambient diversion thrown in for good measure too. The bits where the band holds back and tones things down like this work extremely well, so perhaps even more of this next time!

While `Oftebrua' is bookended with a furious metallic snap, the jazzy drumming, cooing Richard Sinclair-like sighed vocals and fuzzy electric piano soloing is the stuff Canterbury dreams are made of!

The longer finale track `Tzar Saltan' showcase some incredibly tight group playing that incorporates everything from grooving heavy metal malevolence, icy maddening Crimson atmospheres, comical circus-like loopiness and even some warped scat vocalizing that Focus would be proud of.

There's a number of shorter pieces that also work exceedingly well. I suspect Gong's Daevid Allen would be proud of the maniacal and frantic energy of the loopy hell-raising `Bartof', while the ambient `Den Avsagde' provides a soulful and haunting respite from the bluster of much of the rest of the album. The emotional connection you'll make with the laid back guitar of `End of Saltz' is something you'd expect from King Crimson's Adrian Belew, it sounds like nothing else here and is yet another real high point.

Some might be put off by the run-through of so many varied sounds, but I suspect most will be knocked back and dazzled by what they are hearing. You won't be witness a more unpredictable album anytime soon, and it's bands like this that really lead the direction for the future of truly progressive music. Sure, plenty of us prog fans enjoy a new album from one of the vintage legends, or from some established later acts, but the survival of our favourite genre is dependent on nurturing, appreciating and supporting promising bands such as Sot.

Highly recommended!

Report this review (#940977)
Posted Sunday, April 7, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars If Porcupine Tree dreamed a Tuba in Zeuhl and met Metallica along the way.....

An eclectic Avant Garde effort by Oslo's trio SOT. "Kind Of Saltz" 2011, is masterfully performed in all the extension of the word, yet composition wise it is a bit short of being that unique.

After all, the Tuba as such is usually considered and underestimated, as an "odd" and "cheap/humor" instrument in all kind of music environments.

But here in the open-minded RiO/AV prog sub-genre, it is as always, quiet welcomed, as any other kind of "misfit" instrument in the maistream music world.

OK!, After the thrill of listening to Of's Tuba counterpointing to perfection every rhythm of Tusj's drumming, and especially to the riffs and licks of the low-keyed but masterful Salt, the electric guitar player, I can not help but make some music associations and in fact I am not the only one as far as other SOT reviewers.

Yet I chose the "Porcupiners" because SOT's musical language is quiet "refined", as opposed to early Zappa or Robert Fripp's King Crimson (or even Mahavishnu O.), who were more focused on perfection through less Post/Math clean-cut manners and through rougher and more natural ways , like the kind of refinement Steven Wilson and company did later with those same influences.

Metallica because this kind of electric guitar full chords reminds me of them and finally Zeuhl, because the few singing is unintelligible.

All in all a highly promising first record which blends Jazz with Metal, in a very Rock in Opposition syncopated rhythm language, but also in electric guitar post/math's space/psychedelia atmospheres. With touches of angry riffs and delicate melodies (or both), which contrasts and enhances the perfect-pitch performances.

Adding to that a precise dossage of humor, this effort is well worth ****4 PA stars.

Report this review (#1226350)
Posted Tuesday, July 29, 2014 | Review Permalink

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