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    Posted: August 27 2014 at 11:26
A Review from

Nowadays it's much easier to record your own music and get it out into the world than in the past. However positive this might be for the musicians involved, you have to consider that not everybody has grown to a professional production level that will lead to a good sounding product. Unfortunately therefore, many releases come out that shouldn't have seen the light of day. Releases that aren't yet ready to review or just get a low rating score, despite all the effort that was put into them. Thank God there are enough musicians around that know how good their music is, and dare to take it out of their garage, bedroom or other any recording location. One of those acts that are, in my opinion, ready to get a real record deal are Salander; a British duo consisting of Dave Curnow (lead guitars, rhythm guitars, bowed guitar, vocals) and Dave Smith (keyboards, acoustic guitars, rhythm guitars, bass, drum-programming, vocals). They already impressed me with their former release Crash Course For Dessert (see review); a release that came out earlier this year. Now, only a couple of months later, I had the chance to hear their new musical effort too, so let me introduce you all to: STENDEC.

Once again both musicians, were involved in writing, performing and producing all the music on this release. A release which contains seven excellent tracks. All of the same high level and once again with several musical influences which might have been taken from a diverse range of acts like, for example, Pink Floyd. Just listen to the excellent guitar parts throughout the entire album and you'll know what I'm talking about. Also, Steven Wilson and his band Porcupine Tree came to mind, as I noticed on, for instance, the opening piece Pearls Upon A Crown. A band such as Barclay James Harvest could have inspired them as well, as is audible on Zeitgeist, Controlled Flight Into Terrain and Situation Disorientation. The famous Fab Four, better known as The Beatles, are also never far away; especially on the aforementioned Controlled Flight Into Terrain; a track that certainly belongs to the highlights on STENDEC. This is mainly due to the fact of its strong instrumental parts, with lots of awesome solos, performed on synths and electric guitar, but that's something I could say about each individual piece on this release. On each song the two Daves shine on their instruments; maybe even more than on their predecessor.

This predecessor was a true concept album, something which isn't that much the case on this new release, but you could say the lyrics do have an overall theme of love and loss.

Well, Crash Course For Dessert already impressed me when I heard it for the very first time. Maybe STENDEC impressed me even more after listening to it several times. The album really started to grow on me after a while and I guess those are the ones you love the most. Anybody who loves the music made earlier by this act, should try to check out Salanders's website. You'll probably be impressed as much as I was. Hopefully a serious record label will pick them up very soon! They certainly deserve it!

**** Henri Strik (edited by Esther Ladiges)

A review of Salander, “STENDEC” (2014, independent release). Tracks: Pearls Upon a Crown; Book of Lies; Ever After; Hypothesis 11/8; Situation Disorientation; Controlled Flight Into Terrain; and Zeitgeist. Total time: 65 minutes. Recommendation: HIGHEST; MUST OWN

Salander's second album of 2014: STENDEC. Even better than the amazing first album.
Salander’s second album of 2014: STENDEC. Even better than the amazing first album.

From the moment I first heard “CRASH COURSE FOR DESSERT” by Salander, I knew I not only loved the music, but I also knew I would love the musicians as well.

And, so it came to pass.

A rather significant part of my 2014 has been the sheer joy of getting to know Dave Smith, one of the two Daves who make up Salander. Sadly, I’ve not had the chance to get to know Dave Curnow, the other Dave, but I trust the judgment of the first Dave. So, per my respect of Dave, Dave must also be great.

Ok, now I’m getting confused.

There are a thousand things to appreciate about Salander. First, the level of professional artistry is as good as it gets. The two Daves not only play each of the instruments on the album, they do so with elegance and perfectionism.

Second, the lyrics move and flow powerfully as an integral part of the entire art. These are not add ons, nor are they the rock equivalent of an “um” or an “err”: “baby, baby.” No, these are fine, deep, thoughtful words integrated with the notes and the lines.

Salander and the two Daves: Words, notes, lines.

Third, Salander are willing to linger. That is, they take their time to build their art, to build anticipation, and to explore an idea. Rushed, hurried, and superficial are not descriptions applicable to anything this extraordinary band does.

Beginning with Spirit of Eden-esque sounds of nature, cries, pings, wind, and waves, the opening track, “Pearls Upon a Crown,” lingers and hovers for almost six full minutes. Very Talk Talkish, it also reminds me of the best of Pure Reason Revolution and Spiritualized. Space rock atmospherics at its best. A gorgeous Gilmour-like guitar comes at 2.59 into the music, but no vocals emerge until 5.57.

The words open with a Socratic moment: “Can you feel the power.” Essentially, the Daves ask, how far can you allow your imagination to soar? And, will you trust your deepest and best part to another?

Regardless of style, Salander has invited you into their art. The choice to enter is yours. But, once you’ve accepted, there’s no turning back. Indeed, no mere sprinkling or christening here. They demand full immersion.

The second track, a bitter folkish wall of sound tale of deception, is as epic as the first track. At 11 minutes, “The Book of Lies” again shows Salander at its most diverse and epic.

The third track, a much sweeter (or so it seems, musically) take on life and music, “Ever After,” takes us back to the end of “Pearls.” Who do you trust, and how far are you willing to trust that person with what matters most to you?

Not surprisingly given its title, “Hypothesis 11/8,” the fourth track is instrumental and serves as the perfect interlude for this rather heavy album. The first minute has a Vangelis feel to it, and it could certainly serve as the cinematic soundscape to much of Blade Runner. The final three minutes of the four-minute track allow the two Daves to demonstrate their excellence at drums, bass, and guitar. This is really prog at its finest. Listening to this track for the twentieth time or so, I’m still reminded of Cosmograf in terms of expertise and craft.

“Situation disorientation,” the fifth track, follows the interlude with more atmospherics slowly resolving into an angsty and contemplative space rock song, pulsating and pounding by its end. The lyrics swirl around a love affair gone terribly wrong, with the protagonist plagued with guilt, pride, and doubt.

The longest song of the album, “Controlled Flight Into Terrain,” comes in at just under fourteen minutes. The Daves have broken it into four sections, the name of the album coming from section three, STENDEC. Interestingly enough, STENDEC was the last word coming from a Chilean plane that mysteriously disappeared in 1947. Over the last seventy years, STENDEC has become synonymous with UFO abduction. The story and riddle of the word fits perfectly with the themes of the album: confusion, gravitas, and loss. Section III, STENDEC, is perfectly creepy, spooky, and claustrophobic. It gives me chills with every listen.

The album concludes with “Zeitgeist,” a tune that could have come out of the best of rock’s moment of New Wave in the early 1980s and the walls of sound of the end of that decade. As with Salander songs, the vocals are captivating, demanding the full attention of the listener. The song’s lyrics deal with the mystery of time and the loss of the past without surety of the future. Rather brilliantly, Salander presents a wall of sound, full of anxiety, with heavy but tasteful guitar and a lush angelic background soundscape. Of all the songs here, this is the most reminiscent of the best of their first album.

I’ve had a copy of STENDEC for almost two months, and I’m sorry I’ve not had the chance to review it before now. But, it’s an incredibly important album, and it deserves as much attention as possible, inside and outside of the prog community. Without question, this is one of the best albums of the year. No person who loves prog or music should not include this in her or his collection. Certainly, a must own.

STENDEC also caught me by surprise, coming out so closely following the release of CRASH COURSE. I gave CRASH COURSE my highest recommendation. Amazingly enough, STENDEC is even better, as it’s even deeper and more coherent as an album. Even after 20 or so listens, I’m still stunned by its excellence and the ability to draw me into and immerse myself in the album. While I don’t want to seem greedy, it would be an understatement to state: I can’t wait to see what album three will bring.
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