Knock Salem all you want, but it’s where chamber-folk outfit Typhoon got its start, and it’s the former home of experimental electropop duo Sustentacula. The band—singer David Rafn and drummer Ryan Stuewe—creates a sort of skewed, horizontal take of the bouncy electronic rock created by so many local acts. Its second record, Salem: City of Peace, is one of the more interesting things I’ve heard in 2011, combining synthesizers and dancey beats with tribal percussion and a strong set of songs.
Sustentacula has a deft understanding of rhythm and melody, and Salem: City of Peace
never pushes too far in the realm of pop, grounding itself in odd
lyrical left turns and looped acoustic instruments that are more Xiu Xiu
than Junior Boys. Its songs like “It Is Our Wish”—which features Rafn
singing “It is our wish to run wild like mascara”—beat with a real human
pulse. The whole record is rewarding, and despite a few questionable
song titles (I could do without a track called
“Totalitarian Love,” thanks), it proves we really should make sure the
conversation about Portland music gets extended by an extra 50 miles or
so. When is Salem going to get its own Best New Band issue?
SEE IT: Sustenacula plays at Doug Fir Lounge on Friday, Feb. 4, with Soft Tags, Massive Moth, Monoplane, and Julian Snow & Murmuring Pines. 9 pm. $5. 21+.