Friday, 10 July 2020

Lovesong: False Native: Satan Salad

A few years back, when Di and I were involved in the Arizona music scene, we encountered a willowy young man, Daniel Vildosola. Dan, a Tucson native, was living in London, looking for some kind of angle. When we were introduced one Soho summer evening, he held a charming, angelic girlfriend and a beautiful blue guitar. He was in town to play at the legendary, but now defunct 12 Bar Club on Denmark Street. His gig: to accompany fellow Tusconian Brian Lopez, who was hustling for a solo career. Dan’s semi-acoustic jazz chordings and smart musicality seemed slightly out of kilter with the sawdust setting into which he’d been thrust. His sweet, callow nature, courtly manners and cherubic features set him apart from the regular shuffle. Here was a fledgling talent in search of a loftier stage.

Fast forward to last week: I got a call from Daniel. He had been playing guitar in HÆLOS, a 4 piece band, but wondered if I’d take a listen to a new musical project that he was working on with his cousin Aris Schwabe. ‘False Native’ was their moniker, ‘Satan Salad’ the beguiling title of their first single. The press release warned that we’d be “transported to a bad dream brimming with all that is sinister in the human condition”. I looked at the accompanying photo to see that Daniel’s wide-eyed gaze had been finessed to a steely stare. Seemed that he’d found his attitude. I wondered if a Giant Sand/Calexico hybrid was inevitable. I was promised “Tom Waits caught in a Mexican standoff with Nick Cave deep in the Sonoran Desert” and considered hiding under the bed, but instead fronted up the speakers and pressed ‘play’. I expected darkness but got light. No gothic rumble, but a light acoustic shuffle, the sweet, ghostly shimmer of pedal steel, sound-tracks a half-spoken vocal detailing the “anti-conformist ways of a troubled man”. What could have been sardonic is rendered satirical by the oblique lyric’s smart, crooked smile. They are detailing a rocky road but their hands are firmly on the wheel. The deftness of touch initially belies the subject matter, but there is a controlled knowingness that renders that dark tale authentic and alluring. ‘False Native’ suggests displacement, but they surely inhabit their world. Their idiosyncratic narratives and nimble arrangements, married to a parochial sense of place, reminds me more of fellow southerner Jim White than the more worldly Waits or Cave.

I’m intrigued to hear how this musical landscape will be developed into the promised ‘Rodeo Nights’ album. I suspect a rough concept will dovetail more dark tales. I’m in though: this is a beguiling debut that offers more light than darkness. Skillfully sourced, beautifully produced and perfectly rendered, ‘Satan Salad’ is sure to whet the appetite: focussed and succinct: perhaps promising more than it delivers but, in doing so, leaving us wanting more. This salad the perfect entrée then.

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