Rhythm & Views

Geoff Farina, Luther Gray, Dan Littleton

Geoff Farina was the man behind Karate and the Secret Stars; Daniel Littleton's from Ida; and Luther Gray played drums in Tsunami. Indie-rock credentials aside, New Salt, an instrumental two-guitar and drum (and sometimes harmonium) release from these three musicians is much more free jazz and Buddhist meditation than rock.

New Salt begins with "Harmonia": Littleton's harmonium calmly whirs while a guitar emits sitar-sounding chords every few beats, and Gray hits the cymbals for emphasis. Following that introduction, the title track moves into a jazzier realm, as Gray's drums dance around Farina and Littleton's haunting guitars. About three minutes in, though, the guitar takes a decidedly more psychedelic turn, and suddenly, New Salt is not something you listen to while doing relaxing yoga; it's something you listen to while doing relaxing marijuana. "Liquor Store" shifts back into more Asian realms, and the album continues to balance between meditations, always maintaining a slow tempo, keeping plenty of space between the notes and around each instrument.

A rendition of Charlie Haden's "Song for Che" tips back toward the free jazz, and by the end of the album, "Pouring Water on Stone" suggests a Zen contemplation. The harmonium, placed low in the mix, lulls as sticks are dragged across cymbals, the balance throughout New Salt epitomized by stable lows and unsettling highs. This may not be the sort of stuff one would expect from veterans of Karate, Tsunami and Ida, but sometimes even old-school indie folkies and popsters know their jazz--and can play it, too.