[a.k.a. #9 & #10 of However Many I Care to List, in No Particular Order: Albums That I Have Listened To Both Intermittently And Incessantly, That I Imagine I Will Continue To Listen To Periodically For The Remainder Of My Life, Which I Consider To Be The Seminal Works Of (Or Most Accessible Entry Points To) Musical Artists Whom I Believe Have Been Woefully Underrated And Criminally Underrepresented In The Modern Music Canon At Large, And Which Also At Some Point While Playing I Have Very Likely Been Asked To Turn Down or Turn Off]
What do you do when you throw down the gauntlet of Swedish grunge and no one picks it up? If you are Nino Ramsby (FKA Nina Ramsby), you team up with two electronic-savvy producers and record a kick-ass drum and bass record.
Salt’s first and only proper album Auscultate appeared in 1996, and its first single, “Bluster,” made the rounds on MTV’s 120 minutes. They toured the US that year with fellow effects peddlers Local H, and I, then living in NYC, managed to catch them both at a small East Village club called Brownies.
By my count (gradually edging closer to complete historical precision, thanks to Songkick, setlist.fm, Concert Archives, and other everyday wonders of the internet in general), I’ve seen close to a thousand concerts of all sizes in my lifetime thus far, so it’s perfectly understandable if I don’t necessarily remember all of them (or even remember going to some of them). Salt’s set, however, remains fresh in my mind to this day. Rarely have I seen a band have so much fun and give so few fucks on stage, yet still sound so goddamned good. The all-too-brief recorded legacy Salt has left behind (including an album-length collection of worthy outtakes and B-sides entitled Delay Me Down and Make Me Wah Wah!!!) readily attests to their skills: these Swedes could rawk.
You would be forgiven, upon first picking up Baxter’s self-titled debut, for thinking it couldn’t possibly have any connection to the sweetly screamed, overdriven fuzz-fest that was Salt. But Ramsby’s hypnotic lyrical delivery (though more even-tempered in this production) eventually gives it away. Always asking oblique questions about emotion and identity, creating subtle, memorable, chantable melodies, albeit this time amidst a sonic backdrop of skittering, clattering, polyrhythmic percussion and sinusoidal synth washes.
It’s hard for me to say which approach I enjoy more, as I’ve listened to both records more times than I can count, but Baxter will forever be tied in my mind to my first six months in Los Angeles (in particular, to all the time I spent in my craptastic Jeep Cherokee, learning to negotiate LA’s sprawling streetscape and its ever-so-special strain of traffic), when I lived briefly in Westwood with the Koosh of Kush, Dariush Derakhshani.
Baxter would go on to release two further albums (the 2nd, About This, available on Amazon Music in a double “disc” special edition including numerous remixes of tracks from the first two albums), then Ramsby’s restless musical spirit would again take flight, next landing on record in an indie rock incarnation known as Grand Tone Music. More recently, Nino has worked with Martin Hederos, recording three albums worth of jazz standards translated into Swedish. Genre, after all, is only a construct. Rawk on, Ramsby, rawk on…