On the surface, Saltillo's new album seems like fairly unremarkable if technically flawless trip-hop, but a closer listen reveals a stunning piece of artistry that's more noteworthy for its instrumentation than for its use of rhythm or melody. True, "Giving In" is pretty standard trip-hop, and the blues and gospel loops on "A Hair On The Head Of John The Baptist" and "Praise" are mellow and funky without being particularly groundbreaking. Saltillo's Menton J. Matthews III is more than just a breakbeat programmer with a fondness for old vinyl, however; he's a musical renaissance man in every sense of the word, and his incorporation of violins, violas, and guitars alongside the more familiar scratches and samples gives his music a sort of southern country feel that sets it apart from other trip-hop and jungle artists. Who on earth would think to combine chilled out breakbeats with banjos? Not only did Matthews put the idea to the test, with "Remember Me?" he pulls it off beautifully. "Grafting" is thicker and darker, but no less lovely, incorporating bits of Hindi chanting with cello and violin, while "A Necessary End" and "A Simple Test" add some lovely piano lines to the mix. While Saltillo's sound works better as laid back background music, fans of edgier fare will at least enjoy "Backyard Pond," with its chopped up drum 'n' bass and numerous samples. Matthews' biggest strength, though, is that his experimental approach towards instrumental arrangements has resulted ultimately in a collection of very pleasant songs. Whether or not you appreciate the the artistry that goes into his compositions, you'll undoubtedly find yourself nodding your head to the rhythm of the drum track on warm, humid summer evenings.
Visit Menton J. Matthews III on the Web at www.kyan.com/saltillo for more information about this release.
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