You guys, we have to talk about Saltillo.

This dude is nuts. He emits high-octane nightmare fuel as a byproduct from an inexplicable process of self-discovery the likes of which I’ve never seen. His art is disturbing as fuck. But the music–oh man, this is good stuff.

This is trip-hop, and true to form you’ll find heavy use of samples, distortion and spatializers mixed with traditional instrumentation, a 4/4 swung beat and minor key signatures. Notably absent–at least to my ears–is any hint of trip-hop’s origins in jazz or soul. What really excites me about these pieces is the interplay of rough and smooth textures: scratchy percussion mixed with rarified, almost tenuous violin; aggressive drum loops molded to an expressive analog performance; high-pitched melodies backed by a muted, baseline. Saltillo’s timbre is delicious. I can’t get over it.

At least to my untrained ears, the editing is carefully balanced between these extremes, sometimes between, sometimes within the same instrument. His wife, Sarah, sings this track. Listen closely for the phase change in her voice, sliding from pure to granulated, from echoing to present. There are moments of subtle doubling, airy reverb, before the first instrumental break. But then, in the crescendo, he rips out out formants for raw, degraded power. Her performance is the vocal thread of continuity in the song, but plays a varied role–if you listen closely at 3:18–3:28 you can feel the track pulling her voice from one space to the next.

I say ’pulling" because the instruments take a spatial prominence as well, from the establishing shot of the piano to distant, then closer voice, to drums and violin duet, voice, and finally to violin again. The cello and drum loops take intermediate and backing roles to fill out the space; foreground, middle distance, and cloudscape. I love listening to points of transition, where instruments exchange places in pitch, space, or melodic role–and Saltillo rewards careful attention.

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