BY MICHAEL BERICK
For the past 30 years, Walter Salas-Humara has been working the cult fringes of the indie rock world. His critically acclaimed band, The Silos, was an early Americana pioneer in the mid-‘80s. Curve and Shake represents a rare release under his own name; however, it is hard to define it as a “solo” album. Salas-Humara here actually collaborates with three different bands: veteran roots rockers Jerry Joseph and the Jackmormons, young Southern California power trio Groove Session and the Portland OR art-rock outfit Sun Angle (which includes Walter’s synth-playing nephew Charlie). These collaborators help to “bend and twist/curve and shake” (to quote the title track) into some new and interesting directions.
The album starts off with the most Silos-like track, “Counting On You,” a charming twangy number with an easygoing hook. Lurking in the song’s background are synthesizers, which inject some cosmic vibes. Synths factor more prominently on the second cut, “The Craziest Feeling,” weaving together with guitars to suggest the “clean, clear warm” water that Salas-Humara sings about in this ambitious, elliptical tale of a wealthy woman and a poor man. The guitar/synthesizer interplay also lends an otherworldly, almost Robert Fripp-like quality to tunes like “Hoping For A Comeback” and “Satellite.”
“Satellite” ranks as one of the disc’s strongest tunes as its handclaps and sing-along chorus helps to forge a pop/rock gem. It also stands as one of the Curve and Shake’s shorter tracks with Salas-Humara leaning towards a more expansive sound on this album where most songs topping the 4 minute mark. The five-plus minute “What We Can Bring” gets sparked by a mid-song guitar duel that echoes the tumultuous relationship he sings about. “Uncomplicated” isn’t actually uncomplicated as it rides a raw guitar riff while Salas-Humara’s thoughts take off during an airplane flight.
He does turn in an “uncomplicated,” and quite endearing, love song “I Love That Girl,” where his slightly raspy, worldly worn voice is accompanied by just keyboards. This song also reflects some of the lyrical themes that Salas-Humara addresses throughout the album. “Counting On You,” On “Hoping For A Comeback” and “Way Too Heavy To Float,” he touches upon the ideas of holding out for hope, being persistent and making connection with others without weighing them down by heavy philosophizing.
Curve and Shake might not result in being his overdue breakout effort, but Salas-Humara succeeds here in crafting an album where he grows as a musician without leaving his audience behind.
DOWNLOAD: “Satellite,” “I Love That Girl”