Travel checks 

A decade ago the Silos came through Florida on the heels of their "Tennessee Fire" EP, released in 1987 after the New York band notched raves for their first two albums. The group, led by singers/guitarists Walter Salas-Humara and Bob Rupe, did a top-notch rendition of their rootsy indie-rock thing -- once described as a cross between the Velvet Underground and Gram Parsons.

Not long after the band's 1990 major-label debut Rupe left the Silos. Salas-Humara, who had founded the Vulgar Boatmen in Gainesville during the early '80s while studying painting at the University of Florida, has kept the Silos going through many incarnations. The current touring lineup includes drummer Konrad Meissner and bassist Andrew Glackin.

Those who lost track of Salas-Humara and his ever-evolving band might be pleasantly surprised by the vitality of the Silos' new release, "Heater." The disc has Salas-Humara joined by viola and violin player Mary Rowell and a roomful of other musicians on material mostly co-written by the leader.

"It was a real collaborative effort, real collaborative and experimental, all written and recorded in a relatively short period of time, not much more than a month," says Salas-Humara. "There were loads of people in and out of the house. ... It was more like a big monthlong party. I think it really comes through that way."

That strategy, and Salas-Humara's desire to travel a new sonic path, yielded unexpected results. The churning guitars with the occasional twangy flourish have been spruced up with computerized loops and trip-hoppy rhythms. It's a little disconcerting hearing the scruffy guitar, earthy vocals and frustrated-guy lyrics of "Prison Guy" hooked with a mechanical-sounding dirty backbeat and distortion-laced backup vocals. "I'm going to do some traveling, where I've never been," Salas-Humara sings. "I hope I'm not reminded of who I am."

Similar touches are sprinkled throughout the album, which runs the gamut: jangling "Northern Lights," slow-mo ballad "Eleanora," power-poppy "Angels" and British Invasion crunch and swagger on "Mom Out Dancing."

"Yeah, there's electronic-type stuff," he says. "I got into using other sounds rather than just always guitar or always organ or always voice or always a particular-sounding drum.

"it's something I would have avoided 10 years ago. ... We tried to make really super-natural sounds, with very little sound processing. I'm still into that sort of stuff," admits Salas-Humara, "but now I'm open to use anything."

More by Philip Booth


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