Praise for American Salt Lick
April 31st, 2000 from the "Kingston, New Yourk Daily Freeman"

Artist: Nine Wood
Album: "American Salt Lick"
Label: Vaccination Records
Rating: ****1/2 (out of 5)

California's Bay Area has spawned some odd musical traditions. While most people can quickly identify the "San Francisco Sound" popularized by, for instance, the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, or New Riders of the Purple Sage, there's also a tradition or three of non-traditional music that perhaps dates back to Frank Zappa's freak revolution of the mid '60s. Zappa not only incorporated just about every musical style and freakish approach into his own music, but produced such truly unique innovators as Larry "Wildman" Fisher and Don "Captain Beefheart" Van Vliet. While Wildman Fisher's vocal insanity has pretty much faded from memory, core music fans realize the sweeping influence that Beefheart has had on contemporary music, from his enigmatic lyrics to his previously unexplored rhythms.

While they make no overt homage to Beefheart, the Oakland, California band Nine Wood is certainly playing in that (non) tradition. Defying the usual rock instrumentation, Nine Wood consists of two bass players, a vocalist, and a drummer. Needless to say, this is some heavy and rhythmic material. The rhythms are unique and at first seemingly discordant much the way that Beefheart's were. The lyrics, likewise, are surreal and enigmatic. They are poetic, image-laden language that accents the rhythms through the powerful vocals of Angela Coon.

Nine Wood's current release, their second full-length one, is "American Salt Lick," a collection of 11 tracks that run from bent to jagged. Some of the rhythmic approaches on this album are brilliant, for instance, the cycling bass counterpoint of "1925 Steam Donkey." At the other end of the exploratory spectrum is the massed vocals and rhythmic chaos of "El Dorado," which features a kind of twangy, square-dance-gone-bad rhythm and the memorable refrain: "In Morocco, there's still cholesterol, you're eating tar tar tar or nothing at all."

If you like bands that go for heavy, rhythmic weirdness like Primus or The Melvins, you'll probably go for Nine Wood right from the start. "American Salt Lick" is highly recommended, but keep your sense of humor and a yen for adventure on hand at all times.

--- Philip H. Farber