This is probably going to come out sooner or later, so I might as well get it out of the way now: I haven’t seen Blade Runner. I didn’t even know what Blade Runner was about until I had listened to Tomas Barfod’s debut solo LP, Salton Sea, and after I had discovered that Barfod cites the film as a major thematic and sonic influence on the album. Since then, I have learned that Blade Runner is about hunting scary robots, it is a subgenre of film noir called “neo-noir,” and it takes place in what Netflix describes as “a smog-choked dystopian Los Angeles” (which just sounds like Los Angeles to me).
Barfod, Danish musician and drummer in Whomadewho, has been living in Los Angeles since departing the European club scene to focus on aspects of production that aren’t so dance-floor-driven. “[I]t was a combination of wanting to stay in L.A. because I love the place, but also wanting to pursue another kind of career in music where I focus more on producing and less on staying out,” Barfod told Decoder Magazine. Salton Sea, which takes its name from a once-dry lakebed in Southern California, balances Barfod’s experience as a band member with a certain dry, bastardized dance-floor pop and a taste for darkness.
I understand that in Blade Runner, genetically engineered robots called “replicants” are indistinguishable from real humans. Maybe this isn’t what Barfod meant when he said the film inspired much of Salton Sea, but it’s a good metaphor to use when discussing Barfod’s drum noises. The beats, particularly those of songs like “D.S.O.Y.” and “Don’t Under,” sound like Barfod busted them out on a drum kit himself, but it’s possible or even likely that he was able to replicate that sound using computer software. Other percussion sounds, like the deep thunder kick of “Came To Party” or the hollow clicks and knocks of “Till We Die,” are more readily identifiable as synthesized sounds and add to the eclectic palette of drum sounds Barfod used to construct Salton Sea.
The album also reflects Blade Runner‘s mixture of pop sensibility and complete desperation. His compositions soar on Nina Kinert’s melancholy vocals in “Till We Die” and “November Skies,” on the grinding synth pads and haunting melody of “Ecstesizing” and the rollicking drum hits that interrupt a flickering melody in “D.S.O.Y.” The vision of Southern California terrain Barfod molds in Salton Sea seems strangely undead and haunting even at its most jubilant moments, creating a chilling sense of something epic and part-human.