Peter Salett was an artist I was enirely unfamiliar with until last summer. I was up late and found myself engrossed in ‘Down In The Valley‘ – a movie where cop’s daughter good girl (Evan Rachel Wood) meets cowboy drifter bad boy (Ed Norton) with predictably disastrous consequences. I’m no Mark Kermode ( I’m not even any Claudia Winkleman) but for what it’s worth, I think it was a pretty good movie. Standout for me was the music that plays over the beach scene, as the two main characters coyly get it on.
The track wasPeter Salett’s Sunshine. Low key, lo-fi and sung in the kind of hushed tones that rival Elliott Smith at his most fragile and introspective, Sunshine had me. I had to find out more.
I got myself a copy of In The Ocean Of The Stars, Salett’s 5th release from 2008. I’m not exaggerating here when I say this album is a stone cold lost classic, up there with Gene Clark’s No Other, Dennis Wilson’s Pacific Ocean Blue and other such since-discovered diamonds. Equal parts Elliott Smithish folk introspection, Randy Newmanesque melancholy and Brian Wilsonish simplisticness, In The Ocean Of The Stars never fails to disappoint. Every time I listen to it I hear new things. That world-weary Randy Newman reference is all the way through the opening track Magic Hour, bathed in pathos with it’s backwards-masked rhythm, wonky accordian and woozy country psychedelia. Really! The ghost of Gene Clark’s alt Americana is all over the title track, rich drop-tuned guitars, sweeping strings and a breathtaking “Starry, starry night” vocal. Anglophiles may spot shades of Ed Harcourt or even, in I Miss You (Thought You Should Know), a bit of Richard Hawley. I can’t believe I’ve never heard of it or it’s creator until now.
A bit of internet digging reveals Salett has contributed quite a lot to movie soundtracks over the past decade. There’s every chance you’ve heard him already without realising. You might even have heard his stuff and gone on to investigate more, as I’ve done. For all I know, everyone knows about him except me and I’m last to the party, arriving just as the best bit’s over and everyone’s moving on to the next hip thing. I don’t know. But I do know that In The Ocean Of The Stars is worth 40 minutes of anyone’s time. Go here to hear the album in full. You might even want to buy it afterwards.