I just finished listening to Salt of the Sound's new Christmas release, And on Earth, Peace. And I thought, "I haven't heard a collection like this in a long time." The music's ambiance put me in a state of "Christmas." To me, that's the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And, memorial family gatherings and time-honored traditions. If I was to choose one adjective to describe the vocals and sound, it would be "angelic."
Growing up, I listened to Roger Whittaker, Boney M, and Amy Grant. To me, this was good, old-fashioned Christmas music. But Salt of the Sound gives us something refreshingly different. I thought, "Here are musicians who are willing to explore new genres."
Ben and Anita Tatlow are the masterminds behind Salt of the Sound. Two artists who have perfected the art of reflective, ambient music. A genre known as Christian ambient music. Music that can be used for meditation, prayer, mindfulness, and easy listening.
Ben described Christian ambient music best in an article he wrote for NewReleaseToday as, "Largely instrumental, featuring synthesizers and organic textures and instruments in equal measure; the fundamental characteristics of the music are softness, depth, and the fostering of a calm and meditative spirit. Where there are vocals, these are more of an instrumental texture rather than a focal point of the music." Ben Tatlow writes exclusive columns for NewReleaseToday about Christian ambient music.
I had the opportunity to speak with Anita and Ben about And on Earth, Peace.
Tell us about Salt of the Sound's new Christmas album, And On Earth, Peace. What is the album's theme?
Anita: We definitely set out to create an Advent album, as we feel the themes of longing, waiting and hoping really resonate with us and the sound of our music. We absolutely love upbeat Christmas music. But, when we're writing Salt of the Sound music, we often set out to create music that has a bit more space in it.
What inspired the new album? What message do you want to deliver to your listeners?
Ben: Beyond the Advent inspiration, we have really been influenced by our new hometown of Hong Kong. The coming together of the densely populated city with beautiful mountains and nature has given our music a different flavor to when we were based in Sweden. We incorporated some field recordings of the city in both the opening and closing songs ("Gabriel’s Message" and "Come Thou Long Expected Jesus"). In doing that, we wanted to give a tangible sense of Jesus being present in everyday life; something which is often lost in the more idyllic imagery of a lot of Christmas music.
I like what you said in your album announcement: "This release is the evolution of the duo's sound and aims to breathe new life into ancient and modern Christmas music." How does the sound on this new album compare to previous works, such as your Waiting For The Dawn EP?
Anita: Waiting For The Dawn was more acoustic in some ways, whereas our style has evolved quite significantly over the past three years into a more developed sound. In some ways, this release has become a 'part two' of Waiting For The Dawn–contrasting and complementary in equal measure–which actually wasn't our intention when we started to work on the project.
Ben: Our music has always combined elements of pure, expansive ambient music with more typical vocal-led songwriting. And over time, we've tried to mesh these together organically within each track rather than keeping the two elements separate. I think you can probably hear that most clearly in our 2018 album Beyond Here, which itself is most similar in overall sound to And on Earth, Peace. We also wanted to reimagine some Christmas classics in this release; "O Holy Night" is a particular favorite of ours and we felt this was the right time to create our own take on this beautiful song.
I loved your rendition of "Come Thou Long Expected Jesus." Very angelic. What was your process in choosing songs for the album? What were some special songs that didn't make the album this time around?
Anita: One of the things we ask ourselves when recording non-original music is how we can legitimately create a new perspective on the music. There are many choral and contemporary versions of carols and Christmas songs, but we really wanted to convey the longing that "Come Thou Long Expected Jesus" speaks of. We were also keen to create our take on "Coventry Carol" and "Gabriel's Message" for that very same reason. Having said that, we started out with a very long list of potential songs, and "Silent Night," "Wexford Carol," and "Carol of the Bells" all definitely remain on that list. Maybe we'll just have to create a third Advent EP at some point.
What music do you and your family listen to at Christmas time?
Anita: A little bit of everything. We love it when artists are pushing musical boundaries and playing around with familiar songs. This year, we've enjoyed listening to Aeseaes' Christmas EP, and Tenth Avenue North's Decade The Halls from a couple of years back.
Ben: We also enjoy curating Christmas playlists on Spotify. And, over the years, they've built up quite a following. If you're interested in having a listen, our main Christian Christmas music playlist is available here.
What's one Christmas tradition that you never miss every year?
Anita: Having lived in the UK and Sweden, and now being based in Hong Kong, we have loved picking up local traditions along the way: from mulled wine and mince pies, to stunningly beautiful St. Lucia celebrations. But, a tradition we've developed in our home is opening one present on Christmas Eve–pajamas–and having a cozy evening on the night before Christmas.
How can we pray for you?
Anita: Our prayer continues to be that our music reaches the people who need to hear it. We all know that music has the power to reach people deeply and so we pray that God would be working in us, to create music that he uses to speak to people and meet them in their hours of need.
Paul Phillips is a Canadian journalist with over 10 years of experience writing and editing digital and print content. He specializes in health, fitness, nutrition, and travel. He loves music, movies, and, of course, living for Jesus.
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