Monday, 1 October 2012

A Conversation with Slow Dancing Society

Imagine, if you will, the following scenario: you wake up, get dressed, go to work, finish work, travel back home, do various chorus at home and finally, after the last corner of the room has been dusted and hovered you sit down to relax. One might watch some television. Someone else might read a book or solve a puzzle. Me? I listen to Ambient music.

It’s not that I am unable to stomach different kinds music. Quite the contrary. I love my Mumford & Sons’s and Katy Perry’s as much as the next man/woman. But something about this music keeps me captivated and interested. I don’t know if it’s the warm, soothing calmness of the sounds, or the soft rhythmic textures? Or perhaps the minimalistic yet immersive layering? All I know is that I find that I’ve got difficulty in finding the emotional atmosphere anywhere else than this particular genre. I find new releases on a weekly, sometimes daily, basis and every release becomes a new obsession. Some of them stick, some of them don’t.

But the music of Spokane, Washington based Drew Sullivan, better known as Slow Dancing Society, certainly stuck with me in a way very few other artists can. I came across his first release "The Sound ofLights When Dim" by accident. If I recall correctly I found it while stumbling the web on the prowl for new music and when I listened to the album it just got to me. I could actively listen to it and find a new hook or melody in a song with every repeated listen, or I could just leave it in the background. It made my everyday sweep of the internet a lot more comfortable. It didn’t take me too long to check out his other albums as well and before I knew it he was in my top 4 on Last.FM and he remains there to this day.

And now, in 2012, 2 years after the release of the exquisite "Under the Sodium Lights" (which was an amazingly deep drone album which lost a lot of the rhythm, but none of the beautiful layers and edited guitar that I came to know and love) he now comes with "Laterna Magica." 

Brian Eno once said that ambient music is about, “creating an ambience, a sense of place that complements and alters your environment”. Sullivan understands this very well. The first wave of music that hits your ears surrounds you with a warm, nostalgic feeling. A feeling that almost feels like a memory. It’s not an inherently happy memory, and it’s not a sad one either. It’s a memory of a time where you felt completely at ease. It gives your head some space to ponder over important and unimportant things. I agree that that sounds a little bit like I’m close to be admitted into a psychiatric ward but I don’t know how else to explain it. This album is sonic melancholy. 

The single,"I’ll Leave A Light On", conjures up a feeling of content loneliness. It sounds less like a track on a CD and more like a musical aid to a movie that has never been made. Soft layers of acoustic guitar with sparse piano complement the rich synth textures underneath. This track is also the go-to example if you want to know what his CD is all about. The other tracks on the album follow the same path, layering synthesized rhythmic elements with live acoustic instruments, and Laterna Magica eloquently delivers an album that is sonically vaguely reminiscent of Guitar Based Ambient gods Hammock and the lesser known Kwajbasket without ever sounding like it’s borrowing from them. I have always (wrongly) viewed this particular style of Ambient music as interchangeable, an opinion quickly changed after discovering SDS and it’s certainly an opinion that will not return after listening to Laterna Magica. If you are looking for a soundtrack to your day off, or a soothing sleeping aid this is the album to look for. 

All in all it’s a well-rounded release, full of little interesting segments that leaves you wanting for more. I will be looking forward to more SDS in the future. But for now this reviewer is more then happy to be stuck with Laterna Magica for a while.


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