|Slow and Low||S O L O|
Being his last solo Faxlabel effort, Tetsu here combines many of his more familiar, 'ambient' techniques with a new direction which isn't necessarily so gentle. In the past Inoue's name has almost been synonymous with radiant, blissful passages that usually incorporated thick, padded layers all intermingling with each other to create some marvelous combination of melody, texture, and rhythm. And Slow and Low does offer this flavor of audio indulgence. However, his final solo album for the label proves also to be somewhat of an expedition into noise, entering into the less understood and less tranquil regions of the Faxlabel universe. How else to describe tracks which, in the span of 30 seconds, go from soothing liquid synth textures to abrasive collages of radio static and distortion? Or that which opens with a deafening roar and promptly blasts the escapist ambient head into (or out of) headphone oblivion? Slow and Low is the perfect culmination of his Fax solo releases and ends his trilogy in a captivating way. With this release, Inoue demonstrates his willingness to delve into something fairly different from past projects. Unsatisfied with producing music that propels the listener into a pacifying euphoria, Tetsu creates an album that challenges the listener to delve into unknown territory.
Acting as a crossover between his often-referenced past Fax output and his future environmental experiments, Slow and Low is an audible shrine situated at the edge of the ambient domain.
Heaven: The album starts off with the rhythm of waves washing up on
a beach. The rhythm is right, but from the sound of the waves themselves,
this beach must exist only on Tetsu's HD because the waves sound as
if they've been mingling with radio static. Before
long, the sound is transformed into a recognizable crackling radio
chorus. With each recurring loop, the pitch of the voice is slightly
altered, eliciting a subtly different response each time it comes
around. A spray of electronic noise washes around the mix as you sit
back and ask yourself how it feels to be hosed down with synthesizer
waves. Before you come up with an answer, the sounds get even more
clamorous before settling down a bit into a something of a melody.
This candidly harmonious system plays out until the track's end, yet
this is only the beginning...
The sound of masked ambiguity, human yet non-human, always morphing. A pitch bender winds these tones around you, but what is going on here, exactly? Gurgly noises begin to bubble to the surface and a sequence glides in. It's a rhythmic, aliased slider kept in time with a slightly distorted pulse, adding a haunted touch to the whole incident. Everything is sort of interrupted by two Japanese having a quick conversation before we return to the music. Tetsu's sequencer makes the natural selection, choosing sounds which will compete and overlap as another whirring intonation facilitates the theme's disintegration.
Automatic Motion: Prepare yourself for re-entry. If your encounter with the luminous Static Soul launched you into high orbit, Automatic Motion is that invisible force which will pull you back through the many layers of the stratosphere, encasing your transport capsule in a silvery, frozen glaze. Absorb the experience before it melts away in the lower altitudes, there is still much to hear. Splashdown, the first threads of musical tonality appear: higher melodies backed by a lower more fluid accompaniment. Inside the booklet of this CD is a nice picture of a ray swimming around. I think this moment of the album goes well with such a picture. Imagine swimming just off the shore of some hidden island in the tropics, the sun is shining down through the crystal clear water, and by looking up toward the surface you can see the shimmering light patterns that the water's surface sends toward the ocean floor. A deep, rich combination of notes passes through again, while tinier sparks of melody sing one of Inoue's quasi-random hooked riffs. This divine mixture gradually settles for the remainder of the piece.
Slow and Low: Being the most lengthy on the disc at just over 13 minutes, get ready to navigate the multiple stages of the mind-blowing title track. Beginning with some sweet electronic lullabies, they begin to twist and warp into... something else. Phase two works it's way in, despite the intro's desperate struggles to maintain contact with your temporal lobes, and replaces the previous soundslice with a windblown component that stirs things up a little bit more. Softly at first, a little more noise emerges and breaks up the previous signal, guiding us into a more chaotic dimension. Rest easy as you're transported to the drone room. This one is definitely for the headphones! Exceedingly close up water droplet noises lend some contrast to the background as another morphed vocal loop, perhaps my personal favorite on the disc, swirls all around and blurs its origin. Out in space once again, floating high above the earth, you intercept scraps of lost radio transmissions. It's sure to invoke some feeling of deja vu, or some similar personal memory or experience, Tetsu's secret ingredients always do.... With massive drones in full force, some higher tones are added while the voices leaking forward from the past evaporate into the thick cloud of the present moment. Descending pulses reverberate this composition to its final phase, consisting of rippling midrange tonal surfaces and repeating layers of hi-end computer bleeps.
Polychrome Chant: This one starts out with a pensive drone, listen carefully as individual bytes fan outward in streams from the source into kaleidoscopic patterns. What sounds like a detuned radio grinds out more static while the drone shifts around. Ringing out from the gloom, the first overtly hospitable tones in some time resound throughout your listening area. The shortest track on the disc fits perfectly the description "slow and low."
Speculative Vision is the finisher, providing you with a affirmative glow which softens the shock of entrance back into the external world. One might draw parallels in function to the final track on Organic Cloud, which for me serves a similar purpose. Celebratory voices confirm your refreshed peace of mind as a tactile bassline establishes a solid rhythm. Filtered synth riffs add more melody, and a charismatic solo disarms the final remnants of negative energy. This vision is guaranteed to leave you beaming.
Extra track review - Slow and Low II: This exclusive track was included on the Distributed Shared Memory compilation CD put out by Mindspore records. Other artists on the disc include Human Mesh Dance (Taylor Deupree), Terre Thaemlitz, and King Chubby. As the title suggests, the overall sound is right inline with the full length, although I might point out that this particular song is a bit quieter then most of the tracks on the album. Which isn't to say that there's less going on. On the contrary, there are many little parsed sounds and plenty of contorted glitchery going on. Pixels are mutilated to the point of being totally alien sounding, punctuating a deep, unfamiliar soundscape. None of the sounds found here explicitly show up on Slow and Low, yet the overall feel of this piece is unmistakably similar. After another grinding entry, backwards sounding blips accent a droning panorama. Bandpassed noise hisses while computer chimes, sonic sample barbs, and muted metallic gongs pierce the continuous hum. A giant tunneling orifice slurps up most of what you hear, phasing and flanging any leftover signals. This one fades out softly.
Could someone who speaks Japanese please translate the dialogue in track 2 for me??