Slow Magic – ‘Triangle’ Takes The Square

Somewhere buried in label-land, a new subgenre of Electronic music is invented with each slight shift of subtle variation and divergence. These labels don’t offend me, but they also have become so minute and marginalized that a movement like “post-rock”, “chillwave” or even “dubstep” is deemed dead, practically stillborn. A style that is seen as new and inventive is often quickly rejected and then reviled, as if a listener should be embarrassed that they ever enjoyed something so… square. So welcome the new subgenre to be hip to be square and soon to be listed in the obituaries (probably by the time I finish this sentence) – Glow-fi.

Like Chillwave, Dream-pop, Nu gaze or any other myriad of names you give this electronic music, Slow Magic is another digital band which embraces elements from the ‘80s and ‘90s electronic music scene and adds distinctly millennial flavors. The production is really polished and crisp, and unlike a lot of other acts right now, keeps the fuzz and distortion down. It is essentially an instrumental album, with vocals and samples so deep in the mix, lyrics are not the focus here, the sounds, rhythms and melodies are the heart of ‘▲’.

‘Triangle’ or ‘▲’ is a short album, which is actually a re-release of Slow Magic’s EP, fleshed out with five additional tracks. The tracks do not feel tacked-on, though, it flows from piece to piece like a wholly-conceived concept. Like all great instrumental music, the pieces use sonics to place images in the mind of a listener, and while every image plays differently in the mind’s eye, some sounds conjure shared planes. ‘▲’ feels like its front cover, summer washed out in warm sunshine. Its protagonists, celestial versions of you and me. A feel-good album that never feels forced, ‘▲’ is a sunshine record that ignores the fact that it may be square, keeps its atmosphere light, and spins around my turntable and hard drive like an endless circle.


Washed Out – ‘Within’ The Chill Wave


The Chillwave subgenre has become the hipster-hater’s punching bag amongst music snobs.  Its retro instrumentation and honored homage to the musical aesthetics of all-things-80s has inexplicably caught their ire, lighting fire to scathing reviews for almost every lo-fi glo-fi record to roll out since the term was coined five years ago.  While traditional classical, blues, country, jazz, rock and other genres can be as retro as they want without an eye batting, the chill wave faces shrill hate from many, many purists and critics.

Perhaps it’s the fact that so much of Chillwave is produced by music geeks in bedrooms on laptops instead of in groups, bands or orchestras.  The isolation and solitude in the sound alienating consumers who feel that music isn’t real unless it’s produced by committee.  The singular style and unpolished compositions polarizing listeners now accustomed to shiny-sounding ones and zeros.  Whatever the reason, a great Chillwave album usually starts out with a losing record among the elite.  But if the slate were washed clean, Washed Out would gleam – a saturated summer love note which washes over the listener in a wave of reverb and sunshine.

With vocals so buried in reverb and chorus, the lyrics are not the stars of “Within and Without,” they take a back seat to the dense synths, basses and laid-back beats of Ernest Greene.  The lyrics and melodies become a lead-string line in an immense symphony, the tone, flow and emotion of each line the real voice to convey the stroke of the composer.  Greene is assisted by Ben H Allen in the production, who has helped produce “Merriweather Post Pavillion” for Animal Collective and engineered Gnarls Barkley.  But make no mistake, this is Greene’s baby.  His rich instrumentation and fuzzy warm production that marked his underground EPs are front and center again in his debut LP.  While not quite huge enough to be a life-changing record, it is one that will get played for years and years and years. By making an ambiguous homage to albums faded and dated, the timelessness of Washed Out’s sound can live on for decades to come.

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