I had the pleasure of reviewing Slowrun’s evocative debut album “Prologue” about three years ago. Instrumental works are not everyone’s preference, but “Prologue”’s collection of progressive ambient post rock pieces did what music does so well and planted vivid images in my mind without the impediment or imposed distraction of a lyrical story. “Resonance” is the follow-up. Knowing it was going to be another instrumental work I looked forward to experiencing how Slowrun were going to project their music once more into personalised images. So I left my world, sat back, listened and absorbed “Resonance”.
By virtue of the style and pattern, there is a clear relationship between “Prologue” and “Resonance”. Deliberately neither soars to excessive heights. Instrumental webs are spun and mental pictures present themselves. Music leads us to hear different things but what I experienced when listening to “Resonance” was delicate patterns and elements of introspection, which also is a track title on the album. In name “Ascent” suggests a rise into lofty heights but for me it was about breadth and expansive expression. Like Isis’s “Panopticon”, I felt that the place in a real world setting, albeit a lonely one at times, with real people. I didn’t picture any dark or light imaginary kingdom, as I might do if listening to, say, Neurosis or Long Distance Calling. “Resonance” as a whole is personal but it’s not solitary. I did feel a sense of the surroundings. “Ascent” starts with a rich blend of the warm and shadowy night. Melancholy is in the air. I heard the faint sound of bells and shimmering cymbals, which always suggest breeze, but counteracting the melancholy, the drum provides comfort. The increasingly dominant post rock ring provides a gentle sparkle. It’s like a journey but nature takes its course. We’re not in a rush. There’s an element of shoegazing and it’s certainly dreamlike, but it’s from a human soul. “Ascent” isn’t a climb up Mount Everest but an expansion. If “gentle epic” was a term, it could apply to these seven tracks. “Blinding Light” has this quality with its beating heart and gently rising drama. As some music is frost-bitten, this is the music of a summer’s day, not a stifling Asian one but a European one where temperature change is in the air as the day progresses into evening and night. There is majesty and sadness but it didn’t make me sad. It’s too fluid. Reflective is what it is. “Remember” perhaps gives a clue as to what the reflection may be or may have been. The movements and transformations are handled with great sensitivity. I was going to write at that point “the subject was handled …” but “the subject” is too prosaic in this most unprosaic work. “Fragments” is just that: the reflection of broken elements of one’s life captured in a slow and sensitive piece. Quiet echoes from the guitar add thought-provoking colour as if the human brain is trying to work out what went wrong.
There was a danger that “Fragments” was going to drain our energy and with it the album could have died on its feet. Slowrun set us back on the right course with “Introspection”. It would have been inappropriate to experience explosive change because this album is about moods and shades and reflection. “Introspection” fits the bill perfectly. The post rock ring returns as the pumping heart beat. In there is a sense of living and beauty. It’s also a piece for inner calm and thought as it slows down and nearly stops, before the tranquil beat returns and heads into the impressive “First Hour”. Although “First Hour” now has the air of both “Introspection” the track and introspection the noun, the steady drum beat and gradually rising tempo give off an air of optimism. And it’s a lovely track, musically my favourite on this subtlest of albums. Shimmering sounds and calming rhythms on “The Way” act as a final reminder that life proceeds on its unstoppable path.
One thing I learnt from “Prologue” was not to expect extravagant outbursts or the musical equivalent of lashings of icing on the cake. Yet “Resonance” is most certainly not plain. Alan Bennett, my favourite British author, once told me in conversation of his writing that his inspiration and words come from within. This is true of “Resonance”, whose musical output struck me more for its depiction of mental and life states than for visual imagery. The music on “Resonance” radiates outwards, and it’s the impact from the waves and rays that create profound impressions and stay within the listener. I may have all completely wrong, but this is what all this said to me. Whether right or wrong, the subtleties and delicacy of Slowrun’s touching second album are not to be denied, and by absorbing myself in it I found myself in a place of my own with which I could identify. I am sure I will not be alone in appreciating the quality and subtle flavours in this sensitive and vivid work.
(8.5/10 Andrew Doherty)