Slack Armada is the new musical odyssey of James Hraback. His debut EP under the moniker is a test of many overlying ideas and acrobatics that Hraback has been toying with in his past. I do not know in any great detail what his history in music is like, but I am unashamedly confident that this is not his first foray into producing. The EP is too tightly designed, too perfectly encapsulating, and too professionally pristine and crystalline to be a debut from an artist. It captures so many things right; it would be absurd to think of this as a practice round or debut ‘run at it’ of any sort. Would it?
Post rock elements from the likes of Tortoise, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Sigur Ros clash mercilessly against the torrential down pouring of noisy feedback juxtaposed towards angelic atmospheres of bands like My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, and the Jesus and Mary Chain.
What makes the EP is effective is its unifying singularity. Tight backbeats, keep the songs chained to the ground- in a good way. The songs surround an underlying groove, as opposed to besting them and going in the craziest directions. This keeps them focused and more poignant because of it.
The aggressively angular moments are most apparent in the third track, ‘Looper.’ It rivets and distorts sound with titanic distress, recalling moments of post-metal, like Pelican or Russian Circles. Your Majesty is springier, lighter, taking more from the dreaminess of the more modern M83 or even late 80’s Pulp.
The closing track, Escape Velocity, is just vacuous. Instrumental songs tend to not exactly match their title in any narrative sense, because the lack of lyrics makes us really hesitant to pinpoint an actual story. This is why concept albums from instrumental artists rarely work in any deeper sense. Aside from relating a certain tone or main idea, there really isn’t all that much to grasp. ‘Escape Velocity’ practices this with innate control. It’s a distorted space adventure of grand proportions. On the surface, it is much ‘poppier or, dare I say, ‘catchier’ than any other song on the EP. But it channels an intense rage that seems to slowly accept its place in the world. It loops for nearly three minutes, but it is three minutes of beauty.
Slack Armada realizes this, and he does not try to pigeonhole an overt compositional story here. Everything here is in metaphors and broad strokes. You have the opening song, Rebirth, which works simply as the resurrection of something. You have leader type in Your Majesty,’ which is a much dreamier and enchanting song. And then you have ‘Looper,’ which acts as your bridge to the triumphant conclusion in Escape Velocity.
Whoever or whatever this rebirthed majesty is, we can only hope it has found peace. Perhaps it will return in a new EP. Or perhaps Slack Armada will let this mini-journey rest in the deep unknown of space’s velocity. Regardless, the music ideas in here are puzzling, entrancing, and wonderfully blissful. Something here was gained, and for those who reach into the depths of the tones and ideas, they might be able to see a light at the end of the tunnel in the fading out closing passage at the EP’s conclusion.
Ryan Merkel is a cool writer guy and contributor all over the internet, from blogs on music to magazines about music to sites about playing music. He is currently founder of SunState Investing and is head editor of the music entertainment magazine, CultureTease. He has written two novels, and is currently working on a third full-length novel, surprisingly, not about music. His novel “Splatter the Noise” earned accolades for independent publishing. Be sure to check out: www.sunstateinvesting.com
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