Slow Electric is a new collaboration between Tim Bowness (no-man), Peter Chilvers (Bowness/Chilvers & Brian Eno) and the Estonian group UMA (Aleksei Saks and Robert Jürjendal). The album features Tony Levin (King Crimson / Peter Gabriel) on two tracks.
This album came together when the four musicians played at a festival in Estonia in late 2010. The basis of this album comes from live recordings of the 2010 shows, with re-recorded vocals and added keyboards, plus the contributions from Tony Levin on Towards the Shore & Days Turn into Years.
Towards The Shore / Towards an Ending is a strong opener. Towards The Shore dates back to a previous Bowness band, Plenty and was written in 1986. The 2011 version is beatless and driven by stately piano, atmospheric trumpet and scratched, percussive guitar playing, over the reflective Bowness vocal:
“Too frightened of your feelings
Too frightened of the light
You stripped away the meanings
gave in without a fight… You never moved away”
Listen to the video edit of Towards The Shore below:
Criminal Caught In The Crime was originally written to be part of the follow-up to the Bowness/Chilvers California, Norfolk album. One of the few tracks driven by any sort of percussion, the glitchy beats contrast the smooth electronics of the song, and the vocal is bookended by atypical Bowness backing vocals.
Days Turn Into Years was one of the standout tracks on the 2002 Bowness/Chilvers album California, Norfolk. This version by Slow Electric is the definitive take on the song. The bedsit drama is given a much more elegant treatment that matches the sadness and decay of the lyrics. At times, sounding like something from David Sylvian‘s Secrets of the Beehive before veering off into a more freeform structure, with vocal loops cascading over the beats, Days Turn Into Years is the highlight of the album for me, and a wonderful reinvention of one of my favourite songs of the past 10 years.
Slow Electric Hum / Also Out Of Air moves from it’s ethereal instrumental opening into a This Mortal Coil referencing song, with rich, reverb heavy keys, and haunting, heavily treated trumpet.
Another Winter will be known to no-man fans as the first part of truenorth from their 2008 schoolyard ghosts album. It works well as part of this album, and features some lovely trumpet in the second part of the song that reminds me of the emotive playing of Jon Hassell on Sylvian’s Brilliant Trees.
Listen to Warm Winter below:
Between The Silent Worlds ends the album on a very ambient note. No piano or beats on this track, just layers of textured guitar and looped trumpet. Evoking snow-covered landscapes, the aching atmospherics suit the reflective lyrics.
“Words become notes become words.”
As proof that the best music is not always instant, on first hearing the album several months ago, I thought this track was the weakest on the album. Several months later, and it has become one of the albums highlights, and is a perfect closer. One of those wonderful late-night soundtracks that when it hits you, hits you hard.
I hope this album from Slow Electric is not a one-off release, and I would like to hear an album of completely new songs written specifically for this project, as there are plenty of possible routes for the musicians to take.
This set of 21st century torch-songs is perfectly suited to soundtrack the change in seasons as the winter nights draw in, and should appeal to fans of David Sylvian, Robert Fripp, as well as those who are moved by the songs of Bowness/Chilvers & no-man.
Watch the Towards The Shore video below:
Video filmed, Edited and Directed by Dion Johnson
Towards The Shore / Towards An Ending (7.23)
Criminal Caught In The Crime (7.43)
Days Turn Into Years (9.35)
Slow Electric Hum / Also Out Of Air (5.24)
Another Winter (5.04)
Between The Silent Worlds (6.37)