And now for something a little different, both in format and in sonic content! To adequately assess the latest offering from Slow Draw, two Village-dwellers--Continuous Thunder and The Administrator--took up the pen to express (complimentary) views, making for a somewhat rare double review 'round these parts. Without further ado:
Written by: Continuous Thunder
I’d like to start this with a bit of a disclaimer that I went into this album with no previous knowledge of Slow Draw or Stone Machine Electric (something I will be correcting immediately). I just saw the drone tag and I hit play. Drone can mean any number of things, but as this was a drone project of a member of a stoner band, I went in with expectations of good vibes and ultra-long riffs. What I didn’t expect was just how sparse the arrangements would be. Seriously, there’s little more than an electric piano, synths, and a guitar at any given moment on this album, and it lines up more with ambient music than drone.
Sparsity in music can be a blessing or a curse. On one hand, it strips things down to their bare elements, removing any fluff or embellishments that distract from the core of the composition. On the other, it reveals just how strong or weak a composition actually is. I think back to the last album from Earth where they dialed back the fuzz and reverb and had to lean on their riffs more than the atmosphere. Gallo does the same thing but to an even greater extent. The guitars are (mostly) acoustic, buzzy synths only serve as a backdrop, and there is very little, if any, percussion.
Such simplicity might lead some readers to think this will be a challenging or uneventful listen, but Slow Draw recognizes the limitations of their meager palette. The longest tracks are the ones with the most going on, and even then, they’re less than five minutes. Track length decreases from there with the complexity of the arrangement, with the simplest tracks being little more than two minutes long. The compositions are often simple in their structure but complex in their tone and mood. For example, “A Conflict” is made up of little more than four-note arpeggios, but it conveys a tension befitting its title. Other highlights are “No Words,” with an electric piano that sets a killer vibe; the acoustic simplicity of “Harvey’s Chair;” and “Tumoil,” the most drone-like track on the album, and another that uses very little to set a complex tone.
Overall, I feel that Gallo is a fine piece of ambient work. It showcases Slow Draw’s compositional skill, how they can say a lot with very little. It’s great music for the background, but also incredibly rewarding when experienced more actively.
Written by: The Administrator
As an (apparent) metalhead, I inevitably spend a lot of time in a cacophonous and otherwise chaotic headspace, bouncing between a bevy of sub-genres that exist exclusively within the realm of sonic excess. As such, an occasional moment of respite is required, speaking entirely for myself, to reset and recuperate. The warm embrace of doom is typically my escape of choice, but even then, things can get a little too noisy, and little too extravagant. Enter Slow Draw, the experimental psychedelic soundtrack/sound design/pseudo-drone project of Stone Machine Electric's Mark Kitchens. His output under this moniker provides the perfect balance of spareness and subtle intrigue that allows for optimal relaxation and recuperation, and thus, I've been listening to Gallo fairly consistently during the last few weeks whenever hunting for a quiet moment.
That's not to say that Gallo is pure background music--i.e., tunes to fall asleep to. While this album certainly allows for the space to simply chill and bliss out, there are multiple moments littered throughout that seem designed to draw the listener back into the quiet fray. Take, for example, the hypnotic droning "Playground," which ends on a single louder-than-expected note--not jarring, but noticeable. An attention re-setter, as it were. Earlier in the album, we have "No Words" and the somber standout track "Falling Far," both of which feature muted-yet-oddly-arresting vocals accompanying the keys or acoustic guitar, respectively. "Industrial Aged," while also leaning into the more psychedlic and drone-based sonic palate, makes great use of a hollow ringing tone that, frankly, demands more than the typical attention one spares on such low-key tunes.
While listening to Gallo, the closest comparison I can draw isn't to a particular sonic quality per se, but rather to a moment in time. While I was growing up (and still, presumably,) my father made it an unannounced ritual that, after dinner, he would take his acoustic guitar and noodle around for a while--quietly, deliberately unobtrusively, yet unwittingly contributing to an ambient air of relaxation. Those moments define for me, personally, what it means to unwind. Somehow, Slow Draw replicates that sunk-in-memory quality. Despite the drone label, Gallo isn't a dirge. It's a moment in the sun at the end of a day with nothing on your mind--and if you can replicate that feeling and headspace, you're doing something right. For those moments when you need to unwind, Slow Draw comes recommended!
Slow Draw - Gallo was independently released May 22nd
Continuous Thunder reviews even more music both inside and outside the realm of metal on his own blog, conveniently entitled Continuous Thunder. Now that you're done reading this, you should head over there and check it out!
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!