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Slow As Slow Can Go

Bluetile Lounge
(Brass Companion)

Think of the slowest guitar rock that you've heard of, then go a lot slower than that. Think of music that sometimes is so slow that you wonder whether the instruments are played by tree sloths (albeit very talented tree sloths). What you may have left over is something sort of like Bluetile Lounge. A quartet of musicians out of Australia, the group plays a brand of music that many people have deemed "slow core" (a term I rather like) because of its glacial pace and drifting qualities. Like another Australian band (Dirty Three), this group knows how to pull the listener along while lulling them, but also knows when to turn things up a bit and pour on some emphasis. Unlike Dirty Three, however, the group never really picks up the pace on any of their songs. Be warned now, if you're looking for an album that moves even remotely fast, head elsewhere.

Fortunately for the group, they do their one thing, and they really know how to do it well. Halfcut is a long (nearly 65 minutes) album of undulating, layered sound. They move at the pace of a drone rock band, yet they manage to encorporate rhythm into their songs, no matter how slow it may be.

The disc starts off with "Liner" and the group right away shows their great use of dynamics in the song. Although the track starts out rather spare, soon dual guitars are blistering and the drums come crashing down around everything. They even encorporate a nice two-part vocal harmony during the thick chorus to give everything an even more subtle change of sound. The nearly 12-minute second track "Hiding To Crash" starts off even more sparse than the first, with only some delicate guitar strumming and very light drumming that sound like they're threatening to fade out of existence at any moment. Eventually, some whispered vocals make their way into the track and it continues on, slowly gaining ground. Even the peak of the song is rather subdued, but again it's the minute, but pronounced variations in the tracks that make them so solid.

The group brings in the use of the piano on "Steeped" and combined with beautiful two-part vocals and a combination of acoustic and electric guitars, the track stands out as one of the best on the album. The group does have a few short moments on the disc with the under three-minute "Shifty" (in which the guitar playing sounds like its lost at sea) and the two-minute feedback-soaked repetition of "Whiner" (which also qualifies as the fastest song on the disc). The album closes out with another weeping ballad on the nearly 12-minute track "Old Star."

Overall, the group is one that will probably take some time to judge, simply because of the nature of their music. Kind of like older releases by the Red House Painters or an even slower Bedhead, the group moves at a languid pace, but they aren't afraid to turn up the amps either. It's slow, sad, and often beautiful, and very rewarding if you're a fan of the sound, though.

Rating: 7.25