Slomatics – Flooding the Weir (original release 2005 / reissued by Black Bow Records, 20 November 2015)
Slomatics – Kalceanna (original release 2007 / reissued by Black Bow Records, 20 November 2015)
Here we find ourselves in the midst of another magnificent Monday. It’s kind of shocking to realize how much of each day (and therefore how much of the workweek) is spent basically sleepwalking, semi-conscious, sort of in that fuzzy slow-motion daze that they always use in movies and tv shows when someone has been drugged or tranquilized or something. And I mean, a large portion of each day even after a cup of coffee or two. Maybe this is why I find myself drawn to low-tempo, fuzzy, swampy/sludgy, crawling-through-quicksand styles of music so much of the time?
I don’t know. But that’s exactly what the music we’re here to talk about today sounds like. Slomatics, from Northern Ireland, have been actively creating heavy fuzz-sludge music for about a dozen years now. Their first two albums were released in 2005 and 2007 on CD, but have been out of print for years. So naturally, after they had signed to Black Bow Records (the label run by their neighbor across the Irish Sea, Conan‘s Jon Davis), while the band got working on their upcoming fifth album (which is set to release in early September), the label decided to once again make those early two releases available in digital format.
Each of these albums contains six tracks, Flooding the Weir running about 27-1/2 minutes while Kalceanna stretches to 39-1/2, and less than half of that time includes vocals. This band has always been a three-piece, with the roles of drums and vocals being handled by a gentleman named Joe up through about 2011, whereas a new member named Marty has taken over those two positions since then. The small amount of vocals that do appear on these two records — “Running Battle” and “Celeste” on the debut have a brief bit of yelling near the middle, the follow-up’s “Mans Hands” features a tiny bit somewhere near the end; two of that album’s longer tracks, “Meanwhile” and “Viking Sea” each have a short burst of howling/yelling that makes an appearance a couple times; only “March of the 1000 Volt Ghost” on the first album, and “Griefhound” and “Dirt by the Stooges” on the second, include sort of yell-talk-singing throughout most of each song’s running length — for the most part all sounds very distant, like shouting from a different room, or perhaps even hollering into a megaphone from behind the drums, which is being picked up by some strategically-placed ambient room mics.
Otherwise, the albums are chiefly instrumental, and overwhelmingly fuzzy, heavy, and slow. Flooding the Weir begins and ends with “I Mean You No Harm,” which is broken into two parts of around two minutes apiece; this intro/outro fades the album in and out with a repeated fuzz riff. The nine-minute “The Technique” on this album, and almost the entire eight-minute-plus “Mans Hands” on the next one, are each much slower, heavier, and each song almost exclusively features a single repeated sludgy riff throughout. The same could be said for the closing track of Kalceanna, “Viking Sea,” which runs over eleven minutes: this one is very slow and very heavy, repeating essentially minor variations on the same riff for almost the first seven (with the biggest variation occurring about four minutes in when the vocals briefly enter); then after a slight break with a little bit of quiet droney strumming, the song returns back to the same repeated heavy riff — even heavier now, perhaps, until it grinds down over the last couple of minutes, slowing to almost nothingness.
All this reiteration, continually treading over the same territory, might seem like it would be very boring — and if that was your immediate reaction, then this probably isn’t the best style of music for you to check out. But in my opinion it’s perfect for just chilling out, getting lost in the layers of distortion and fuzz, and just kind of turning your brain off for a while. Or if you’re already drifting along in that state of mind, for whatever reason, this will nicely complement that.
There are a few spots where the band shifts gears, changes things up a bit: like on the earlier album’s track “Celeste,” which is largely based upon a very Earth-like, mournful main melody. The latter record veers in different directions somewhat more often: “By Thor,” which is mostly hella heavy with mega distortion, features a mellow, melodious bassline at the beginning and end; and the seven-minute “Meanwhile” is actually more moderate, mellow, clean and reverby for the majority of the song’s first half, sort of resembling post-rock, actually — distortion (and a bit of howling) kicks in briefly once, then reappears, lasting this time for most of the second half, but ultimately winding its way back to the mellow, mellifluous beginning part again.
I’ve painstakingly tracked down places where you can preview each album online, using the YouTube and Soundcloud streams below. Then be sure to grab yourself a copy of Flooding the Weir here, and Kelceanna right here.
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