Tuesday, 24 May 2011
[It can be disheartening being a music geek in this day and age. With the constant streams of blogs and 'Best New Music' everyone thinks they are an expert, yet music is becoming increasingly disposable to these types. What is hot now, what is cool to like, not really giving an afterthought to anything that predates their beloved internet. Tastes used to be moulded by something other than the internet, and I see the irony of a music blogger stating this. I take pride in the fact that I am sad enough to get so involved with wee obscure genres to help me figure out what has created the current landscape for alternative music, and put my curious mind at rest. Genre is largely redundant these days, but looking back and seeing how influential some obscure genres have become is pretty interesting. Well at least to this music geek. So I'll show you how certain genres have affected my listening tastes in certain ways. There will be shiny mixes to give you a rest bite from putting up with my shite chat.]
Twitter can be a pain in the arse sometimes. Constant self-indulgent patter, the niggling fact in the back of your mind that Justin 'Nae Pubes' Bieber is more popular that you ever will be, everybody trying to out-funny everybody else. Sometimes though, it can give you a bit of inspiration to start writing your tumbleweed-ridden blog again.
This inspiration came from a Twittersation (groan) between Bart from Eagleowl and ardent music fan Tom Youll.
As much as this made me chuckle, it also made me have a wee think. How many people know or actually care what slowcore is?
Slowcore's roots come for the late 80's when bands such a Slint, Galaxie 500 and American Music Club were creating down-tempo songs which didn't really sit comfortably beside anything else happening at that time. Then came, in the early 90's, Low's idea to play very quietly and slowly to a crowds full of hardcore or grunge fans. Essentially, slowcore could be seen as a reaction to the grunge scene of that time, with the exception of Come who kind of bridge the gap between the two genres. It wasn't really a scene in itself though, as each slowcore band was spread miles apart across America. The American press found slowcore far too boring at the time, as shown by Red House Painter's/Sun Kil Moon's Mark Kozelek;
"[We were] completely praised and hailed by the British press," Red House Painters/Sun Kil Moon songwriter Mark Kozelek told me, in a 1998 interview, "having people say things like 'Down Colorful Hill is the best album since Astral Weeks'... but the American press just said 'it's too slow', 'bring a pillow', 'go to the show if you need some sleep.'"
It's influence is still felt today with Low, Cat Power and Mark Kozelek becoming extremely successful in their own right. Slowcore has went on to influence numerous bands such as Arab Strap (who met and bonded over their love for Slint and Smog). 'New Birds' has a particular slowcore vibe about it.
Slowcore is constantly called boring, yet it is a sound that went against the grain at the time and due to the lengthiness of the songs they received little or no radio play. If that isn't a punk ideology, I'm not sure what is.
Tracklisting and Blurb;
The New Year - End's Not Near
Not strictly a slowcore song in the purest sense, but it was my gateway into the genre. I bought The New Year's The End's Not Near album back in 2004 when I was 15 on a whim and fell in love with it. I then discovered The New Year used to be Bedhead, one of the pioneers of a genre called slowcore. Check out their song The Rest of the Day, it's slowcore to the, ahem, core.
Eagleowl - Blanket
A band who I know are heavily influenced by pre-Great Destroyer Low and who are, essentially, slowcore. Blanket shows how quiet and simple touches to a song can really make beautiful results.
Red House Painters - Mistress
Mark Kozelek, along with Bill Callahan, is the elder statesman of slowcore. Even his newer, more country orientated songs have slowcore elements.
Low - Words
The band that essentially started it all. Hushed vocals, sparse-yet-intense drumming, post rock influences; the quintessential slowcore band.
Codeine - D
Codeine show a slightly heavier side to the genre, harking back to Slint. Frigid Stars is an absolute must have. If you haven't already, seek it out.
Debutant - Yeah! Currahee!
I've added Scottish solo act and Meursault guitarist Philip Quirie to the mix due to his love for bands such as Red House Painters. It definitely come across in his music as, like it or not, he is SLOWCORE-ish. I mean listen to the slow approach merging into post-rock influences. Nice.
Smog - Four Hearts In A Can
Smog show here how country music and slowcore can be almost synonymous.
Cat Power - Rockets
Yes. Cat Power started off as largely a slowcore act. Her 1996 album Myra Lee demonstrates this and is a far cry away from her recent sound. She is also Bill Callahan's ex, so go figure.
Bluetile Lounge - Ambered
This little known Aussie band released an absolute essential for all slowcore purists in their 1995 album Lowercase. This 12-minute long track's ending is worth the wait. If you haven't realised by now, you have to really be patient when it comes to slowcore music.
Further listening; Stina Nordenstam, Ida, Movietone, For The Carnation
Further reading; Drowned in Sound's amazing 'Introduction to Slowcore' . One of my favourite ever articles by them.
Next week's GenreMix; Paisley Underground