Review Summary: So Slow's debut album combines noise rock with urban mysticism to dazzling effect.
Deriving its title from a large slum in Mumbai, Dharavi
revolves around the idea that all social problems are ingrained in an urban landscape. The debut full-length from Warsaw collective So Slow may not be a concept album, but the notion of urbanism permeates through its Polish-sung lyrics that liken a city to an arena where the outcasts need to confront the privileged. The theme of urbanism is also deeply felt in the quintet's atmospheric brand of noise rock that favors an expansive scope over minimalism. The riffs range from sinewy to hypnotic, while the intricate drumming always provides a reliable skeleton for stylistic excursions.
Even though So Slow are clearly inspired by noise rock and post-hardcore which thrived in the 1990s, they cannot be accused of slavish imitation as Dharavi
boasts a distinctive sound that's rife with sonic experimentation. For all pummeling bass lines and discordant guitar play, there are trance-laden segments that deftly blend with robust arrangements. The five-piece incorporate traces of jazz, electronica and post-rock into their music, developing a penchant for instrumentation that's not normally associated with noise rock. There are splendid jazzy saxophone parts that lend '1852' a chill-out finale and evoke the feeling of mounting paranoia on an 11-minute freak-out, 'Starzy Sa Krolowie Swiata.' The band's frontman Lukasz Jedrzejczak uses various samples that finely augment the record's underlying theme, but also his keys broaden the outfit's sonic palette. They both enhance the title track's free-flowing spirituality and embellish the kaleidoscopic closer 'Takie Niezwykle Sa Pozne Dni' with a futuristic vibe. The singer also doesn't steer clear of vocal manipulation, which only adds to the deranged psychedelic magnetism many of these tracks seethe with.
The songwriting on display is diverse, treading a fine line between explosive post-hardcore bursts and quieter, more contemplative passages. 'Prosto W Noc' overflows with infectious energy that stems from formidable guitar work and impassioned vocals, yet the band manage to throw a curveball halfway through with an off-kilter bridge. 'Starzy Sa Krolowie Swiata' showcases the quintet at their most experimental, patiently building up to a genuinely unsettling climax that would be a highlight on the latest Swans offering. Conversely, 'Manahatta' starts off vigorously with violent sonic attacks only to slowly fade away in the end. 'Delray' is the only cut that doesn't quite work as its drone approach disrupts the flow of an otherwise dynamic presentation.
may be technically a debut outing, but the musicians involved are hardly new to the game having honed their craft in numerous Polish underground outfits. That's probably why the album sounds so cohesive. It radiates right from the first listen with expansive, richly layered songs that almost never lose their sharp focus. With the record's dazzling fusion of noise rock and urban mysticism, So Slow have already hit on their winning formula. This is Polish music at its very best.