Tomorrow Becomes You
I hesitate to use the label 'prog-rock' when speaking of Slow Six's Tomorrow Becomes You because of all the untoward associations that automatically accrue from doing so, yet it's hard to deny the association. Mind you, if the recording does suggest some tie to the genre, it's prog-rock in the best and most literal sense of the word, in other words, progressive-rock, or, most precisely, progressive music that rocks (in fact, so unabashedly prog-like is the group that it boasts a front-line of not one but two violinists: Ben Lively and musical director Christopher Tignor, the two ably accompanied by guitarist Stephen Griesgraber, drummer Theo Metz, and Fender Rhodes player Rob Collins). Of course, cycles of music do exactly that, so no one should be too surprised to see the genre slowly creeping its way back into the musical landscape. And revisionism never goes out of style: no less a publication than The Wire devoted a recent “Primer” to King Crimson, not to mention an “Epiphany” that offered a defence of Yes, if such can be believed (a while ago, textura offered its own in-depth exploration of the phenomenon, as seen here). Regardless, Slow Six's music isn't about complex time signatures or self-indulgent soloing for the sake of it, but instead forward-thinking instrumental music with classical ties that's delivered with a passion and intensity befitting an outfit ideally experienced live.
Exuding regret and melancholy, the episodic opener “The Night You Left New York” begins plaintively before unleashing a virtuosic intertwine of string patterns, the strings coiling around one another in intricate formation, that incrementally grows in force until an ecstatic peak is scaled halfway through and an even more grandiose, guitar-fueled climax occurs at track's end. The influence of systems-based compositional techniques can be heard on occasion—in the opener's hypnotic hocketing and in the repeating string figure that introduces “Cloud Cover (part 1),” for example—but the material never feels like it's being shoehorned into prefabricated templates but instead unfolds naturally with ease and grace. Tignor's self-designed software treatments also are woven into the music's fabric, not overtly calling attention to themselves but present nonetheless in the swarm of strings that gradually swells in “Cloud Cover (part 1)” and in the talk radio conversations that are transformed into abstract electronic material during “Because Together We Resonate.” Gorgeously blending the cry of the violin, the atmospheric shadings of guitar, and the warmth of electric piano, the limpid meditation “Cloud Cover (part 2)” recalls the serenading style of Slow Six's Private Times in Public Places (initially released in 2004, re-issued by Western Vinyl in 2007). “Sympathetic Response System (part 1)” is less taut compositionally speaking and feels like somewhat of a space jam, its motorik rhythms and electronic treatments suggesting it's Slow Six's stab at krautrock; the composition's second part more than compensates for that relative album lapse with a delicate reading that builds from elegiac restraint to impassioned exuberance.
There's a distinctly American character that sometimes emerges in Slow Six's music, in the rustic violin themes that appear during “Because Together We Resonate” and at the end of “Sympathetic Response System (part 2)” that suggests a connection to the classic American folk tradition. Pizzicatti violin playing in the epic closer “These Rivers Between Us” even resembles mandolins, strengthening that folk connection even more. How interesting, then, that the group's range of references should extend so widely, with folk merely one more element in an encompassing mix. On the new recording, Slow Six continues to pave the way for a new generation of progressive instrumental music-making, regardless of whether it's called cross-over, electro-acoustic, experimental rock, prog 2.0, or just simply instrumental music. Tomorrow Becomes You indeed.