It’s frustrating to wake in a world of static and desire, an easy path to silence. Silence, after all, has become antiquated in the new millennium — things that go beep in the night often plague us discreetly, becoming invisible wounds that fester and refuse to scab. Pop music runs rampant with thunderous bass boom and lyrical prattle. An entire generation breathes through a credo of “What good is it if ya can’t dance to it?”
Still, there is hope. The Asthmatic Kitty record label has put together the Library Catalog Music Series, a collection of variegated works composed by a score of talented creators, for the purpose of merely existing. The label invites you to utilize the swirling soundscapes of these records while you eat, exercise, make art, or simply carry out your day-to-day routines. Seriously. It’s just creative individuals crafting radiant, challenging art because it’s the right thing to do.
One particularly moving entry lends itself beautifully to the art of slowing down. Music for Moving in Slow Motion, an assortment of slow-churned atmospheric pieces, was created by Buffalo-based composer and audio engineer Alfred Brown, an artist whose dedication to patience will reward yours from the moment you commit to indulging in his compositions. Music for Moving in Slow Motion blends ambient minimalism with brazenly boisterous celebration sounds by way of unhurried plans. Each piece is a bag of colorful strings dumped out at half-speed over a box fan — the tails flagging at molasses pace, scurrying in constant sludge.
Take “Inchoate,” the collection’s gorgeously unfurling centerpiece. Etymologically, the word invokes a new being gradually growing into its still-undefined self. Musically, Alfred Brown’s sonata begins ill at ease with its purpose, with rattling noise smoothing out into unabashed pomp and quiet roar, until it steadies upon its new legs and proclaims its post-post rock grandeur. The video below shows how Brown constructed the distinctive guitar sound at the center of the composition. The song is a 14-minute embryonic metamorphosis of dripping splendor and uncalculated beauty, culminating in a brilliant slip out the back door.
You won’t hear “Inchoate” on the radio (except on The Upstate Soundscape, of course), but you wouldn’t want to anyway. You’d want to hear this — need to hear this — at a proper time. (At home in your bathtub as you carefully trace circles on a frosty wine glass, while capriciously summiting a great mountain of suds, etc.)
Of course, Music for Moving in Slow Motion need not be entirely self-indulgent. The playful three-part suite of “Voice of Animals and Men” dips into Owen Pallett-approved giddy violin glee, snowy bell-chirping and peppy clock-chiming, showing off Brown’s knack for chamber-ready whimsy. “The Littlest Waves (a soundtrack for drowning)” induces discomfort, settling like a bad shot of bourbon, churning around unpleasantly in the ether of the unknown. The brass croon of “A Burning Too Hot to Endure” sounds like a Neutral Milk Hotel concert underwater.
The parallels serve only as reference points. Alfred Brown has fashioned an organic aural experience, one perhaps best summed up by the title of the album’s third-last piece: “A Tussle That Will End in Bearhugs.” You’ll brave the cloudy weather of the album’s mysteries, weathering your own resistance, because of an impulse to feel moved. In the end, you’ll come away embracing all the foggy inscrutability that made it memorable.
Music for Moving in Slow Motion is proof that on certain half-moonlit nights, the best option is the one that requires patience. When silence is unattainable, this 14-song set of moody mini-symphonies will supply the next best thing — a dappled color palette with which to paint your own emotions.
Review by Patrick Hosken