Album Review: Slow Magic ‘How To Run Away’
Words by Scenewave Australia - Published on September 14, 2014
Slow Magic is billed as music by your imaginary friend. The cult of personality surrounding Slow Magic, fed by an elusive presence, has become typical of many masked chill-wave producers. Having toured with contemporaries XXYYXX and Gold Panda after the release of a break-out debut album ∆ Slow Magic generated a significant degree of online interest. On the recently released second record How To Run Away, Slow Magic’s mysterious persona contrasts sharply with a sound that is at once familiar and recogniseable.
How To Run Away is sonically comparable to the work of Holy Other, Tycho, Gold Panda and XXYYXX. Heavily manipulated vocal samples, the use of complementary electronic and acoustic instrumentation, layered synthesizers and an ethereal timbre have come to typify the genre and How To Run Away bears all the hallmarks of chill-wave albums that came before it. Whilst it isn’t the paradigm-shattering electronic album of 2014 How To Run Away ensures Slow Magic’s place in the chill-wave catalogue is secure.
The luscious electronic instrumentation combined with the warmth provided by acoustic instruments makes for a largely satisfying listen. The lead-single “Girls” is a hypnotic, house-influenced cut that successfully combines an acoustic piano loop with a deconstructed, pitch-altered vocal sample laid on top of a pulsing electronic beat, replete with obligatory drops <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8cWcq9g6b2w?> . In “Hold Still” the transition from a surging synth passage into an intimate piano reprise of the same passage coupled with hushed whispers at the edges is graceful, and typical of the record’s impressive production. “Bear Dance” is a pop-influenced number in structure and instrumentation. Echoing bongos on the fringes of the bridge adds an element of interest in what is otherwise the standard fare of driving synth bass lines and pulsating pitch-shifted vocals.
Ultimately How To Run Away is a record that sits comfortably within the canon of existing chill-wave albums. The album is representative of a genre that has populated YouTube with videos featuring still-shots of poorly focused but vaguely calming landscapes tagged as “vapour wave, seapunk, future wave, cloud rap, chill wave, chill trap”. To my mind, a lot of this music is self-referential and it is for this reason that How To Run Away sounds immediately familiar. Slow Magic hasn’t reinvented the mysterious image and How To Run Away doesn’t depart dramatically from his debut album and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. By any measure it achieves what it set out to do and taken as a whole How To Run Away has to be considered a successful second effort from Slow Magic.