By Brian Tucker
Late last year I caught an acoustic performance of Infinity Crush at Gravity Records. Aside from a wonderful performance it was refreshing to hear such an intimate set accompanied by strict silence from its audience, aside from applause at song’s end. I cannot say the same for an acoustic show at Ziggy’s where the performer could barely be heard over the audience talking.
The need for silence was important for that particular Gravity show. So it was good favor that local duo Slow Dance held their release show there last Sunday.
The self-titled EP was released digitally (you can stream it at Bandcamp) and as limited run of cassettes that come with download cards.
Sarah Royal on vocals/autoharp and Justin Lacy on guitar/vocals, Slow Dance has been playing together just over a year. They released the EP digitally on New Year’s Eve as a nod to their initial meeting. Slow Dance is hypnotic as it is atmospheric, rich with ethereal vocals by Royal and varied vocals by Lacy. They are not so much yin and yang to one another but disparate narrators on an EP rich in tender material that can stray (lovingly) to stark corners.
The EP is a marriage of poetry and spare music that can be prickly, wistful, and invasive if listened to quietly. Save for one song the lyrics are succinct, and colorful – images of dragonflies in someone’s eyes, a boy crying in a library, walking in circles, a sundress, a train traveling out west.
It’s interesting how music played with such calmness can be full of echo, presence, and its own sonic weight. The brief “Dragonflies” personifies it, affecting like an explosion in the midst of silence. Royal sings softly and Lacy underscores the moment – like a dagger just off camera waiting for its moment. The same for “Too Bad I’m Dangerous” and “Not Hard to Find,” in which Lacy’s vocals enter in and out like a lost soul and his rippling guitar seems as though it will come to chaos. Instead, it sounds like relief.
On “(I Guess)” Royal sings pretty but longingly, in a way that combines cooing and high pitched melody. It’s an album highlight, both for its haunted qualities and sense of wandering. For “Harpy Song” Royal switches gears slightly, singing in a more breathy manner. There’s a something rough-hewn in the distance reaches of these songs and it begs the question of what she sounds like letting go. For Slow Dance Royal’s vocals envelope the album like a comforting embrace, a factor that makes listening all the more inviting.