Whetzel: Slow Waves (self-released, 2018)

April 6, 2018 at 8:02 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Whetzel: Slow Waves

Genre-evasive multi-instrumentalist James Whetzel ventures into ambient music with this extremely slow-moving CD. It’s not just typical chill-out music, however; as the liner notes explain, Whetzel tried to make music so slow it would freeze time. Instead of being some sort of glacial dark ambient release, however, this is still clearly meant for relaxation, and it feels warm and earthy rather than dead frozen and arctic. The title track claims to be only 4 BPM, but that’s because the percussive thumps are separated by lengthy gaps. The ethereal guitars seem to be floating by at a faster rate. And even though the songs are all set at slow tempos (with 57 BPM being the ceiling), many of them are subtly tucked into unconventional time signatures. If they were fast, they might seem complex, but here they’re completely unwound, so they’re utterly soothing. As with much of Whetzel’s work, organic instrumentation seems to take precedence over electronics, although there are some synthesizers swells. The guitars often evoke Kranky artists such as Windy & Carl or Labradford. “Ole’s Dream” is probably the strangest, trippiest track here, due to its constant backwards effects — and somehow it’s one of the two tracks listed as being in 4/4 time. A pretty unique approach to ambient music, and yes, it is very relaxing.

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