Acuarela Discos from Madrid, Spain, is producing albums covering both Spanish-tinged rock while also letting the harmonicas free in releasing some great Americana. Acuarela has used the term “slowcore” to describe Early Day Miners, a group from Indiana. This term seems to cover many artists emerging from Acurela.
Early Day Miners’ The Sonograph EP is AltCountry with its twangy range of guitars. It fits in between Blue Mountain and John Doe/X even though it lacks the intensity of either. After all, the slow of slowcore is an accurate description. Yet, the core of slowcore is that hint of hardcore ready to be released, an underlying sound of throwing down the gloves. It possesses that same kickback front porch jam quality of Blue Mountain on “Bijou” and “Mosaic II” which come complete with the crickets in the yard while also hinting at the darker country skies of John Doe/X on “Bedroom, Houston” and “Misrach”.
Other artists on Acurela might not truly be termed as slowcore, but nonetheless, they’re certainly grouping right together in the AltCountry section. Okkervil River moves forward with more certainty than Early Day Miners, however that’s all relatively speaking. “A Leaf” is a song which moves beautifully in the rhythm of a falling, blowing leaf in the gentle breeze. Okkervil River’s shared EP with Julie Doiron gives four tracks of acoustic country which lands them right between Pete Yorn and Thomas Denver Jonsson. (I toyed with the idea that Jonsson might be labeled as slowcore).
The Virginia band Spokane creates some haunting slowcore on their EP Close Quarters. The brightness of glockenspiel lightens the sound as it presents precise melodic lines above the more drawn out lines of guitar and violin on “Good Fortune.” The entire sound is like putting down the pedal on the piano or the sustain key on an organ—pedal steel guitar, violin, cello, other guitars, holding out the melodic lines. The blend of Rick Alverson and Courtney Bowles’ voices becomes another layer to this sustained sound. Spokane is in the Spectrum just ahead of Early Day Miners.
Damien Jurado’s Holding His Breath EP falls in this same section, next to Blue Mountain because of it is slowcore with AltCountry, Americana, and Bluegrass spilling out of it. What I mean is that there’s no one way to ignore the similar meanderings of Jurado, Spokane, and Early Day Miners, but Jurado really seems take a porch song and slow it down, a bluegrass tune and give it the dark treatment, or an Americana melody and swill it around for awhile. While Early Day Miners and Spokane seem to start slow, Jurado seems to be purposely holding the tempo back. The effect is startling, creating that stuck in traffic feeling, the car lurching and pleading with you to find a way to be on the open road. The effect is like the urgent emotions of love or grief or anger, whatever, emotions that you can’t let out because you’re with strangers, in a waiting room, or in a library. The dual feeling is best captured on “Now You’re Swimming,” complete with the vocal being doubled in a strained voice.
As I said about Thomas Denver Jonsson, these artists could easily become background music acting like Muzak. If you let them. The key is to play them like any hardcore band. You don’t play hardcore rock when you want conversation. You play hardcore to let loose. That’s the key with slowcore too. Play it loud! Hear the intensity in the controlled tempo. With the volume up, Early Day Miners, Okkervil River, Spokane, and Damien Jurado are unleashed. It’s not all about our tempo. Rocking hard can come in the slowest of AltCountry.
Thanks to Jesus Llorente and Acuarela Discos.