Slow Pulp, an Illinois-based four-person indie band, makes waves as gentle and profound as their debut album, “Moveys.”
Composed of 10 songs totaling 26 minutes, the album released Oct. 9 despite a series of health issues, personal challenges and the constraints imparted by COVID-19, according to the album’s Bandcamp page. The album’s page also calls “Moveys” a “testament to hard-fought personal growth.”
Slow Pulp has come a long way from the vivid dissonance of “Die Alone,” “Bundt Cakes” and practically every other track off their 2017 extended play (EP), and nowhere is this better exemplified than in their album’s first track, “New Horse.” Welcoming the listener with surprising gentleness, the harmonized vocals of lead singer Emily Massey weave through the sweeping arpeggios of acoustic guitar backed by a strangely soothing canvas of static.
Similar themes are present in songs like “Trade It,” with its heavier drums and layering of acoustic and clean electric guitar, and “Track,” with the cozy tones of bedroom pop and melodic background whispers.
Perhaps the pinnacle of these themes, and the greatest sign of their growth, is “Falling Apart,” which was released in August along with a music video. The video loosely follows Massey as she searches for the missing piece of a jigsaw puzzle, but it does so in a disconcerting visual style reminiscent of scrapbooks. It’s both familiar and strange, perfectly mirroring the lilting violin that greets the listener within the first seconds.
The lyrics of “Falling Apart” hint at some kind of poetic nuance that, when heard in the context of the video’s pastel blue colors and unperturbed acoustic guitar, obscure the emotions behind the lyrics “Why don’t you go back to falling apart / You were so good at that.” It’s vaguely between melancholy, resignation and longing, but it seems they leave it up to the listener to decide.
However, Slow Pulp has not abandoned their garage-rock roots, since tracks including “Channel 2” and “At It Again” are blasting with energy and distorted electric guitars. Also staying true to their psychedelic past, “At It Again” features odd note-choices that keep a listener’s ears open and their interest piqued.
Beyond just their past, the band has gone in completely unexpected directions with both “Idaho,” the optimistic melodies and light grunge of which feel like an homage to classic rock, and “Montana,” which sports a folk-rock aesthetic and even a harmonica solo.
They diverge further with “Whispers (In The Outfield),” an instrumental featuring a solo piano, detuned and joyous like a ‘90s educational program. Similar to “Falling Apart,” it feels both old and new, since its retro- and lofi-style are made to feel alien with unusual choice of chords.
The album closes with its title track, a jolting mish-mash of genre-stretching weirdness. The old-school groove and cheesy sound effects are aggressively 90s hip-hop, the clang of the cowbell adds Latin flavor and the baritone saxophone brings jazzy funk to the mix. “Fun” is definitely one way to describe the “Moveys” track and is the perfect reminder of just how innovative Slow Pulp can be.
“Moveys” isn’t quite as radical or overtly distinct as the band’s previous works, but it instead finds its strength in subtleties. Slow Pulp shows themself as flexible and explorative but not forgetful — they haven’t changed their sound, they’ve only put it into new forms. Between the erratic background tracks and thrumming bass, Slow Pulp is far from forgetting the silky chaos at their core.
“Moveys” is available on Spotify and other streaming services.