Got Slope?

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Got Slope?

Postby heartofdavid on Thu Oct 04, 2007 2:32 pm

Anybody else already get their copy of "Slope" in the mail? Opinions?

Initial impressions - I love it. It lies somewhere between "blemish" and "Snow Borne Sorrow", in that same land, but more experimental, more rhythmically focused - would also sit well alongside the work of Holgar Czukay. I think all the vocalists do a great job, right now particularly like Tim Feiner on "Sow The Salt", reminds me of a Tom Waits track. "Ballad of a Deadman" has a bleary/weary, almost bluesy feel, David and Joan Wasser's voices work well together - I can imagine this being done by Rufus Wainwright. My favorite instrumental piece is "Life Moves On", piano cycles by Alberto Tafuri and Steve, with "December Train" a very close second (would have fit nicely on SBS).

Nice keyboard work (piano and synths) by Steve throughout.

To me, there is a melancholy atmosphere to the album - not sad or depressing, but reflective.
Last edited by heartofdavid on Thu Oct 04, 2007 10:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby sisterlondon on Thu Oct 04, 2007 5:41 pm

Sounds amazing! Can't wait to get it!!! :D
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Postby Lady Arcadia on Fri Oct 05, 2007 1:26 am

Still waiting for my copy... d@mn NZ Post!! :evil: :evil:
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Postby proggrl on Fri Oct 05, 2007 8:42 am

Yes, I got mine. It was in the mail when I returned from seeing PT! :D Talk about topping off a great, great night. I had a friend staying with me who is also (due my own corruption) a Sylvian/Japan fan, so we popped open a couple beers and started to listen to it. About half way in we stopped - too tired to remain awake. In such a setting it's hard not to enjoy music, but I thought it was brilliant.

I reflected on how odd it is to listen to drummers' albums. Not sure why - I just think I expect something completely different from drummers and that whole outlook on how they are not 'real' musicians. Most drummer albums I heard were really jazz/jazz fusion or very percussive. So many now have proven that it's not always the case.

On this album I think our lovely Mr. Jansen has learned a lot from his brother. I agree that Tim Feiner's voice reminded me of Tom Waits. Jansen's use of sounds and electronic noises fail his aspirations to 'avoid song structure' because he created just that. It's not very usual song structure, but they are well structured tracks indeed. Although he may have used unrelated sounds and rhythms he presents them in way that they become related and flow into each other.

Theo's work on this album is brilliant. My favourite use of an instrument is to make it sound like it's not supposed to and he achieves that on several occassions. The Anja Garbarek track is gorgeous and I'm really becoming addicted to her. What a voice! I stopped after Playground Martyrs which would have fit nicely on SBS.

I will agree (again!) with heartofdavid - I think this album is very reflective as I started getting very pensive while listening and enjoying.
Mind - that could have been the Guinness affecting a much sleep deprived mind, but that's my review so far! :P

Now that the excitement of the last two days has gone, tomorrow I plan to FINALLY listen to Naoshima with headphones, after which I plan to get through the rest of Slope - probably from the start again. Perhaps a more descriptive review coming soon.
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Postby mikaels on Fri Oct 05, 2007 3:41 pm

Mine is still swimming across the Atlantic, hopefully by end of next week or so I'll be able to listen to it...
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Postby proggrl on Fri Oct 05, 2007 3:45 pm

mikaels wrote:Mine is still swimming across the Atlantic, hopefully by end of next week or so I'll be able to listen to it...


If it doesn't drown, that is. It's an awful long way to swim. :wink:
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Postby baht habit on Sun Oct 07, 2007 2:12 am

Received a copy of Slope yesterday and casually listened to it once through last night. Today, I gave the disc a much more attentive listen in order to make some sort of assessment of the content:

GRIP - In my opinion, the song title is quite the misnomer...there really is nothing "gripping" about this piece of music. The music just sorts of floats around out there and leaves this listener waiting for something to happen. Surprisingly, the participation of saxophonist Theo Travis adds very little to the atmosphere of the song....little more than basic whole notes seldom serve a song all that well....the trumpet samples grasped my attention in a more positive way than Travis' contribution to this song. Also, the excessive electronic element on this particular track seems almost too thin and the form of the song is far too meandering for an opener. Foremost, I found the music box styled keyboard part to be especially annoying throughout. It comes across like some quiz show theme.
SLEEPYARD - This one has a nice groove, which is somewhat impressive as the song is in the relatively odd time signature of 7/8 and also contains some interesting choices of where to stress accents. I am not sure if I am entirely sold on Elsenburg's lyrics, melody lines and vocals. To me, it sounds as if he is stretching and straining. But overall, it is a decent enough track and is surely quick redemption for the lackluster opener.
CANCELLED PIECES - Ah yes, now this is more like it. What a gem of a tune...experimental and especially fun. The song is in 6/4, which opens up a lot of interesting avenues of rhythmic twists and turns, and quirky syncopations abound indeed. Ms Garbarek's disaffected vocal stylings and coquettish recitations work quite well to give an almost lounge-esque vibe amongst the noir-ish musical accompaniment which Jansen masterfully created. Also, listen closely and check out Sylvian's slinky guitar licks, which are so right for the mood.
DECEMBER TRAIN - I can only figure that such repetition is meant to emulate the movement of a train. Yet this song seems mired in various noodlings atop a single chord. Usually, trains move forward and have destinations...this musical idea leads nowhere.
SOW THE SALT - I quickly recognized the opening of this song as a piece included on that brief video of a performance by Jansen and Elsenburg in Japan last year. At the time of the performance, it was tentatively titled "Amina" ...yet was later changed to "White Man Hex" when listed on the video clip available on Jansen's website ... and from the little which was heard, it easily drew me in with such an engaging vocal melody line and the vivid autumnal imagery of it's lyrics....
But oh my, what has happened in the time between the live performance and the actual release of Jansen's cd??? The music is the same here in quite a beautiful arrangement reminiscent of Jansen's strongest contributions to Snow Borne Sorrow, yet the melody line and lyrics which had previously impressed me so much are nowhere to be found! Instead there are these monotone vocals and banal lyrics. For me, a complete disappointment.
GAP OF CLOUD - An honorable enough touch of ambience.
PLAYGROUND MARTYRS - Sylvian....such gravity and grace in brilliant simplicity. Both versions included here are successes. Jansen's inclination to work with such wonderful female vocalists keeps paying off in great ways.
A WAY OF DISAPPEARING - Avant garde musings somewhat akin to Sylvian's A Brief Conversation Ending In Divorce, yet a little more economical in it's sparseness. The improvisation works quite well as a coda to Playground Martyrs.
BALLAD OF A DEADMAN - Wow! A rollicking slice of Americana --- elements of country, blues, folk, jazz --- For some odd reason, I keep thinking of the Depression Era as I listen to this piece. Road Life - Looking For Work - Waiting In The Breadline - Roaming Nomads. The beauty and intrigue of America's landscape, yet at the time of the country's lowest point. Call me crazy cuz I myself don't exactly understand why I am finding some correlation with the era that inspired Steinbeck's The Grapes Of Wrath....
Sylvian and Joan Wasser's deadpan vocal delivery is absolutely appropriate in their approach towards the laziness of the verses. And then when the bridge hits, it gets huge...equivalent to some drunken John Phillip Sousa Marching Band (or perhaps two Charles Ives Marching Bands). This is easily my favorite track on the disc.
CONVERSATION OVER - In my opinion, Conversation Over is easily the best instrumental composition included on the cd. As the tune begins slowly, surreptitiously taped conversation is heard over languid accompaniment. Then as the swifter musical pattern appears in a way conveying movement, the conversation fades away. I interpret this, correctly or incorrectly, as something like Quit Talking - Start Doing.... There are so many global problems we are now aware of and the conversation should be over. It is time to act. I have always believed that instrumental music can speak to the listener just as well as that music which contains vocals and lyrics. My interpretation may be way off but I cannot help but recognize a sense of urgency and poignancy to this excellent piece.
LIFE MOVES ON - A 20+ year old recording of Jansen playing a piano piece spliced with an updated interpretation by Italian pianist/composer Alberto Tafuri Lupinacci. An interesting concept.

So that's just my take on Slope.....
Last edited by baht habit on Sat Oct 13, 2007 7:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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My impressions of Slope

Postby Simonp on Sat Oct 13, 2007 2:26 pm

I must confess I wasn't expecting much from Jansen's debut solo album but I was more than pleasantly surprised at how good it was on my first hearing. It's an incredibly cohesive work considering the different vocalists, sounds and styles that make up the album. I also have to disagree with baht habit about the opening track "Grip" - I think its a wonderful piece of music and a very strong opener. Overall I think I enjoy every track but if pushed to name favourites I would list - Grip, Sow The Salt, Playground Martys and Deadman. It goes without saying that the Sylvian sung tracks are wonderful. It would have been nice to hear Jansen himself providing vocals (even in the form of backing vocals).

Love the album cover too. Wonder what the significance of "Slope" is though? A nod to Scott Walker's "Tilt"????

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Postby japanfan on Sat Oct 13, 2007 5:08 pm

Anybody no where to get a legal DL of individual tracks from the album i want the 2 tracks David is involved in?
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Re: My impressions of Slope

Postby heartofdavid on Sat Oct 13, 2007 5:54 pm

Simonp wrote:Wonder what the significance of "Slope" is though? A nod to Scott Walker's "Tilt"????

I was wondering about the title too. Maybe as an analogy to life, that it has its ups and downs.
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Postby sisterlondon on Sat Oct 13, 2007 6:57 pm

I got it today, will say more after a few listens!
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Postby untitled on Mon Oct 22, 2007 6:09 am

I like this record way more than I was expecting to. Best thing Mr Steve has ever done, I think.

Grip – I think this is a great opener and a great indication of an area that Steve can inhabit. I could hear elements reminding me if minimalist laptop artist such as Ryoji Ikeda and Biosphere, more obvious influences like Fennesz and Takagi Masakatsu, but even IDM acts such as Fourtet.

Sleepyard – I’m a fan of Sweet Billy Pilgrim and love Tim’s scratchy vocal. For me though the lyrics aren’t as strong as in his SBP output.

Cancelled Pieces – Clever. Fun. Inventive. Fantastic. However, I did laugh at Anja’s spoke word section – it could have been Ingrid! What is it about the Batt boys and the breathy female vocals?

December Train – Canton for the 21st century! You initially think “ok this is just going to repeat and repeat, what’s the point in that?” and before you know it, your feet are tapping and your head is bobbing. However where Canton had a lovely slow build December train has an emergency stop just before the end and the deconstructed elements of the tune hang in the air for a moment before settling into silence.

Sow The Salt – The only other track by Tim Feiner I’ve heard is the one on the Samadhi Sound sampler. Based on that limited exposure Tim should stop working with Anywhen and work full time with Steve. This is a beautiful track full of love, despair and a world weariness that is exceptionally compelling. My current favourite.

Gap of Cloud/A way of Disappearing -They are ok, but Fennesz and Sakamoto are currently doing outstanding work in this kind of area, so it’s difficult not to compare them.

Playground Martyrs - Both versions are outstanding. Enough said.

Ballad of a Deadman – Joan and David’s vocals are great together. Despite the flat delivery, they sound like they’re having fun.

Conversation Over – This one is growing on me. The strings are slowly winning me over after initially thinking they were too…unremarkable. But repeating listening does reveal them as a nice counterpoint to the other elements of the piece.


Life Moves On – A simple but none the less beautiful melody. Again easing you nicely in Playground Martyrs.

All in all, I am most interested in the transitions within the pieces, some elegant, some abrupt, but never less than interesting. Is it because he’s a drummer he has an interesting approach to song construction? Whatever the reason, Slope is a really good album and one he can be very proud of.
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Postby Nath on Wed Oct 31, 2007 6:19 am

where can I find the album please ?

many thanks

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Postby Burnsjed on Wed Oct 31, 2007 6:34 am

Go to Samadhisound store and then onto CD's
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Postby natsume on Wed Oct 31, 2007 7:13 am

Conversation Over takes me back 25 years to when I first started listening to Japan. Total nostalgia track.
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