Slow Dancing Society: Laterna Magica
Hidden Shoal

Any artist five albums into a particular project might start getting restless and be tempted to change things up. But often doing so betrays the fundamental integrity of said project and the move ends up being a diminishment rather than enhancement. In that regard, it's pleasing to discover that Drew Sullivan hasn't dramatically altered his Slow Dancing Society sound on Laterna Magica but instead given us fifty more minutes of the lustrous ambient music that has performed a slow dazzle on listeners since the project's 2006 inception. Track titles alone (e.g., “After the Twilight Takes Us,” “I'll See You in Time”) indicate that the Washington-based soundsculptor's music is still powerfully suffused with nostalgia and longing, and the album's refined material bears that out in forceful manner.

It's uniformly slow-moving, naturally, which allows the listener to all the more easily savour the soothing effects of the electric guitar and piano textures and crystalline synthesizer washes that inhabit a typical Slow Dancing Society setting. With the music breathing so unhurriedly, the listener finds his/her own inner state gradually attuning itself to the album's languorous electronic rhythms. An entrancing swirl of piano, synthesizer, and guitar patterns, “I'll See You in Time” is representative of the album's style. No small number of lovely touches emerge, such as the chiming guitar figures that grace “Gardens & Graves” and “A Slow Parade of Wind” and imbue them with such a wistful quality.

There are passages where the music swells to an intense pitch, in particular during the tropical haze of “There's a Place For Us” and the at-times ominous “I'll Leave a Light On,” and “Pieces of Your Presence” exudes an uncharacteristic urgency in its sequencer-like patterns. A speaking voice also surfaces in a few tracks to ensure that the album doesn't flirt too much with homogeneity, but, generally speaking, Sullivan stays the course and hews closely to his carefully calibrated Slow Dancing Society style. In simplest terms, Laterna Magica makes for a nuanced addition to Sullivan's slow-building body of work.

November 2012