Slow Dancing Society: The Slow and Steady Winter
Hidden Shoal

The Slow and Steady Winter, the superb sophomore effort by Washington-based Drew Sullivan under the Slow Dancing Society guise, chronicles the progressive stages of a Spokane winter from onset (“The Early Stages of Decline”) to retreat (“February Sun”). Challenging expectations, Sullivan startles the listener by audaciously inaugurating the album with understated yet transporting ambient pieces before introducing more conventional melodic fare. In the opening fifteen-minute evocation, lonely whistling calls, like the cries of a distant bird, pierce the stillness while shimmering organ washes and reverberant electrical tones stretch out to infinity. The activity level gradually subsides, until the sounds of soft winds blowing and the pitter-patter of steps traipsing through puddles are all that remains. The shorter piece that follows, “Depths of December,” could have been titled “The Early Stages of Decline Part II,” so close in spirit is it to the opener. The addition of distorted voice samples gives it a slightly more aggressive feel, something “A Slow and Steady Winter” pushes further with resonating stabs of electric guitar flourishes.

The album's initial half-hour is capped by the stirring centerpiece, “The Time We've Spent,” where bluesy guitar peals elegantly ring out over a slow-motion base of organ and drums, a style revisited in the penultimate “The Rest of Our Lives.” Frozen sheets of sound course through the epic ambient settings that follow these tracks, which don't so much showcase guitar virtuosity as they do lyrical beauty. Amidst the slow-burning guitar and organ swells that dominate “Never Ending,” the guitar's gentle twang resurrects the sound of Sullivan's debut release, The Sound of Lights When Dim. “Romantica” escalates to a beautiful Manual-like roar, and soon after “February Sun” ends Sullivan's radiant The Slow and Steady Winter on a blissful high with celestial chord progressions building to a rapturous climax. Be sure to play the album loud in order to fully bask in its splendor.

January 2008