Slow Dancing Society: Under the Sodium Lights
Hidden Shoal

Drew Sullivan returns with another serving of his trademark Slow Dancing Society sound on his fourth release Under The Sodium Lights. Not a whole lot has changed in the Slow Dancing Society universe since the Washington based producer's last opus Priest Lake Circa '88 though that won't be any cause for concern for those already partial to Sullivan's intoxicating ambient serenades. If anything, the new release feels like all of the project's strengths have been concentrated into a single statement, and hazy washes, hushed voices, and desert guitars once again exert their hypnotic pull upon the entranced listener.

Sullivan distinguishes his Slow Dancing Society sound by making electric guitar the lead voice on many of the seven tracks, and what personalizes the sound even more is that the guitar is often presented as a fluid twang that merges seamlessly with the ambient flow around it; consider, for example, the manner by which plaintive guitar melodies share the spotlight with sheets of swelling synthetic sound during “By Your Side.” While the settings are, programmatically speaking, abstract, these beatless, time-suspending reveries resonate with emotion. A sense of longing and wistfulness characterizes the material, and song titles such as “A Year of Yesterdays” and “...And to the Dust We Shall Return” reinforce the music's elegiac tone.

The album's intimate mood establishes itself immediately when reverberant swirls of guitar figures, shimmering organ chords, and a murmured voice's recited text gradually crystallize into the dreamscape “The Songs in Your Eyes.” The addition of a female's breathy whisper to “Love is on the Way” renders it all the more seductive, but Under The Sodium Lights ' most masterful piece has to be “...And to the Dust We Shall Return,” which is veritably symphonic in the way its guitar and synth tones intone with such quietly rapturous supplication, and the slowly descending bass pattern that gently anchors the track is a thing of beauty all by itself. Calling “...And to the Dust We Shall Return” heavenly isn't as hyperbolic as it might seem, and the album's other tracks aren't far behind on that count either.

October 2010