Fri 12th April 2019
What can be said about Sly & The Family Drone that's not already been rolled out before? For the uninitiated, they are a collective, whose singular vision is to lock down disparate elements into one cohesive whole. Drums, sax and electronic noise join together to create a somehow captivating whole, but this release seems a whole world away from their sweaty, chaotic live shows.
Their setup in the flesh is like gathering to watch several men fight themselves, often creating a circular space where the audience act as a barrier, a concentrated focus spot for spontaneous jazz/noise/drone to crackle and burn. Here however, they seem more concerned with creating interplay and dare we say it, form.
I guess there's only so long you can blast out caustic vibes before you need some kind of pressure drop and this may be Sly stepping off the gas in terms of intensity. It's great to hear. Four tracks swirl around with an almost sexy feel, sure there's still elements of chaos, but the drums seem to be played with a subtlety here that gives room for the sax to paint wonderful colours across the scene. Opener Heaven's Gate Dog Agility passes by like a fever dream as a result.
More jazz permeates through on the altogether meatier New Free Spirits Falconry & Horsemanship Display where huge drumrolls peak with some particularly skronky sax. It's best to let this kind of artistic expression wash over you than to attempt to describe it.
The drunken stumble that personifies their live show rears up in a more obvious way on Votive Offerings with more electronics lurching in from the side. The sax here sounds like a portal to a headache, the strange electronics part fuzz, part industrial found sounds, squashed and trodden on under a more wild drum pattern than before. The ghost of techno is lurking here too, the harder, more insistent spectre at the feast.
Closer Jehovah's Wetness (that title!) is a more exploratory, winding affair. Quieter brass and more pockets of silence in the offing, but still a sense of the wild and free to it. A more drone-like feel in parts also gives this track the darkest overtones, but it's still a beautiful colour-wash of a track.
So conclusions? Hard to draw from even repeated listens. However, it's a beautiful, infinitely rewarding one. This could be a real turning point for Sly, Matt Cargill and friends have produced something achingly fragile and challenging here, perhaps shaking off their party reputation a little. Dip in, this one's brilliant.