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The War on Drugs’ Slave Ambient [7.5]

Posted on the 22 September 2011 by Thewildhoneypie @thewildhoneypie

sc190full2 581x581 550x550 THE WAR ON DRUGS SLAVE AMBIENT [7.5]

Baby Missiles – The War On Drugs

Slave Ambient, the second full-length release from The War on Drugs (@warondrugsjams), is a reverb-soaked collage that’s pasted over a seemingly flimsy folk skeleton. Evident from the title, the band is leaving room for their psychedelic sonics to procreate, allowing phase-shifting synthesizers to wash over Slave Ambient and create a meditative percolation — the album’s greatest strength. Lacking the sing-a-long choruses that anchored 2008’s Wagonwheel Blues, Slave Ambient won’t grab you on a first listen. There is, however, an expansive, epic narrative at work underneath the haze anchored by the Dylan diction of singer Adam Granduciel.

Album opener “Best Night” lays the bones for a folk-toned skeleton, which “Your Love Is Calling My Name” later fills with sinewy synthesizers. All the while, Granduciel’s voice, though somewhat detached from the rest of the instrumentation, tethers the sound to an Americana-core. Sometimes, however, it gets away from him with songs like “The Animator”, a somewhat dragging track that doesn’t execute in its angelic attempt towards Philip Glass ambiance.

The War On Drugs find their sweet spot with the song “Baby Missiles”. Somewhere between 80s New Wave and Arcade Fire, this is easily the best track on the album and peaks the feeling of narrative that the tracks leading up to it only hinted at. The album winds down with  “Blackwater”, which strips Slave Ambient back down to its bones.

In its droning halls there is a meditative beauty that can only be found by retracing your steps, so multiple listens will be necessary. Even on first listen, though, Slave Ambient is still impressive in the way it is able to hold shape and direction without a single dominant chorus. Though their ambition may have been too great, the blurred horizon that The War on Drugs aims for is beautiful in its conception and, if you let it, Slave Ambient will get a good creep on you.


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