‘Slow Dance ‘22’ upholds the London label’s reputation for defining the sound of the underground heading into 2023.
Slow Dance Records are back with their annual compilation series, now in its seventh year. For the hearteningly growing number of people in the know, this is a crucial part of the musical calendar. These collections reliably document the experimental beginnings of tomorrow’s defining alternative acts (previous features have included the earliest recordings of Lynks, Platonica Erotica and Isaac Wood). They also promise to confound and beguile the listener, pushing the boundaries of genre and recording technology. Each compilation is a time capsule of a year via its brightest and best underground talents, and Slow Dance ‘22 is no exception.
Opening this year’s collection is the beautiful baritone Americana of Zilcho Hamblin. This start is something of a curveball from a label primarily noted for electronic music, but that only reinforces Slow Dance’s resistance to the pigeonholes of genre. ‘Life is Unexpected’ washes along, pushing slowness as far as possible with the elemental simplicity of breath.
Immediately, Alien Chicks jerk us out of this gentleness. The fast-rising, post-punk-jazz-math group speak of the sound dominating the landscape of British bands who still resist using laptops. Similarly on-the-pulse is the unpredictable Morgan Noise, whose commanding delivery ties together an ingenious composition of musical chaos. Morgan’s track is followed by another measure of the complicated funky in the form of Jennifer Evans’ ‘Very Fond’. Perhaps the most exciting group on the album to follow a traditional band setup is The New Eves. Their tune ‘Mother’ combines exotica stomp with Raincoats harmonies to create something particularly unique.
Though its remit widens every year, a consistent joy of these collections is their tracing of evolutions in experimental bedroom production. On this album, as in previous years, some of the most outstanding and unique sounds are in the two-minute patches that follow somewhat ambient structures. Sheiva provides a work that streamlines the sprawling sounds and styles of their live shows. ‘Never Been Here Before’ is full of instinct and idiosyncrasies, with Sheiva, cheekily casual, speaking over it: “Swear you’ve been here before, my guy”. Also subtly ear-catching is Zohara, an incredibly exciting artist and producer. Her piece ‘Intro’ has something of mallwave about it but broadens its scope in drawing on Middle Eastern influences and the artist’s jazz background.
Slow Dance is an institution, and its continual growth has been hugely beneficial to British music and London’s scene in particular. Their releases and events provide platforms for the uncategorisable and the plain weird… that is to say: exactly the sorts of works that have the power to reinvent the sound of the alternative. Releasing at the outset of the year, Slow Dance ‘22 once again sets the pace, and will no doubt inspire another year of magic bedroom innovation.