Just over a year ago, in April 2013, Slight released their debut EP, Melodion. Over that EP’s three tracks, the Montreal-based group presented a familiar sound somewhere between Stereolab’s retro-futuristic avant-pop Emperor Tomato Ketchup and the dreamy psychedelic pop of The Flaming Lips’ The Soft Bulletin. The vocals follow angular, idiosyncratic melodies, shared between the band’s core songwriting duo of Danji Buck-Moore and Michael Hahn – who also happen to be McGill alums. The duo, joined by a varying group of percussionists, creates a lush atmosphere around these melodies, building on the interplay between Hahn’s reflective guitar and Buck-Moore’s keyboards.
Now, straight out of their improvised loft studio, Buck-Moore and Hahn, joined by Drew Barnet on drums, have released a new follow-up single, “Spirit School/Tasting.” The first thing that strikes listeners familiar with last year’s EP is that the band has upped the fuzz on their sound. The A-side, “Spirit School,” is mostly in line with Melodion, with the exception of an unfamiliar fuzzy guitar that drones throughout much of the song. This shift toward shoegaze is even more noticeable on the B-side, where the swirling guitar effects and atmospheric synths in “Tasting” bring to mind My Bloody Valentine’s 2013 album m b v. It’s a subtle change, but one that Slight pulls off well. The increased psychedelic and shoegaze influences, combined with the soft pop of before, make the group’s sound slightly more distinct. Their energy level on this new release is also higher than the first EP. Aside from this shift, however, not much else about the new release is remarkable in terms of the band’s development.
The vocals, for one, are unremarkable, but they don’t seem to be the focus. The lyrics of “Spirit School” come across as a metaphor for an unsatisfying relationship. The narrator sets up an image of “halls and rooms convincing me to stay” but complains “It’s not all on me/what we do when we’re asleep.” Unfulfilling relationships consistently inspire music across the board, from the powerfully moving to the the eye-roll-inducing cliche. For Slight, the relationship-inspired lyrics are too ambiguous to have any sort of emotional impact. Meanwhile, the vocals to “Tasting” are so obscured through effects and filters that the lyrics are hard to discern – but this is is often the case for shoegaze music, which is more about atmosphere and timbre than lyricism. As such, the lyrics don’t add much to the music. The vocals are more of a background layer, a feature like the fuzzy guitar, not noteworthy but still noticeable – they would be missed if the tracks were purely instrumental.
“Spirit School/Tasting” is a promising single. While there’s nothing about it that really stands out, that may be the point – not to take any of the elements as independent, but to simply listen and absorb. In terms of the band’s development, it shows a new level of sophistication, incorporating various influences to produce a more distinguishable sound. Indie rock and psychedelic fans should keep a lookout for Slight – they won’t grab you immediately, but you might just like what you hear.
Both Melodion and Spirit School/Tasting are available for digital download at the band’s Bandcamp page. Slight will perform at Sala Rossa on November 22 at 7 p.m. as part of M for Montreal.