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Low Motion Disco - Keep It Slow

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Artist: Low Motion Disco

Album: Keep It Slow

Label: Eskimo

Review date: Jun. 19, 2008

Low Motion Disco make music for adults. Nothing equally certain can be said about this press-shy Swiss duo’s background, and it’s probably best that way. Their debut long-player, Keep It Slow, takes cues from dub production techniques, house’s sense of development, and even soul melodies (“Ooh Child” is reworked here as “Things Are Gonna Get Easier”), but the end result is synonymous with chillout. Low Motion Disco are mocking themselves by tagging their CD’s genre Easy Listening, but the gesture pins down Keep It Slow’s main ambition: this is simply a very good, groove-driven downtempo record. There are few surprises, and that’s just as well for music containing this much built-in space for sociability.

The album’s mood is consistent: even in the ominously named “The Low Murderer Is Out At Night,” the feeling is one of dinner-party conviviality. The track builds around a ghastly sample (is that a death rattle I hear? Or just someone finishing a Slurpee?), but its presence is mostly a conceit. The band’s technique revolves around getting close enough to a genre to capture the some of its DNA, but maintaining enough distance to keep the responsibility of defying or advancing any of the moves they’ve copped well at bay. To extend the genetics metaphor, Low Motion Disco spend just as much time taking care that their test tubes are clean and their samples don’t mutate as they do analyzing what they’ve isolated. This anal attention to sonic correctness can bleed the music’s pleasure and replace it with near-clichés, which is definitely the case with “Talk Low When in Space,” a song that must double as an absurdly dry in-joke. But for the most part, Keep It Slow is lifestyle music clever enough to outpace the term’s most negative connotations.

“Things Are Gonna Get Easier” is not a particularly ambitious re-work, but it’s audacious enough to sub out the chorus’ second half with a surprisingly expressive and affecting synth bassline. These sorts of minor embellishments are frequent enough to distract the listener from the fact that the majority of what’s offered here is familiar--even the sense of space within these midtempo productions. The first half of “Love Love Love” is almost rote: busy, cycling drums and John Carpenter piano filtered through a new age gauze. But halfway through, there’s a brief pause that allows all the song’s elements to regroup and solidify into something that threatens being interesting unto distraction, with a hint of lurid italo glamour to offset the group’s clinical mannerisms.

“East Mountain Low” is one of the album’s best moments. It contains what, alone, would be a big gaffe: lyrics cribbed from MV + EE’s “East Mountain Joint” that fit the song’s dusky timbre, but which are delivered in an unconvincing, off-key shout. Then again, it’s a tall order for anyone to make lyrics like “When I’m driving up that East Mountain Road/ Diggin that rock n roll/ And I spark one up/ I’m in the mood” sound like anything other than boomer self-absorption. Divorced from its context, this part of the song could pass for a field recording of the aforementioned dinner party’s rowdiest moment; alongside the wah-treated vocal sample that counts as melody, the seething synth pads, and percolating toms, it almost sounds like drugs.

Keep It Slow is really more red wine than doobie, though. At its least enjoyable, this music is cleverly facile and merely competent; at it its best, it’s woozy, friendly and calming. In other words, it’s undemanding and generous like a good friend, but at moments passive-aggressive and spacey like a bad one. I don’t plan on listening to this with undivided attention anytime soon, and I get the feeling that’s how Low Motion want it. I might not be adult enough for this yet, but the album artwork is great.

By Brandon Bussolini

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