Talking to Brooklyn's Slow Six About Their Mournful Local Anthem, "The Night You Left New York"
Yes In My Backyard is a semiweekly column showcasing MP3s from new and emerging local talent.
Brooklyn's Slow Six walk a tightrope between glacial post-rock and modern classical music; they're equally adept at making swelling waves of Arvo Pärt viola bumblebees as they are manhandling good ol' Chicago-style Tortoise hypno-riffs. Over the course of three albums, they've been as tasteful and restrained as you can be in nine-minute bursts, always keeping a cinematic vibe without ever bursting into Explosions In The Sky-style histrionics or avant-garde dissonance. Their just-released third album, Tomorrow Becomes You (Western Vinyl) is Dirty Three without the Dirty, Mogwai without the angst, just 51 minutes of shimmering riffs, tender Rhodes, whining violins, celestial pokes, huggy drones, krauty synths and fuzzy tornados of feel-good. Opening track "The Night You Left New York" is a feat of rhythmic complexity, strings plucking and poking in and out of each other in a slow-building dance that's equal parts Steve Reich and Godspeed! You Black Emperor.
Download: Slow Six, The Night You Left New York"
Slow Six composer Christopher Tignor on "The Night You Left New York"
What is "The Night You Left New York" about?
The New York State of Mind. There's lots of good reasons and also not-so-good reasons to tough it out living here. Trying to get over while not getting your mind narrowed by all the silly scenes and their circular thinking so as to be able to appreciate the larger beauty of this place. For me, it's also about trying to get outside oneself and our ingrained NYC-centric reasoning, to push yourself. Also, good people check out of Manhattan all the time--it's sad for us devotees. And some are gone in their heads before they're really gone.
What inspired its creation, musically?
One of the things we love from classical music is the theme and variations format. The whole first seven minutes of the song is an elaboration on the same chord progression--like a baroque chaconne really--realized differently as it shifts and pivots its way into new places slowly over time. Then the thing finally takes wing and escapes its own conceit and lets the rock out full-on. We try to make what we love about the old forms our own but let the songs themselves decide where they need to go.
Were you actually going for Link hocketing in the track like the press release says? Tell me how you accomplished this?
Lots and lots of practice is the short answer. Hocketing, particularly among same instrument pairings, is something that's been all over Slow Six records for a long time though never this high-energy. I definitely got big into Sub-Saharan African music a few years back. How can you not be inspired by a culture where getting down with all this rad and intricate music is just another part of your regular hang with all the other local fams? No pretension, just celebration.
Where did you first discover modern classical music?
I first learned about modern classical music mostly by buying CD's from Tower Music that had intriguing covers or had a name on it I'd heard mentioned. That's how I made my way through the Bartok and Schoenberg string quartets, Ligeti's Piano Etudes, and a slew of other modernism. As a young rock kid I was listening to a lot of David Pajo's stuff, as well as bands like Dirty Three and Don Cab and knew I needed to realize these minimalist ideas in a way which was indigenous to my own native music. The ideas really fit very naturally. So many of the cues we listen for in popular music exist in minimalism--repetitive rhythmic grooves that sit well in the memory, evocative harmonic shifts that explain how the sections fit together. The biggest challenge is what we ask of the listener in terms of attention over time, how you pace yourself for the pay-off.
What is the most ambitious thing you did when recording this album?
Getting professional musicians to put in the time and effort committed amateurs do and for the same reasons--love of the music and beer.
What's the most memorable show you've ever played in New York?
Filling the Apple Store in SoHo up with sound and our video installations at an after hours private party for big-shots celebrating a recently premiered work by Daniel Lanois. I got to wear a white suit.
What's your favorite place to eat in New York?
You gotta go Russian. Anyway Cafe at 32 E. 2nd street is open crazy late and has incredible Zakuski and infused vodka. Babitchka waitresses with that un-fakeable Eastern European sass don't hurt either.
Slow Six play Glasslands on Saturday, March 27 with Lymbic System.
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