Slift return with a monolithic slab of the finest music to transport you to the edges of the Cosmos!
You have to be a bit obsessive to review music, you need to sit down and listen to a lot of new stuff, and then order and collect your thoughts on whatever album you are listening to at the time, get it all written down and ultimately try and get across what the album sounds like (and also try really hard not to sound like a mumbling idiot to anyone reading it, or maybe that’s just me!) So, it’s quite common for me to listen to new music whilst doing other things for me to find enough time to fit the reviewing process into my life. What brings this process to a grinding halt is when I listen to something which makes me jolt upright at what I’m hearing and think “Bloody hell!” and then immediately go and listen to it again, and then become mildly obsessed with it to the detriment of everything around me (just me?). The new album Ilion by the French trio (I struggle to comprehend that there is only three of them) Slift is the most recent album to illicit this reaction.
What the band have done with this album is to take that most stubborn of traditions, the sophomore slump, and to blow out of the water. In fact, they’ve not just blown it out of the water but launched it into the furthest regions of the universe. This is Psych Rock dialled up to 11, and then plugged into the large hadron collider and amped up to 11,000! What they’ve managed with this album is rather special. There is, however, a slight word of warning, this journey is not for the unprepared or trepidatious. You must be willing to let the music envelope you and be propelled into the very depths of space with this album as your guide to get the most out of it, casual listeners need not apply here.
The album starts with the spectacular title track “Ilion” which absolutely flies out of the traps with barely restrained agility. It’s a Space Rock epic with that very distinctive Slift rhythm section driving things along at a steady gallop. The vocals sit somewhere between a bark, sung and shouted and fit the style perfectly. Next song “Nimb” is where we start to hear the influences which seep into the rest of the record. There are much more dynamic aspects at play here and the slower, spacier sections are more drawn out and playful, the heavier ones hit that much harder due to their sporadic nature.
The highs of this album make Olympus Mons red with envy and the lows put the Mariana Trench to shame. Sounding like a guided tour through the cosmos is not a new idea, but this album seems to relish in taking steps to throw new things at you whilst traversing the unknown. Oh look, shield your eyes from the exploding nebula (the ending of “The Words That Have Never Been Heard”) and now, bask in the strange and bewildering essence of Sagittarius B2 (the glorious continuous drum roll on “Nimb”) and let’s not forget that exhilarating feeling whilst teetering on the edge of a super massive black hole (the stunning call and response at the end of “Weavers Weft”).
If you’ll permit me to go on a slight tangent, my favourite superhero is the Silver Surfer, and I like to imagine him surfing through the cosmos with this record in his earphones, taking that guided tour with the band I spoke of earlier. It has flashes of Prog Rock, 70’s Retro Rock, Sludge Metal, Jazz and even Ambient. The genres become almost meaningless and are deployed at just the right time for maximum benefit.
This is an album I can and will recommend wholeheartedly to anyone who will listen, but it does come with that small caveat that to get the most out of it, you need to immerse yourself in its idiosyncratic ways, but if you do, then “Bloody hell!”, be ready to be transformed into Archimedes for your very own Eureka moment. Simply stunning.