Boomkat Product Review:
Features David Sylvian and Joan Wasser (Joan as Police Woman). With Steve Jansen's “Slope”, a still tension underlies the crisp rhythms and intricate programming, while a roster of all-star singers draw out the sentiment in his songwriting. Slope follows Jansen’s critically celebrated endeavour Nine Horses, with brother and long-time collaborator David Sylvian and electronica artist Burnt Friedman.
As Jansen explains, “With this album I approached composition attempting to avoid chord and song structures and the usual familiar building blocks. Instead I wanted to piece together unrelated sounds, music samples, rhythms and ‘events’ in an attempt to deviate from my own trappings as a musician.” Opener “Grip” lays out the challenge: skittering beats propel an instrumental with fragments of voices, resonant metal percussion and breathy snatches of saxophonist Theo Travis. The main theme is quizzical: the rhythm is insistent and affecting, a click track with a conscience. Disparate sounds attach to one another as like unpredictably finds like.
Next up is “Sleepyard,” graced by the warm, grave vocals of Sweet Billy Pilgrim’s Tim Elsenburg. Like most of the songs on Slope, the material didn’t set out to support a vocalist, but Elsenburg makes himself at home, as he delivers his narcoleptic ballad. Acclaimed avant-pop singer Anja Garbarek pulls off the same trick on the mischievous “Cancelled Pieces,” where she teases a melody over Jansen’s unorthodox rhythms. Thomas Feiner of Anywhen contributes the ballad, “Sow the Salt,” and both Sylvian and the remarkable Swedish chanteuse Nina Kinert perform the short, striking “Playground Martyrs.” Listen closely to the outro of Sylvian’s version: that whispery, distant howl is as carefully-crafted as anything on the surface, and the intent behind that clicking sound – like metal fingers snapping the beat – is entirely up for grabs. Most unlikely of all is the bluesy “Ballad of a Deadman,” where Sylvian’s serene tenor meets the distinctive growl of Joan Wasser (Joan as Police Woman) in front of a weary guitar and Jansen’s mulish drums. Fans of Sylvian and Wasser will admire how effortlessly their voices blend together on a song that doesn’t fit either’s background. A rare glimpse of Americana on an austerely modern LP, “Ballad of a Deadman” shares one great quality with the rest of the disc: silence.
Jansen’s hunger for new sounds and his keen, inventive beats can cover a wide ground because every element on the record is necessary and thoroughly considered. “December Train,” a driving instrumental constructed entirely by Jansen, kicks off with an exhilarating blend of strings and electronic constructions. It’s serious business to make music this stimulating, and to bring five years of work into such a polished, compelling package. But listen close, and you may catch him wink. Presented as ever in a beautiful digipak with design by Chris Bigg."