If you were a bit disappointed by Arcade Fire’s Reflektor not living up the whole ‘Haitian theme’ thing, than Slow Machete’s latest EP might be just the remedy. No longer sure how and when this project came to my attention, but I’ find myself returning to it with increased frequency and ceaseless satisfaction. What strikes me the most however is just how little exposure their music gathered, not least because of the unusual way it all came together. To give you a short background story; Slow Machete is a collaboration that came to life as Pittsburgh native Joseph Shaffer was recording Haitian choirs in 2009 during aid trips to Haiti and found himself with dozens of practice recordings and outtakes. These outtakes were then deconstructed and woven with Cuban rhythms, actual pitched down machete samples (hence their name) and clever processing techniques into what eventually became Slow Machine’s debut LP Evening Dust Choir (released roughly a year ago), as well as the new Mango Tree EP. The result is a variety of earthbound and organic sounds treated and chopped beyond recognition to give at an experimental edge that at times bridges into IDM and various ambient sub-genres. But predominantly, it serves as a rootsy and daring alternative to contemporary indie folk.
Compared to the Evening Dust Choir, Mango Tree strikes me as less subdued to experimental outputs and as a result is largely more accessible (although “Until Your Father Sleeps” and “Evening Dust Choir” from the LP are two beautiful and clear exceptions to the former statement). But this is not to say that Mango Tree is any considerable deviation from the formula, just that the idiosyncratic way of handing seemingly ordinary elements have evolved into something lighter and reachable.
The EP bookends with two short rhythm-less creations that mostly serves, although delightful, as an intro and outro to the EP. In between these two, you’ll find four rhythm-heavy mid-tempo compositions that mostly move in a pensive vein. There seems to be a considerable amount of time gone into processing and layering these satisfying numbers. The horns and percussions breathe of each other like it was the most natural thing, while being underlined by delicate bottom heavy bass play. The icing on the cake is the endlessly beautiful Haitian choirs, the prominent reason why Mango Tree doesn’t really sound like anything else. All this could’ve been fine enough as fascinating and stunning instrumental creations, but Shaffer’s vocals adds that extra dimension to these recordings, which in the end functions as the main reason why his music bridges beyond any form of experimental obscurity. Mango Tree is one of those albums that keeps changing on you the more you submit yourself to it, and as fascinating as Evening Dust Choir was, Mango Tree takes all the precisely crafted complex tonal webs of the former and shapes these elements into a warm and intense experience.
- Slow Machete (ownthinkmusic.wordpress.com)