Jason Sloan, (s)END

Jason Sloan’s new release, (s)END is a flowing electron mist that washes past packed with downtempo beats, mutated sounds and transmitted vocal samples that feel like they’re trying to tell us something. The overarching vibe of (s)END is one of sophisticated, unhurried cool and patient evolution that’s constantly on the move. There’s an interesting softness to the sound here, like Sloan is keeping it at a short distance to let us look at it more fully. The distance also lends a dream-like quality; it’s there but it’s not quite there, yet the sound is still distinctly affecting us. As a sound manipulator, Sloan likes to build thick layers, and it’s a pure pleasure to listen to him ease the elements into place. The opener, “warmANDfading_light,” is built on dovetailed repeating note motifs and long drone-ish chords. Light beats poke at the structure. Here’s where we get the first vocal sample, a woman’s voice repeating a series of numbers through a haze of radio static. It’s a meme that Sloan plays with across the six tracks, and through its repetition forms a cryptic narrative core for us to latch onto. The artist’s slick hand is best seen in the way he takes “statikAether,” a 90-second test-pattern of hissing drone, and spirals it directly into the chilled beat of “asFragile.as.” That’s another signature element in (s)END; when Sloan puts in a beat, it doesn’t change. While that might suggest that he’s risking sonic stagnation, it instead functions as a working pulse, a steadfast touch in a shifting space. It works. Sloan’s guitar lines shine through wherever they’re placed, but perhaps no more so than in the closer, “(a)SEND,” where he laces it with a tinny echo that rings as notes ricochet off to the distance. Density comes from police radio transmissions woven through the groove and a dramatic descending three-chord sequence backed by airy pads. The beat takes unforgiving hold. Late in the track, the voices return to join in reciting their particular number sequences like a prayer in cypher and the story within (s)END fades to completion.

With 13 previous releases to his credit, there’s no surprise to the fact that Sloan has a cool and confident compositional hand, but he’s also quite willing to chart fresh territory for himself. (s)END is perfectly constructed and executed, a balance of sound, style and story that demands repeat listens. (s)END is a Hypnagogue Highly Recommended CD.

Available from Jason Sloan’s web site.

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