Jason Sloan steps away from the computer and gets back behind the hardware for his excellent 15th solo release, Fall of the Fifth Sun. Taking ideas and structures from recent live performances back into the studio, Sloan fired up such diverse sonic treasures as a Korg Poly-800, Roland SH-101, Juno -60, and the ever-so-classic Stratocaster, along with more recent rigs, to lay down a set of pieces that blend noise/found sound, cool beats, and big, lush pads into a swiftly changing mix that demands repeat plays. The disc grabs your attention immediately with the muffled and distorted radio voices that kick off “Black Coronas.” A persistent beat slides in underneath, and the thing takes on a slight industrial tone. Cool guitar chords glisten under the sound-scramble, and we’re off. There’s a hypnotic effect that comes from the relentless drive of the beats and the static–to the point where, when it cuts out, it’s almost disorienting. But Sloan only gives you a moment to dwell on that before you’re hit with the aggressive drums behind the title track. Across the board, Sloan does a great job of segueing from one track to the next with themes intact. The title track pares down to a bleep-and-bloop sequence that carries into “Ash and Snow,” which ends with an electronic squawk that clears the space for the bass-note trill that starts “Pulsar.” And so on. It plays up the fact that although there’s a lot of diversity of sound here, there’s also a unifying thread, and Sloan doesn’t want you losing track of that and coming up out of the flow. One thing I quite enjoy about Fall… is how the pulsing beats, which have a fantastic old-school artificiality to them, remain a constant. It’s not just that there are drums, there are those drums, with that particular tone and feel to them. “Ash and Snow” is the best track in this regard, with near-glitch runs carrying the load through much of the end. “Pulsar” is also beat-centric, working with that unwavering bass phrase over Morse-code keys and lilting pads. Sloan quiets things down with the slow movement of “View from a Hill”–even here, a single beat on an electric tom keeps the pace. I love the big, lush pads that drift across this piece. The slower motion here makes a nice set up for the closing track, “Blue Kachina,” because that one works a slow burn to a point of take-off where it picks up a strong Tangerine Dream vibe. A familiar, twangy bass sequence chugs along beneath meaty rise-and-fall chords. There’s great urgency at work here, like the build-up of a load of kinetic energy seeking release. Late in the track, it stretches out into vaster spaces, leaving the beats behind to glide to a stop.
Fall of the Fifth Sun is a release that I’ve gladly looped over and over. Sloan is a top-notch technician with a great groove. On this disc he was looking to come away with an edgy feel that he felt he could only get with the hardware. He hits that spot on, and does it without having to wander into homage. The layers are deep and rich, the energy is consistent and infectious. This is a superb release.
Sloan has also released an EP, Sine, with an edit of “Fall of the Fifth Sun” and two other tracks, “3300 kHz” and “The Final Hour.” You need to pick this up if only for “The Final Hour.” On his web site Sloan notes that this is one of his favorite tracks. Give this 12-minute downtempo glide a listen and you’ll know why. It starts smooth and warm, a perfect mix of beats and long pads, and makes a nice tempo shift mid-stride. The same guitar chords that peeked out of “Black Coronas” lend their gleam.
Both releases are available from Jason Sloan’s web site.