LP, Self-Released, 2017
Also available as a visual album on Blu-Ray
Written, Performed, and Recorded by Christopher Sluka
Cover painting by Christopher Sluka
Christopher Sluka is a versatile songwriter, producer, multi-instrumentalist and painter who has been creating an eclectic array of music since the late 80’s. His 11th studio album is a self-affirming collection of progressive pop that traverses multiple styles without ever veering into inaccessibility. Album opener “Number One” starts off sparse with just ukulele, vocals and some background synth strings, but when the drums and bass kick in with a fat rock beat we immediately get an idea of how meticulous Sluka is with his arrangements and productions. The drums sound tight and crisp and the guitars meld perfectly in the mix with their sustained whammy chords. The beat quickly changes into a dancier groove layered with psychedelic vocal overdubs, staccato guitars, and chirping synth arpeggios panning from side to side. The song builds and builds to a triumphant climax complete with french horns and even some metal vocal screams in the background. It’s clear Sluka doesn’t like his songs to ever look backwards, choose to keep them evolving rather than repeating the same sections over and over. “Virga”, one of the highlight tracks, is based around some beautiful piano arpeggios and a mid-tempo hypnotic groove, with the warm and inviting atmospheres of synthesizers and keyboards creating an ebb and flow of momentum. Sluka almost sounds like the singer of Muse as he introspectively sings “Dear God, in this restless rage. Dear God, how it radiates. Rain, it rains, on me”. The bouncy drums, chorus bass and stereo acoustic guitars of “Rise” recall the psychedelic new wave of Echo & the Bunnymen. Calming field recordings of the ocean lead into the piano ballad, “A Mode of Joy”, a gentle reprieve from the drum-heavy songs that make up the rest of side A. When the drums finally do kick in they’re enveloped in lush string arrangements that carry the song until it washes away back into calming ocean sounds. Side B continues the dynamic, intricately overdubbed piano-rock of the album’s first half. “Slinging Slights” sometimes sounds like the solo work of Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson, with the uplifting vibe of the music juxtaposing nicely with lyrics like “Yes, I know we’re all doomed”. The atmospheric “Arpeggiate” continues with the common introverted feeling of an outsider looking in: “Look at those people, solving their problems, having fun”. The last three tracks, beginning with the lushly orchestrated piano ballad “Cold War”, have the perfect flow to end the album. The anthemic, slow build of “Visceral Repercussions” definitely brings something new to the album, while “Metaphor” resembles an epic Sigur Ros track with its layers of wordless vocals in the background and feels reminiscent and epiphanic with its lyrics about understanding life through metaphors. Overall this is a great album if you’re a fan of Muse, Steven Wilson, or wish that Coldplay was a little more technical and intricate with their arrangements.