I want to say the year was 2003.
It was an unusually hot October morning hovering around 2AM. Stepping out onto my back porch to have a smoke, I peered up into the sky. At first I wasn’t quite sure at what I was looking. I can admit to you now that I was actually a little nervous. It looked completely alien. Unnatural. Running down the driveway to get a better view, I was both filled with elation and trepidation.
I stood in the middle of the street and shot my eyes skyward once again. Before me were beautifully swirling patterns floating listlessly in the dark. Bright reds and purples suspended impossibly, undulating like airborne waves on an alien planet. I would learn days later that the sun had experienced a large coronal mass ejection, throwing it’s plasma towards Earth. I had witnessed an aurora borealis. And it changed me utterly.
Finnish post-rock band Slowrun knows a thing or two about auroras. Roiling swells of so many colors, rippling like whitecaps soft enough to sail upon. The area of Lapland can actually get immigrants moving to the area in search of the mystical Northern Lights. To live in an expanse so blessed to be able to experience something so magical can make one envious. In 2003 when I accidentally spied my own borealis (and only due to a once in a lifetime solar storm) it changed my entire perspective on life and the universe. It shook something loose within me. I couldn’t shake the experience. I still can’t.
I bring this up because there are moments in all of our lives where something gets rattled loose; the veil is lifted from our eyes and we begin to see things more clearly. Sometimes it is one big momentous experience. Others it’s a series of small earthquakes over time. Many times it’s a minor, mundane change in our headspace. Still others it’s a tumultuous life changing event. This happened to me in 2003.
It happened again in 2007.
I always enjoy hearing how people got introduced to the post-rock genre. I’m probably considered a later comer. I first became aware of the genre that would ultimately own almost ever fiber of my being purely on accident. A lot like how I witnessed the aurora borealis. I was watching the movie Friday Night Lights. I didn’t know who or what the background music was, but suddenly the story and dialogue were no longer important. I didn’t care. All I knew is that whatever or whoever was playing in the background, it moved something inside of me. I again felt something rattle loose. I wanted more. Again, I couldn’t shudder the feeling. It was full of hope and moroseness. Vindication and purpose. I would soon devour everything the genre had to offer and, 10 years later, I haven’t slowed down.
Slowrun’s 2-song EP “Passage” gives me the feeling of 2007 all over again. I almost instantly feel nostalgic and start to yearn for slower, easier days. I’m not the same person I was in 2007 and bands like Slowrun have a lot to do with that. They are able to capture the genre in a time when it was crawling through my veins and terraforming my soul. Slowrun doesn’t play overzealous chord progressions chock-full of filler. And they certainly aren’t in any hurry to get anywhere. They let their songs build in slow motion upon the reluctant breakers of an aurora. They build so impossibly slow into a ground swell that once the song breaks you feel swept up as into a storm. The heavier portions are well measured and few and far between, but never cliche.
A lot of fans of the genre have grown restless with the quiet-loud-quiet recipe of post-rock. I’ve stated in another review that I can understand their sentiment, but I can also admit that there’s plenty of room in the genus for bands that don’t necessarily feel the need to rewrite the book on instrumental rock. There’s something sentimental about Slowrun’s writing that I find a bit infectious. They aren’t going to score any points for pushing the limits of post-rock, but they don’t necessarily need to. The band has a clear and composed approach to song writing. Not every band needs to bring a thousand samples and a degree in noise shaping to the table in order to create a beautifully written tune. Slowrun is analytical in their approach. They’ve come to convey an idea and they refuse to muddy the waters. This is what I loved about post-rock when I first got in to the scene. Sure, sometimes it was a bit formulaic, but it was comfortable and safe.
Slowrun has another record entitled “Resonance” released in December of 2015 (listen to the track Introspection). It, too, is well worth a pick up and deserving of a review. With “Resonance” the band really shows off its chops. “Passage” is just that. A portal into a new chapter for the band. You can hear a sense of maturity growing in this latest 2-song release. It’s tranquil but troubled. It’s clear-sighted and contemplative. “Passage” is why I fell in love with post-rock in the first place a decade ago. If you need reminding of what it was about this genre that rattled something loose within you, starting a fire in your belly, you should (re)start with “Passage”.