[REVIEW] Mac DeMarco Meets Kurt Vile in LOWsound’s New EP, Slacker

Lawrence Willoughby (LOWsound), dives into the murky space between adolescence and adulthood in his self produced EP, Slacker. Lawrence sent me over a copy ahead of its November 1st release date. Here’s what I thought.

As a slacker once said, ‘Salad days are gone.’ And so they are, for some of us anyway. But we still yearn for those long, heady summer days that stretched lazily ahead. Sometimes we capture that feeling, reliving it briefly through a nostalgic haze. The new 5 track EP from LOWsound, titled Slacker, certainly takes you back.

A rock record with a healthy dose of psychedelia, Slacker contains mercurial riffs that collide and chase one another, each track heavily guitar based. Lawrence adds some breezy vocals making for an easy going lo-fi sound. From the early rough recordings sent over to me from Lawrence’s Berlin home, I instantly ‘got’ what he was up to. And the finished product doesn’t disappoint either. Surf rock meets DIY aesthetics by way of grunge, Slacker stands as an exciting, if short, debut from LOWsound.

Good Sound

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Now Slacker isn’t a feel good EP, but the smooth guitar based songs feel good. As do the swirling kaleidoscopic vocals. Somewhere in that mix, amongst lyrics about waves, rip tides, and the good old days, an EP heavily drenched in nostalgia emerges. 

For me, the standout track is the ‘Drugs Wear Off.’ If there’s a single in the EP, this is it. Lawrence’s guitar playing is at its best, with the tremolo, the reverb, and the harmonies creating a feeling of space. The layered vocals dance with the wobbly guitar sound, making for some catchy pop rock. I’m a fan of the title too. There’s a sense of identity and harmony between the sound and the package it comes in. The looping vocals turn into yelps and the harmonies build on the rich textured tapestry established in the opening track, ‘Roll Out Loud’. This heady, kaleidoscopic noise consistently defines the EP, establishing LOWsound’s unique voice.

Of course, nostalgia by definition is a feeling of loss, and Slacker certainly contains a healthy dose of sadness. But ‘The Count’, the last track on the album, brings it all around. Not everything ends badly, and Slacker finishes on an upbeat note. It’s time to move on, it’s time to get going, and ‘The Count’, a mix between Kurt Vile’s ‘Pretty Pimpin’ and Jefferson Airplane’s ‘Embryonic Journey’, concludes the EP with a real sense of transition. It’s upbeat, happier, less muddied, clearer, and free from the confusion and swirling hypnosis of the earlier tracks. 

Listen Up

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For a short EP, there’s a lot to listen out for. In amongst the swells and eddying softness, in between the references and allusions to the ocean (Lawrence lived in Falmouth, once), something new emerges. Yes, Mac DeMarco’s jizz jazz and Kurt Vile’s pretty daze are both thematically important, but the use of clapping hands and folk chord progressions show that Lawrence is aiming for something more than the sum of his influences.

For me, as a guitarist, I like the minimalism in terms of production and the overt reliance on the instrument throughout the album. It’s old fashioned music making. It’s DIY, it’s duct tape and superglue, but from the pieces, Slacker stands out with its polished and cohesive sound. It’s a rock record slowed down, and it consistently shies away from making any sort of definitive statement. But that’s OK. Its identity has to be sought out, and I’m not sure Lawrence even knows what that is yet.

Low Down on LOWsound

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I love a good rock song and I love a good heady guitar based collision of psychedelic grooves and old fashioned electric tunes. Slacker for me hits the right notes, and I’m not just saying that because I know Lawrence. This is my kind of music. Perhaps because we’re friends, perhaps because we share similar tastes in music, perhaps because we both play guitar, but as objectively as possible, this is some good stuff.

If waking on Kurt Vile’s pretty daze takes you back to Mac DeMarco’s dreamy Salad Days, then plug in to LOWsound’s Slacker. Tune in and coast on some groovy guitar riffs, get lost in the hypnotic soundscapes, and don’t fight the riptide. Let the music take you where it takes you.

Slacker will be released on November 30th (physical) and November 1st (digital). You can follow LOWsound on Twitter, Soundcloud, and Facebook.

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