💽 Excelsior by Slauson Malone 1

💽 Excelsior by Slauson Malone 1

We've got a treat for this weekend edition: the first album review from our new music and arts critic, Will Kaplan. You'll be seeing his name on a monthly basis moving forward as he helps shed some light on lesser known indie musicians. And don't skip the one more thing and upcoming sections, where Will tells us about some other things he's currently digging and looking forward to. I'll turn it over to Will to introduce himself.

Since 2018, I've been living in Queens, NYC making and showing artwork about humans and our relationship to our surroundings. I work with a mix of printmaking, painting, and collage. Because music has always fueled my creative practice, I enjoy writing critically about new albums, concerts, and the city's underground art scene as well. I believe that words, music, and images work most excitingly in dialogue, and hope that my work in any medium ignites that intersection.

And without further ado, here is Will's review:

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Slauson Malone 1 titles his album Excelsior: the latin word meaning "ever upward". But this post-genre record makes no unidirectional ark; it instead favors a meditative, wandering spiral. In these tracks’ deconstructed grace we hear beautiful, curious sounds, arranged with a sharp ear for both melody and dissonance, momentum and meandering. There’s a mix of raw and processed voices with electronic and analog instruments suggesting an organic self, mediated by technology, and a thirst for progress that often becomes our undoing. Accordingly, Slauson Malone 1 leaves ample silence in these compositions both within and between songs. The record’s 42 minutes pass slowly, letting us savor each bent synth, string, strum, and syllable.

Half Life,” the longest track (at 4:45) encapsulates the range of the record’s sounds and subjects. A melancholy picked guitar joined by a lush orchestra swells, then snaps into a propulsive beat. Through a touch of reverb, Slauson Malone 1 sings about a lover and the nuclear age: “Your face like time / Your hand like mine… The stuck atoms in Arizona / Still spin and suffer.” Whispers of a certain “you” flutter over the whole record in dialog with scientific terms and preoccupations on empire and climate change.

Sonically and thematically, Excelsior reminds me of Frank Ocean’s Blond, Moses Sumney’s Grae, and Low’s Double Negative—records that value meticulously crafted sounds and shroud their creators in a decisively preserved opacity. With his emphasis on individuality and illegibility, Slauson Malone 1 presents the grim implications in our hunger for acceleration and improvement. Still, Excelsior offers hope in suggesting that true progress is not linear but comes from slow experimentation.

collage of words, including part of the review and lyrics, and slason malone over the excelsior album art

one more thing

Lower East Side gallery D.D.D.D has two stellar painting shows: Estate Sale by Oidie Kuijpers features a line of intimate landscapes in golden hour glow, while Douglas Paisley’s Phantom Limb presents an erratic salon-style installation of fantastical, macabre paintings on canvas and cardboard. It’s a one-two punch that proves painting is still vibrantly expansive and that the medium can be as indebted to or unbounded from its deep traditions.


Quaranta by Danny Brown, rap’s most daring and experimental jester, drops next Friday (11/17) [Editor's note: that's today! took me awhile to publish...], after nearly 2 years of leaks and teases. Right now Brown is thriving with a newfound sobriety; I expect this quarantine dispatch to present the demons he’s conquered in their rawest, most powerful forms.

Will Kaplan

Writing artist based in Queens, NYC