Portland, Oregon duo, The Slaves, only have a handful of releases under their belt so far, but it doesn't mean they haven't left their mark. Operating in the void somewhere between shoegaze and doom, this is music that is stretched to its breaking point and epic in the true sense of the word. Barbara Kinzle and Birch Cooper know how to fit within each other's movements, piling on in all the right places and knowing when to pull back. "Spirits of the Sun" shows their singular focus at its peak. These four dark and lush dreamscapes stretch their claws, dig in, and never let go.
The Slaves have no qualms about who or what they are. The formula is simple: guitar, synth, voice. Yeah, there's some effects thrown in for good measure, but this is music that thrives on how well it's written and performed rather than because of endless lists of gear. Kinzle's synth work is where the backbone begins, but Cooper's caustic guitar raids are always lurking, waiting for the perfect moment to disrupt the harmonic elegance. It's these layers of smeared guitar chords and synth notes that add so much depth to each piece. It feels like you're being swallowed by a sonic abyss and it's only Kinzle's narcotic, sublimely towering vocals that save you in the end. As her voice ascends on "River," it becomes eternal.
Throughout "Spirits of the Sun," there is a dichotomy pulling in opposite directions. The Slaves create music that is simultaneously beautiful and grotesque. There's a twisted dark side that is consistently being overshadowed by sounds that are overwhelming and majestic. Each aspect pushes and pulls, but the beauty and the symmetry win out in the end. By the time the album closes with the soaring "Born Into Light," it is statuesque and firmly entrenched in the deepest reaches of your psyche. "Spirits of the Sun" is a force and The Slaves will guide you toward your own oblivion.
Mastered by Brad Rose and cut to vinyl at D+M Berlin. Artwork by Birch Cooper. Listen as loud as possible.