Slow Dancing Society
Priest Lake Circa '88





Priest Lake Circa '88 is the third album of Slow Dancing Society aka Drew Sullivan who comes up with thoroughgoing nostalgic but immensely lush and always exuberantly happy Ambient entities that immediately withdraw the listener into him- or herself, at least the kind of listener who longs for sunny childhood days long gone by. With this album, Sullivan bathes in memories of hot summer days at Priest Lake, Idaho, and offers the listener to reminisce with him. On Priest Lake Circa '88, every idea is implemented in a co-ordinated and consistent manner, especially Sullivan's signature sound integral to the mood of the release, a carefully played electric guitar that doesn't alter the mood as a foreign matter, but is delicately interwoven into each song's texture. The album is literally glowing of effusiveness and contentment, and each part fits perfectly and enhances this entrancing feeling.


Forever Young marks the elegiac beginning, consisting of dominant strings of an electric guitar and mumbling voices who augment the happy feeling of a trip to the past. This is the only instance where Sullivan borrows from the style of Boards Of Canada, as the similarities between his short opener and the duo's flowing vignettes are striking but indeed welcome. Lots of artists are compared with the Brothers Sandison of Boards Of Canada fame, and a lot of artists may not feel all too honored, but by now roll their eyes when their names are mentioned next to the Scottish duo. However, my comparison is true-hearted and meant as a compliment! Glimmer And Gleam marks the proper beginning of the predominant mood of the album, although it is a slow start, as if Sullivan didn't want to pre-empt the gorgeous offerings in the middle of the album. A warbled, flangered guitar washes over while you can hear children laughing and frolicking echoically in the far distance. The only other ingredient consists of foggy synths that resemble a warm static noise due to the heavy filtering. As I've said, a rather unagitated start that introduces all the traits which are yet to be intensified in tracks like the following This Lilac Life that starts with a pastoral synth, chirping birds and a greater use of the electric guitar which undulates slowly and isn't as filtered as before. Formerly quiet synth strings are overlaid each other in the last third of the track and engender an interesting depth.


The album really shines due to the next three tracks, all of which are responsible for the album's coherence and success in creating a strong, joyful mood. Sun Spots is the first of the mentioned trio and the fourth track overall, slowly fading in with warm, mechanic sounding strings and occasional guitar licks, creating a comfortably warming drone sound. In the middle of the track, a gorgeously bright synth melody is slowly playing along the washes of drones and eventually overcomes them and establishes itself on the front of the mix with only the slightest pink noise remaining of the once dominant drone that is later pitched down and faded out with the track itself. The Red Summer Sun is the next track, a 13+ minute feat that slowly starts with a glowing, deep two-note synth that is looped and altered slowly for the whole runtime of the track. And boy, is this a rich, delectable loop! It definitely evokes a red sunset over a lake, and its sole, majestic presence makes it even more effective. In the halcyon interregnums, the electric guitar is fragilely playing single notes, and in the last 4 minutes, it plays more dominantly, coexisting with the synth loop for a short time before winding down, the loop being the last thing that is faded out. Pastel Dusk consists of yet another gorgeously mellow and diffusely quavering loop with long bursts of resplendent, almost human-like chants added next to an electric piano and high notes plucked on the electric guitar. The guitar is later warbled and sounds similar to a lawn mower or a private airplane and therefore adds another summer note. 


A Warm Glow, the penultimate track, is made of guitar chords and is otherwise the most melodious song on here. Electric carillons and mellow synth washes make this a somewhat energetic track where quietness is overcome by a surprising and outstanding crescendo of all aformentioned layers played together while the last minute presents several drone sounds. The final track, The Iridescence Of Innocence, is a synopsis of all elements and moods on this album, which means that it starts in a pastoral, lofty way until the synths are filtered, with only warbling artifacts remaining. An acoustic guitar is featured on here and is oce more used in a more traditional way, playing the main melody while being accompanied by quieter drone sounds and bright, monotonous synth. This longest offering of Priest Lake Circa '88 ends with the well-known melancholic and luminous thought insertions, ending the album on a bittersweet note.


The most distinctive feature of Priest Lake Circa '88 is the joyful mood and the intense synth washes that create the feeling of a child's jauntiness. Thankfully, Sullivan doesn't fall into the folk song trap, as warm summer evenings on a lake are predestined for kitschy samples of fire crackles and unenthused plucking on a folk guitar. Instead, he uses reverberating electric guitars in the most careful manner which means that the guitar doesn't take over or let alone destroy the warm, glowing and isolated summer atmosphere, but craftily blends with the prevalent layers of synth strings and thus adds an important and most harmonious attribute to the atmosphere created by each song. This is a beautiful album with a very strong middle section consisting of three utterly beautiful, elevating and – dare I say it? – mind-expanding tunes. This is for Ambient fans who want to listen to a joyous and happy, yet deep and meditative album and who might dislike similarly friendly Ambient tunes for their lack of overarching depths. But not here; Priest Lake Circa '88 is overloaded with depth and memories and thus makes it Slow Dancing Society's most personal and beautiful album at the same time. Recommended? I'll let you guess!



Further reading:

Drew Sullivan is tweeting under the name @SoundOfElegance.




Ambient Review 015: Slow Dancing Society – Priest Lake Circa '88 (2008). Originally published on Dec. 18, 2011 at