Slow Dancing Society
The Slow And
Steady Winter 





The Slow And Steady Winter is the second album by Spokane, Washington-based guitarist, synth tweaker and composer Drew Sullivan aka Slow Dancing Society, released in 2007 on the Australian Hidden Shoal Recordings and available to purchase at Bandcamp. Spanning eight tracks of expected coldness married with warm guitar emendments as well as the clever use of gray nothingness and multitudinous sustain phases, the sophomore album shows the artist’s Rock roots via classic drums and electric guitars, but moulds these ingredients into synth-fueled Drone structures. The guitars usually appear in unprocessed form, only amplified and augmented by hall and reverb effects, but there might well be instances where I mistake them for synthetic apparitions. The Slow And Steady Winter is an album I adore for one particular track, but embrace for various other reasons, one of them being the constant reciprocation between the textural timbres: glacial shards and icy particles meet nostalgic phantasms and eminently amicable sequences, thereby making the album much warmer and gentler than its grim title evocates. Besides, nothing can beat the power of nostalgia, no matter how petrifying it often is. The liner notes sum up the potentially conflictive forces of the album poignantly, stating that “in part it presents a much darker vision while still radiating an ineffable sense of humanity and heart.” Said darker vision does indeed inherit strong bonds of humanity and camaraderie, this is nowehere near Thomas Köner’s Permafrost (1993). Strong melodies and translucent ornaments transform the coldest of all seasons into a secure alcove filled with memories. The periphery has been described, now it is time to reach for the innermost core in the first artifact of AmbientExotica’s Winter Ambient Review Cycle of 2013.


One of Slow Dancing Society’s greatest compositions ever graces this particular album and scores the opening spot: The Early Stages Of Decline depicts a stupefyingly mellow winter dream and even outshines the sum of its parts. These parts are distinct yet well-known to the connoisseur of electronic music in general, not just to the follower of the Ambient genre. Grafting the stereotyped but ever-working arpeggio onto ambivalently thermal-glacial synth washes is but one feat. The other is the timbre Drew Sullivan creates, as the long track is a camouflaged Detroit anthem sans beats, very deep and profound, strikingly forlorn but never completely forsaken. The listener is encapsulated in epitheliums of shelter; abyssal organ-like basslines and aqueously bubbling formations traverse by ad infinitum. Contraventively legatofied Northern lights pierce their way through the dark-green circumambience charged with spectral exhalations and reverberated vesicles. The Early Stages Of Decline runs for over 15 minutes, but never feels dull, long-winded or overcrowded. One of my favorite Ambient tracks of all time and a feast during wintertime.


The follow up Depths Of December can only lose after such a magnificent monolith, but since it does many a thing quite differently, it is suitable and constitutive for the album. And depths we shall receive: bone-grinding buzzes, deep bass billows and static noise-infested service announcements ooze through the heavy low frequency moiré. Ophidian electric guitars rotate through the thick aura, only partially illumined by the crystalline polar light. Almost post-apocalyptic but strangely belly-massaging and therefore warming, Depths Of December feels like a microscopic view onto heavily pulsating interstices, a feat Chris Herbert achieved by similar means with songs like Chlorophyll or Suashi on his debut Mezzotint (2006). The title track A Slow And Steady Winter follows, only replacing the definite article of the album title with an indefinite one, quite an interesting twist, not just for grammar teachers but reviewers as well: this is just one winter as it can happen in many parts of the Northern hemisphere. Since this is also the first time Sullivan drops the term winter which was only hinted at previously, the arrangement of the layers sports particularly incisive and radiant chimes, mildly acidic guitar coils and a mellow multiplexion of their afterglow. Shuttling between delight, opaqueness and melancholia, it is the bursts of bliss which hijack the brain, letting the listener forget about the glacial constituents by only realizing the warmth of this piece.


With a track title such as The Time We’ve Spent, it is clear that the listening subject is now drowned in nostalgia, watching memory lanes unfold in front of the inner eye. And this is exactly what Slow Dancing Society is doing on this piece which I call a quintessential gem and harbinger of the, back then forthcoming, Priest Lake Circa ’88 (2008). A Dream Rock physiognomy consisting of mellow-moist guitar complexions, vitreous organ drones and many a cleft to absorb the reverb galore, The Time We’ve Spent unites the nostalgic ardor of said album with deep beat structures. It is only that monotonous organ, the sizzling maracas, clinging hi-hats as well as the flute-oid New Age artifacts that hint at the state of winter rather than the sun-fueled paradise that is the pristine Priest Lake.


Whereas Never Ending returns to Drone structures and glorifies this tendency with transfused pedal steel guitars as played by guitarist Craig Ferguson, cosmically oscillating synth spheres, ghostly hums in the distance and rapturous overtones awash with light, Romantica is a clear cut progressive piece of the bubbling kind, launching with footstep-accentuated dun-colored fir-green vaults, then moving over to luminescent guitar twangs until an exhilarative climax supercharged with guitar drones and adjacent licks is reached. It is said that Melissa Cusick provides vocals on this piece, and while I do not doubt her inclusion at all, it is clear that her voice is designedly and purposefully absorbed by the densely layered embroidery. The Rest Of Our Lives then functions as an unintended fugacious vestibule to the ever-glowing Priest Lake by presenting another Dream Rock-oriented arrangement of upfront guitars, classic drum kit rhythms, brazen stokehold vignettes and warm bass coatings, with the finale February Sun surprising with its 3/4 rhythm, aerose loftiness plus infinitesimal spring-compatible tone sequences on the guitar, and last but not least, an uplifting Pop structure of transformative strings which work as aural sunrays. And what a coincidence: these rays are the last thing one hears, and the first thing that is emitted by Drew Sullivan’s third album. That one is about a lake.


Indeed, The Slow And Steady Winter is a properly paced hibernal album, but one with many an injected counterpoint. These create a winter which looses its threat and ice-cold impetus. The listener is never thrown into tempestuous blizzards, not even mildly freezing gales are wafting by. The only instances of coldness are the spheroidal crystals, chimes and bells as well as a definite state of yearning and longing, but all in all, Drew Sullivan unites his trademark Dream Rock aortas with his equally delicate synth drones. The opener The Early Stages Of Decline is one masterpiece to cherish, and even though its title is full of portent, the actual soundscape glows and gleams in green-bluish colors, shuttles between lachrymosity and threnody, fathoms polyhedron blebs akin to Detroit and an equally compatible tonality. I for one am glad that there are no beats involved and that the omnipresent fissures allow the sustain phases of the tones to reverberate. This particular piece towers above everything else that is on the album, it is by far my favorite piece by Slow Dancing Society during the colder season.


The remaining artifacts, however, are no embarrassing B-sides, but worship the embraceable soothingness of winter evenings. Even if this is clichéd at the end of the day, these pieces also foreshadow the phenomenal Priest Lake Circa ’88 album which is, I have to admit, probably mentioned one too many times over the course of the review; Dream Rock artifacts such as The Time We’ve Spent and The Rest Of Our Lives sport syrupy titles, but impress with cavalcades of liquedous sinews and strings. The only instance where the album literally turns dark is invoked during Depths Of December with its sparse polar-oid ingredients. Sullivan showcases that crepuscular twilight can spawn warmth after all: despite the murkiness, the black bass runlets massage the soul, once proper equipment is used to experience it. The Slow And Steady Winter might be torn between Slow Dancing Society’s favor of rockier tunes and his endeavor of unchaining Drone susurrations par excellence in tandem with plinking particles, but it retains a strong cohesion and lives up to that certain Winter spirit.



Further listening and reading:

  • You can purchase and fully stream the album at Bandcamp
  • It is also available on iTunes, Amazon and cohorts. Follow Slow Dancing Society on Twitter: @SoundOfElegance.



Ambient Review 288: Slow Dancing Society – The Slow And Steady Winter (2007). Originally published on Dec. 4, 2013 at