The music I find myself drawn to these days has at least some element of a drone in it. Sometimes that’s the comforting drone of hardangar fiddle in Nordic folk and jazz, the martial drone of pipes, the spine-tingling vocal drone of throat-singing, the electronic drone of ambient electronica, or the crushing drone of heavily distorted guitars in the slow, dark metal known as doom. Slothrust’s music, at least when it kicks into gear, is definitely related to the latter.
Slothrust (don’t ask me how it’s pronounced) is vocalist and guitarist Leah Wellbaum, Kyle Bann on bass, and Will Gorin on drums. They met as students at Sarah Lawrence College, all students of jazz and blues, which shows in their music, though not too overtly. It has elements of prog and metal, nerd-rock and jazz, grunge and punk. “People have always had trouble comparing us to other bands, but someone recently described us as Nirvana meets Wynton Marsalis, and I loved that,” says Wellbaum.
Everyone Else is their third album, and they seem to have really found their groove. Wellbaum’s lyrics are clever and detailed, veering between winsome and deadly. Likewise their videos, such as this one for “Horseshoe Crab.”
Add surf and goth to the mix, as is evident from the opening instrumental salvo, “Surf Goth,” which features the twang of the former and the dark chordal structures of the latter. “Rotten Pumpkin” is the most overtly pop-punkish song, the sunny strumming of the brief intro giving way to a full-on punk attack including hard and fast rolls from drummer Gorin and repetitive, aggressive lyrics.
The Nirvana comparison is apt in a way, especially on the songs that I like best so far: “Horseshoe Crab,” “Like a Child Hiding Behind Your Tombstone,” and “The Last Time I Saw My Horse.” The basic scheme is quiet verse/loud chorus, etc. But Wellbaum’s lyrics are more wry and, her delivery more arch or sardonic than angry and the production keeps them closer to the front where they can be deciphered. And what lyrics. Themes of water, birth and death float through the songs like rivers in a disquieting dream. From “Tombstone”:
I think my face looks like glass
But my body feels plastic
Melt me into a bottle
I wish that I was a baby
Sucking on myself
And then there’s the short, sharp “Trial And Error,” a Minutemen-like burst of raw energy and Falstaffian double entendres.
I told you once you were my son
Because you grew inside me
But who says size has an effect
On what I’ll never tell to you
Nerdy lyrics by a female vocalist, embedded in songs that turn on a dime from folksy strumming to pummeling power chords – what’s not to love about Slothrust?