Slow Knife are a noise-jazz-synthcore-post-punk-no-wave-new-wave-fusion-afrobeat-deathcore-breakbeat-reggaeton-breakneck-east-coast-west-coast-skate-punk-jazz-rock-post-rock-slowcore-pop-experimental-ambient-surf-rock-grindcore-sxsw-drunkcore-straight-edge-stoner-rock-jazz-rock-death-metal-black-metal-dogcore-plunderphonics-wrathcore-onecore-twocore-threecore-fourcore-fuck-rock-anti-folk-anti-establishment-anti-everything-dance-electronic-idm-edm-odm-udm-adm-math-rock-lad-rock-hip-hop-landfill-indie-indie-rock-indie-pop-capitalist-core-socialist-core-communist-core-marching-band-mariachi-band cheerleading squad from Manchester.
Only joking, I don’t know what it is. But they are a band from Manchester.
Their newest record is A HYMN SUPREME, a two part improvised piece recorded in, unexpectedly, Quarry. As we all probably know by now, the Quarry recording space is a 4000 year old listed building, the third oldest listed building in Merseyside, right after the old air raid shelters in Everton dating back to the original World War I in 3400 B.C., and the Primark in town that exists everywhere at the same time.
The two sides of the record, while complimenting each other well, feel very different. The first half is like having a headache and the second half is like having a bellyache, but I mean this in a very complimentary way, and I didn’t have to take any ibuprofen or anything like that while listening to it. Instead I listened to it very loudly out of the speakers in my bedroom, lying sprawled across my bed, kicking my feet up and down as if I was having a tantrum, but I was smiling rather than crying and screaming.
The album kicks off with A HYMN SUPREME Pt. 1, a jazz song. Well, maybe. It does have a saxophone. The track is probably a homage to the John Coltrane classic A Love Supreme, but with a much colder atmosphere. It’s echoing and transcendent in the way physically cold things are. Stuff like mountains. As it clambers to the top of its 20 minute run time (I’m still using the mountain metaphor to discuss the grandiose nature of the album, which is obviously very clever) haunting poetry is repeated over the building instrumentation. The piece basically seems to work as a prayer to the jazz that has inspired them.
In the second half the brass and drums start to escalate and build in a way that’s noisy but oddly beautiful. Huge crescendos make way for quieter, more introspective moments. A lot is covered. My brain gets confused and thinks it’s listening to pop music at one point. It never is though. The musical motifs recur and by the end of the track I’m completely hypnotised.
The album then moves into its second half, the instantly noisier A HYMN SUPREME Pt. 2. As quickly as the noisy, scratching-at-the-walls aspect appears though, the track switches and becomes ambient. Humming and chanting begins. I am a coward and become a little spooked. It feels like walking into some kind of horrific ceremony in a desecrated church. This second part feels even more like performance art than the first. In fact, it feels weirdly like a bloodcurdling cooldown from the first half.
As the album ends I feel the need to drop to my knees and join in with whatever weird ritual it has become over the course of the past 45 minutes. A HYMN SUPREME is the sort of album that should be listened to very loudly in one sitting as you walk through a holy ground that you think might be slightly dodgy. It is frightening and, in places, quite moving. It feels like the natural progression for a band like Slow Knife. It’s the sort of thing that would be quite excellent to see live.
Brilliant news! They’re playing at Quarry on Friday 6th October. Joined by Telescopic Arms and Hinged, it’s likely to be one of those classic ‘3 bands play at Quarry and we all have a jolly good time’ nights! Makes sense really.
A HYMN SUPREME is out now on Fr33zehead.