‘Slowness’ by Outfit (Album)
Dwelling on themes of distance and separation, the second album from this Liverpudlian synth-pop five-piece is ethereal, sophisticated and compelling
ritten and recorded during the brief weeks the band members weren’t, themselves, divided by the north Atlantic, Slowness is an album about separation. It’s melancholic and eerie, but crafted with a rare level of musical sophistication.
It opens subtly with New Air, which, despite the shiny production, reveals a classic prog rock pedigree. It’s compelling, with a steady rhythmic drive and lush extended harmonies. It’s reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s Breathe, and the song title only reinforces this association. You find yourself drawn in by what is essentially a classic 1970s album opener recomposed for the 21st century.
The songwriting is rich and often complex, with clever chord progressions that go way beyond what would normally be expected from this type of synth-pop five piece. They play with rhythm, too, punctuating the title track’s soundscape with a driving syncopated motif that adds depth and sophistication to the music. Compositionally the only thing Outfit sometimes lack is a way of ending their largely very well written songs – Smart Thing and Happy Birthday stop rather abruptly, though they generally aren’t without merit.
“Each track is built around a core of piano and vocals”
The appearance of a trumpet at the end of Boy is a refreshing departure from the fairly consistent soundworld the band set up for the album. Each track is built around a core of piano and vocals, often with a dry rhythm section and added synth pads. Towards the middle you start to notice a slight over-reliance on distortion effects, but this is at a worst a minor flaw.
The momentum of Slowness is at its best between Wind Or Vertigo, Genderless and Framed. The first of this triptych will surely appear soon as incidental music in an edgy BBC drama – it’s ethereal, transcendent and wonderful. Genderless is still fairly spaced-out, but has more forward thrust and sets up the album’s main single well. This single, Framed, combines everything good about this album in a neat four-minute package: good chords, interesting rhythms, a pleasing melodic character and, overall, some very decent songwriting.
Alas that the last three tracks have to follow the best three. The end of Slowness isn’t weak, but it isn’t as strong as some of the material that’s come before it. Because of this a true sense of journey is lost, but the album as a whole remains undeniably well crafted, and has some great moments.
Verdict: Indie craftsmanship from another world