The War On Drugs Slave Ambient
  • THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 01, 2011

  • Posted by: Joe Puglisi

The War On Drugs has come a long way during their tenure, through lineup swaps and subtle sound adjustments. The project is very much Adam Granduciel's baby, despite the frequent (and irrelevant) press notes about the (arguably) more well-known Kurt Vile, or the lack of him. The pair continue to collaborate, and Granduciel frequently plays in Kurt's touring band, but it's not important here. What is important is that The War On Drugs has managed to craft one of the finest bits of Americana-twinged Philly rock of the year.

Slave Ambient is a salty slab of meat, cooked until tender and maintaining consistency in ways that very few rock bands can claim; reverberated, fuzzy, vintage feeling, and yet still clearly charismatic and progressive. With the swagger of Springstein and the effortless cool of whatever buzz band is racking up iTunes playcounts on Hipster Runoff (for mockery or other), Granduciel straddles the line between classic American rock and roll and music fit for the tightly packed club, a brilliant combination in an otherwise stale genre of ambient nostalgia. And Granduciel's voice, a husky low tenor, is the perfect crust on the tracks, his timbre is already buried deep in the collective conscious of Americana. The crux of "Black Water Falls" feels as appropriate as any to highlight his best qualities, but honestly, it's everywhere (except the instrumentals like "The Animator").

Granduciel doesn't skimp on the details. Each track has been worked and reworked to perfection, despite a entire genre of slackers who'd rather slap some reverb on the whole thing and call it a stylistic choice. The transcendent "Your Love Is Calling My Name" is a kaleidoscope of tracks, as detailed as a classical painting. And yet somehow, Slave Ambient seems to float by, like an amorphous wash of sound that wordlessly captures the best parts of America's back catalog, and fast-forwards them into a fresh and frenetic sound. "Baby Missles" is the best capture of this feeling, a side-to-side dance appropriate feet-shaker that brings together as many images of Molly Ringwold dancing on the library table as you can handle.

By the end of the collection, the fuzzy recurring "City" motif all of a sudden feels as epic as any other clear chord progression, like a popular '80s tune after some tape was warped, only The War On Drugs get that old/new sound by building it from scratch. Hard work pays off.

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MP3: "Baby Missles"



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