Traveling Without Moving
The advent of better music-making software has seen the world of electronic music become oversaturated with whizz kids behind MacBooks. This has caused many electronic artists, Trentemøller and Bonobo among them, to opt to incorporate more live instruments and at times even entire vocal tracks into their songs. Whether this is done to distance themselves from the growing crowd of copycats or simply as an experiment to see where they can take their chosen genre doesn’t really matter. What matters is whether or not these musical experiments produce music which pushes the boundaries that the genre has set for the artist. And although pushing buttons and twisting knobs can still make incredibly new and original music it is more than likely that will not last forever.
The Canadian duo Cam Sloan and Chad Skinner of Snowday seem to know the door of the old electronic era will be closing soon, which is perhaps why their debut, the organically ambient As We Travel sounds at times like it is straddling two musical worlds. Right from the start of As We Travel, the pair begins to play with different rhythms and tones. The opening track “The Seventh String” bristles with mellow, mood-enhancing vibraphone-sounding melodies, as well as crackling rim taps. Bits of live piano are sprinkled in here and there, though the Spanish-style acoustic guitar that comes in halfway through is an enticing reason to keep listening.
The second track “A Quiet Winter” keeps the flow going, with fellow Canadian singer-songwriter Kaleigh Watts weighing in with her sweet and airy vocals, which pair perfectly alongside the mellow piano and subtle hints of hip-hop-styled samples. The piano returns later and is used to an even greater mellowing effect on “A Lone Stone.” Staunchly minimalist in composition, it sounds like music scored for a film. It also marks the end of an almost coma-inducing succession of tracks. “Eventual” helps to ease out of that coma – though slowly – by way of rippling synths, a snare heavy jazzy beat, and a flamenco-inspired guitar. Mellow as it may be, it has enough swagger to get the head and shoulders moving. This swagger continues on “Regeneration” which features jazzy vocals via female singer Sammy Jackson, layered over bouncy beats and spacey, rippling piano loops. The album closes quietly with “All in Due Time” which again pairs the soft plucked acoustic guitar with more modern machine tones and lightly tapped conga-style drum beats.
Unarguably an ambitious first effort, As We Travel acts as a foundation to be built upon. Its many moodily minimalist tracks are quite relaxing, making it easy to be sedated into missing what’s missing. What’s missing is any attempt at failure. Snowday play it pretty safe on As We Travel, and in that respect the album at times feels like it’s trapped inside one long and monotonous loop of ambience, unable to get out, as though it has been snowed in.