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8 out of 10
The Slow Life are like Ronseal. This statement could, in theory, prove the basis for the entire review although you wouldn't know if they were any good or not now would you. Well lets ruminate on this a little more thoroughly then. The first track on Be Not Afraid is an instrumental affair imbibing the deep humming of a cello wit ha dream stealing sleight of violin that wearily lollops straight into track 2 - I Can You Will - in which the vocals of Darren Bancroft drift in like a gentle tide rolling up and down a sonic beach. Fitting in between a dainty Explosions in the Sky, Brenda and Jesu (minus the programmed drums and with a lesser penchant for industrial mechanisms) The Slow Life come across as big admirers of Scottish mood magicians Aerogramme and on the gentle slow-motion duvet wrap around of Outlines we also get shades of Sigur Ros, Midnight the Dog and Jacob's Stories. Inevitable comparisons with all of these aforementioned bands and many more (Godspeed and A Silver Mount Zion for two) will be made, however The Slow Life don't shirk away from the sleeve that they hold high and still manage to create warmth and serenity track to track that most bands would bleed their rhythm sections dry for.
The soft plodding pace of this record works well; with only a few subtle changes of gear, feedback manages to manifest itself into nimble finger picking and then vice versa. As previously mentioned with a name like The Slow Life you know exactly what you are getting, anyone expecting blast beats here are going to realise soon enough that some books covers act as mighty fine judges. It does come as something of a shock, after all that, when the realisation sets in that this band hails from London, as their music has a strangely forlorn rural feel about it. The imagery that their music evokes is that of swelling hills, drifting clouds and wind dancing playfully in your hair. This seems to come across most perfectly in the almost gang like vocals of Home, obviously this is despite the lyrics referencing "Meet by the high-rise" - not exactly a common site in wooded farmland but never the less a feeling is a feeling.
The first change of pace comes in the shape of When You Carry a Hammer with its jaunty swinging beat bringing across a far more folky Bright Eyes/Bonnie 'Prince' Billy/Dawn Chorus style hootenanny (without the knee pumping banjo). This stops almost as soon as it starts however with a plunge back into the pedestrian string vibrato of Day For Night, which results in just above stationery heart string pulling.
Be Not Afraid seems a more than apt title as although the music doesn't reassure you that everything is going to be ok, it does provide you with a companion for the journey, with what appears to be a certain degree of experience and tenderness. A calming whisper in the ear.
2. I Can You Will
5. Anything 1&2
7. When You Carry a Hammer
8. Day For Night
10. The Hunter Street Drift