By Eric Blendermann
The cover of Time Team, the new album (on Ninja Tune) by Slugabed, aka producer Greg Feldwick, depicts a pyramid set at the edge of a forest, just at the margin between a flowered meadow and the darker woods beyond, and this image suits the music on Time Team well; these songs straddle the line between the pastoral and the cosmic, or as Feldwick puts it in a recent interview on Ninja Tune’s Solid Steel broadcast, “…some of it is a bit fantastical, some of it is very literal.”
It also seems quite personal (Slugabed appears to be a one-man production) – listening to Time Team feels like leafing through a scrapbook of Feldwick’s favorite sounds, each page completely covered with influences. On a single page you might find the found-sound compositions of The Art of Noise overlapping the 80’s electro R&B of Midnight Star. In the Solid Steel interview, Feldwick mentions “The Smurf” by Tyrone Brunson as a key influence on his sound, and you can hear it all over Time Team. If you’re comfortable with these dense – some might say “cluttered” – sonic collages, you’re going to love this album. If you don’t like the different foods to touch on your dinner plate, though, then this may not be the music for you.
If you’re on board with the clutter, then dive in and enjoy the affectionate “Grandma Paints Nice” (inspired by a painting in Feldwick’s studio, painted by his actual grandma), as well as “Climbing a Tree,” which sounds like a lost soundtrack for a Maurice Sendak movie. In the Solid Steel interview, Feldwick describes “Climbing a Tree” as “a sad song about not really being that good at climbing trees, but always trying.” On the more cosmic end of the spectrum, the first single “Sex” is probably the album’s most accessible and forward-moving track – it would fit right in alongside tracks by Chromeo or Passion Pit. Besides having the most awesome! FTW! title, “Unicorn Suplex” brings an optimistic buzz built on classic New Wave synthesizer arpeggios riding a dubstep rhythm.
The cosmic and the pastoral merge on the centerpiece of the album, “Mountains Come Out of the Sky,” an atmospheric, cathedral-worthy meditation that floats and builds, eventually resolving into a quote from “Roundabout” by Yes (the only vocals appearing on the album). The sense of air and space in this track, especially if you check it out in headphones, brings the word “majestic” to mind. It’s just inspiring.
There are a few tracks on Time Team where the pieces don’t add up to a cohesive whole – “Travel Sweets” has too much going on, and its herky-jerkiness doesn’t ever comfortably resolve. Likewise, “Dragon Drums” is a moderately interesting sonic experiment, but it doesn’t really go anywhere. But even those false starts are admirably attempted, and overall Time Team is interesting, thoughtful, and often beautiful. There are no anthems or bangers in this set, just a lot of very detailed and personal musical exploration, pieced together by an artist who’s comfortable opening his book of influences and expressing himself through them.