REVIEW: Slack Armada – ‘Slack Armada’ EP

slack armada

Artist: Slack Armada
Album: Slack Armada EP
Genre: Ambient, Post-Rock

James Hrabak’s debut effort under the moniker of Slack Armada is a brief foray into the depths of the subconscious. At nearly 23 minutes spanning its 4 tracks, Slack Armada provides you with a soundtrack to lose yourself in. With subtle backing grooves led by ambient and droning layers of synths and various samples, these four songs have everything you need to relax to and even offer a little something outside the realms of relaxation. If you’re a fan, much like Hrabak himself, of Brian Eno, Mogwai, or even My Bloody Valentine, then Slack Armada will definitely have something for you to enjoy.

Opening with “Rebirth,” the EP gets off to a beautiful start. Everything I love about ambient music is immediately on full display; slow-burning synth takes the lead as further layers and textures begin to fuse with it over a minimal backing beat. This keeps up for the majority of the track but not before minor bits of soaring guitar and more upbeat percussion join in on the groove.

The droning ambience continues on into “Your Majesty,” the EP’s strongest effort which builds and builds layer by layer throughout its nearly 6-minute runtime. At around three-and-a-half-minutes, “Your Majesty” takes an eerie turn as the synths become ominous then begin to come in pulsating waves with faint bells ringing sporadically in the depths of the background. The EP’s second track has a beautiful ebb and flow that you can sink into with ease.

Once we’re greeted with the fuzz-rock guitar intro of “Looper,” it becomes evident that Slack Armada has taken an unexpected turn. It’s initially jarring as we’ve been melting into the EP’s transcendent elegance over the preceding 12 minutes, but once the detour sets in, you accept it and are taken back to a somewhat grungy 1997 with a very Foo Fighters influence. “I was trying, for whatever reason, to cop some of Dave Grohl’s beats from The Colour and the Shape,” Hrabak revealed to us in a previous interview. “Looper” is the first instance where I can really feel the inspiration, both in the guitar work and drumming.

The EP comes to an end with its final (and longest) track, “Escape Velocity.” In what Hrabak explained was derived from somewhat of an LCD Soundsystem influence, the final cut has an undeniable dance groove as you’re simultaneously hypnotized by its waves of deep-toned, pulsating synthwork. Just after the 3:00 mark, “Escape Velocity” really begins to kick in as further synths, almost reminiscent of guitars, take over and add a post-rock element that really makes the song shine, continuing until just after the track reaches 6 minutes and begins to quickly fade out.

Hrabak shows a lot of promise in his debut, and even though his influences shine through and take precedence over originality, Slack Armada is still very much enjoyable and accomplishes exactly what he set out to. When you have tracks without vocals and can still manage to make the listener feel something, it’s an impressive feat. Slack Armada may not be the next Explosions In The Sky or Caspian but for being only one person, his new EP is certainly worth your time.

SCORE: 7/10
Review written by: Brian Lion — (Follow him on Twitter)

Brian Leak

Editor-In-Chief. King of forgetting drinks in the freezer. Pop culture pack rat. X-Phile. LOST apologist.
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