So there I was scrabbling through the box of CDs to stick on Ebay when I came across this one. Three tracks? Must be an EP. I thought I’d check it out on Amazon, just to see what info (if any) I could glean. What I found was a gushing review by someone who seemed to have been struck by some holy vision. My curiosity aroused, I gave it a spin. My reaction? In a word – fuck! In four – fuck, this is good!
Private Times In Public Places is far from an EP. In old money it would be considered a double album. The shortest track isn’t much shy of twenty minutes, and the longest lasts more than half an hour. This isn’t self-indulgent noodling, but simply some of the saddest music I’ve ever heard. Taking elements of minimalism, English pastoralism, post rock and electronica, the Slow Six spin out long, mesmeric, atmospheric and simply heart-breaking tunes. The three pieces are composed by Christopher Tignor who also produced and arranged the music, tweaking it with his laptop. The actual instrumentation consists of violin, viola, cello, two electric guitars and Fender Rhodes electric piano. The album was originally self-released in 2004 and only now is getting a proper issue. The pieces themselves date from as far back as 2000.
“This Is Your Last Chance” starts with taped voices. Nothing much happens for the next two minutes, before the slow, mournful piano fades in with a motif that sounds like a desperately depressed music box. The violin kicks in halfway into the piece with that exquisite sadness that only a violin can really capture. This is the music of summer dawns in English meadows. “Evening Without Atonement” is a computer abetted violin/electric piano duet. The keyboard provides the chassis to the track with a repeated, but subtly changing pattern underpinning the violin which is, at first, slow and mournful, then is locked into a series of arpeggiations on a basic chord pattern, and finally flows free and unfettered.
“The Lines We Walked When We Walked Once Together” (even the titles have that sense of true contentment achieved and then irretrievably lost) brings the whole group together for a piece that lasts a full half hour. It combines elements of drone and a kind of post-rock pastoralism into a suite which ebbs and flows, but always remains interesting and emotionally involving. Private Times In Public Places is one of those rare albums that seem to come from nowhere. There is a tradition of post-rock neo-classicism exemplified by Rachel’s and Clogs which Slow Six fits into, but no band has really attempted to create pieces on this scale before. It’s a stunning album that deserves a wide audience. Those with a short attention span may want to avoid it though.
1 This Is Your Last Chance (Before I Sleep) (23:52)
2 Evening Without Atonement (18:45)
3 The Lines We Walked When We Walked Once Together (30:32)