If you’ve never heard Transient’s (aka Carl Martin) music, you can’t say it’s due to a lack of material from which to sample. Since 2001, Martin has been quite the busy bee, recording music for over 30 albums, EPs, comps, and splits. Moments in Slow Motion is an MP3 EP that Martin recorded last year for the Philadelphia-based tbtmo, and while largely planted firmly within the realms of downtempo, it also manages to cover a wide variety of sounds and sub-styles.
A certain progression occurs throughout Moments…, moving from more accessible, dance-friendly material to darker, more abstract material that’s more suited for headphones than dancefloors. “Phunk Chunk” opens the disc, and as the name implies, it’s a bouncy, infectious number full of strutting rhythms, bubbly synth bleeps, and even a fair bit of DJ scratching. But the next track, “The Clouds Give Way To Blue,” is decidedly more inline with what most people probably think of when they hear “downtempo.” Lounge-y piano lines trickle through shimmering keys and a molasses-slow hip-hop break while a vocoder hums “The sun is coming out/The clouds give way to blue.”
The title track is another slow little number, conveying the same sleepy, “half awake/half asleep at three in the morning” sense as Park Avenue Music or Múm (but without any female voices cooing in your ear as you drift between conscious states). The synth melodies are bleary-eyed, the beats move with all of the slow grace of a sleepwalker, and angelic little voices sigh wordlessly in the background.
The remainder of the EP finds it moving into those more abstract areas, though not so far as to be completely unlistenable. Even when the beats are at their most claustrophobic, and the atmospherics at their most tense, there still remains a definite musicality at the songs’ core that keeps them from being too far in leftfield.
It usually appears in the subtlest of ways. There are the little cascades of harp-like tones that slowly emerge from “That’s Correct“ ‘s clattering, squelching beats and cut-up vocals, shedding a little lightness on the initially dense and chaotic song. “This Situation (Original Edit)” features more vocoder shadings, as well as 8-bit bleeps and bloops duetting with sparse piano notes.
I’ll admit that all downtempo sounds rather dated to me, such that even though Moments in Slow Motion came out in 2005, it sounds like a product of the late ‘90s/early ‘00s. This is most likely due to the fact that, at that time, I was plunging headlong into labels such as Darla and Fuzzy Box and their fascination with so-called “drum n’ bliss.” As a result, a lot of electronic music I listen to now exists in the shadow of that time, for better or worse. And so Moments in Slow Motion sounds like something of a nostalgic holdover for me.
But such a sentiment does dismiss this EP out of hand a little too quickly, methinks. Moments in Slow Motion is certainly nothing revelatory or groundbreaking, but it does what it does very well, with downtempo beats and atmospherics honed to a fine degree.