C.M. Slenko – Refuge in Ritual

Advertised as a “two track album”, there’s a strange, sad appeal to C. M. Slenko’s newest release: “Refuge in Ritual”. In the past, Slenko has been avid in their musical experimentation, their previous release “Science Fiction”  a 44 minute, 5 track collection which is almost entirely comprised of two or three distorted synthesizers. On “Refuge in Ritual”, they push further into a direction somehow simultaneously more noisy and more acoustic. 

The first of the two tracks, “Local Ruins” fits most expectedly into the ambiguous “anti-folk” label which Slenko orbits. For a while the song only features acoustic guitar and sad, muttered vocals. The atmosphere around these sections create a sense of isolation, entrapment, and acceptance — a feeling similar to being stuck inside during a storm and only having one candle. These moments are interjected by a fuzzed out guitar solo and a lethargic drum set, both sounding like they are coming from entirely different spaces. There is interest in this feeling of collage, but the space of the song seems unsure of itself. The drums particularly seem to rush along the thoughtful folk-y spirit in the first part of the song.

If “Local Ruins” is an isolated room in a storm, the second track, coldly titled “Dec. 9,2017 – 2 AM”, is a weird dream you have after falling asleep waiting for the storm to pass. The track is a haunting noise interlude, drowned in the sound of a heavily distorted guitar. Few words in the song are decipherable- “Alone together”, “It’s a long walk home”, “Damn it’s a long walk back”-you get the idea. The nearly 6 and a half minute track stands in an interesting contrast to “Local Ruins”, but doesn’t seem to be able to support itself as its companion does. Slenko has always experimented with form and lack thereof-and its worked very well before-but here, it seems lacking without anything solid enough for listeners to hold on to.

With releases like these, encompassing small, pensive chaos, its clear C. M. Slenko is exploring and experimenting with sound as a genuine artist — reaching for new and unconventional ways of expression. “Refuge in Ritual” has a clear cohesion to it. The two track album sets itself up for a lot of changing explorations, atmospheres, and moods, however, perhaps cut too short, the album doesn’t support its songs as fully fledged ideas as their previous releases have. “Moonlight Veneration” and “Royal Blue Days” are in constant emotional and sonic flux, making them more expressive and characterizing the individual songs as well as the albums as bodies of work- this energy seemed to be missing here. Regardless, as C. M. Slenko continues to experiment, they are constantly evolving, making them an artist to keep an eye out for.

Pros:

  • Amazing atmosphere
  • Cool genre manipulation 

Cons:

  • Feels incomplete
  • Weird spacing of sound

Listen here.

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