Leeds-based band Slow Loris have just released a new EP on New Year’s Day, 2021 - Sounds Hoof is definitely a powerful and intense first listen for the new year. Mixing influences from rock, electronic music, jazz and even metal, this EP falls under the ‘alternative’ category; it’s precisely this alternative and experimental approach which gives the EP its emotional intensity and unique musical interest. The band’s name Slow Loris is explained on their Bandcamp - ‘Slow Loris is a small nocturnal mammal, he has a toxic bite, a rare trait among mammals’. The band have chosen a name which reflects their sound: music with a fascinating dark intensity, and a piercing and unexpected bite. As a guitar-heavy band, Slow Loris challenge the expectations of rock and guitar-based music through their irregular time signatures, chromatic electronic elements, and complicated grooves - Sounds Hoof has a lot to offer.
‘Hammer’ opens the EP with exploratory electronic sounds, which soon becomes layered over a great 5/4 groove. The electric guitar work is brilliant, especially when distortion and reverb is used later to create more atmosphere to the piece. The industrial, almost ‘metallic’ electronic sounds being used throughout are undermined by the strength of the groove, and its funk quality. Stop-time is used effectively from the band in order to move into a new 7/4 groove, playing with audience expectations and challenging us rhythmically. Slow Loris’ approach reminds me of Syd Arthur and their brilliant irregularity when it comes to time signature - Slow Loris are the rock response to Syd Arthur’s folk-jazz.
‘Loose’ opens with a cool guitar riff and low bass line - the band describe their own sound as ‘riffs with harmony over hard beats and low bass’, and this theme definitely runs throughout the EP. In many ways, it’s refreshing to hear music described without reference to genre, and the band’s sound explained through its consistent and cohesive elements - it creates a foundation, yet leaves so much room for growth. ‘Loose’ definitely feels more rock-inspired than ‘Hammer’, partly due to the more intense drum work from Theo Goss, yet the track oscillates between two different feels. There are moments in which the harmony feels lighter, and there is a slow, quiet build, and then a contrasting main groove features big drum hits and rock guitar distortion. Many of these tracks allow the band to comfortably sit in a satisfying groove, yet also experiment with new ideas.
‘Spooky House’ follows with sharp, frightening sounds opening the track, immediately contrasted with a syncopated guitar groove. This track creates conflict and yet always manages to resolve it; distorted electronic sounds threaten to overwhelm the band’s groove throughout, yet never manage to. There is a compelling guitar melody which makes this track a great song to nod along or dance to (or even mosh to). The track ends with a half-time version of the groove; having all met at Leeds College of Music, the band members are extremely accomplished musicians, made evident by the tightness of their playing, and their ability to play with rhythm and tempo like this.
‘Sounds Hoof’ provides a contrast to the previous tracks, as it opens with a slower, musing guitar riff and a softer feel. There is still distortion and chromaticism, but this piece feels as though it is mourning something in the intro. It then moves into another irregular groove, yet this one feels much more warm and positive than the previous tracks - the darkness of ‘Hammer’ and ‘Loose’ are there, yet the musical choices being made feel much brighter overall. ‘Sounds Hoof’ really takes the listener on a journey, as it moves through different emotional centres, ending with electronic elements which sound like water droplets to contrast the much more industrial sounds used previously. This track is definitely an uplifting one.
‘Borm’ opens with the funkiest groove so far, with yet another irregular time signature - this is one of the band’s trademarks now. This track features even more rhythmic interest, as Goss and the band choose places to make hits which are extremely unexpected and ‘off the beat’. ‘Borm’ begins funky but moves into a much more intense and ‘hard rock’ feel; the extremely low bass, distorted guitar soloing, and busy drums all contribute to this powerful intensity. The piece moves between quieter, exploratory moments and a much darker, hard rock atmosphere. The level of skill needed to maintain a sense of structure through experimentalism is really commendable, and the band really pull it off. The EP ends abruptly, which feels like the perfect end to this earnest and fiery journey.
Sounds Hoof is an EP which challenges expectations of genre, but also musical expectations in general. Irregular time signatures and distorted, industrial sounds are a staple for Slow Loris, yet funky, head-nodding grooves are also the foundation of their music. With Sam Lowther and Sam Evans on guitar, the intensity of the harmonic and melodic choices are doubled; and when accompanied by Chris Sellers on bass and Theo Goss on drums, the sound becomes even more powerful. As Sellers summed it up perfectly in an interview, ‘I would hope that someone leaving our gig feels slightly scared, but a slight warm feeling inside as well’. If you like rock, electronica, metal, jazz, alternative, or any kind of music which makes you feel both challenged and comforted, this EP is definitely for you!
Review by Evie Hill