by Mia Hughes
Slow Pulp’s Moveys is a hard-won debut – and after the difficulties, lead vocalist, Emily Massey, has recently overcome, to have a record like this to show for it makes it even more so
Formed in 2017, the band started working on this first full-length back in 2019, only to scrap all of their material and start over. Meanwhile, lead vocalist/guitarist Emily Massey was diagnosed with Lyme disease and chronic Mono; her parents were injured in a car accident, necessitating a return home – away from her bandmates and their recording sessions – to take care of them; and then, of course, a pandemic struck. That a still-young band could survive all of this is impressive.
The record opens with New Horse, which begins as a modest, pretty acoustic guitar piece, only to be overlaid, as it goes on with glitchy noise elements. It suggests something grittier than first presented – a hint that things aren’t simple on Moveys; they can’t be, after all it took for it to exist. This seems to be the crux of the record: that the struggles from which it was born sink into its bones.
Massey’s lyricism across the record suggests as much too. She writes, largely, about the fragility of mental health, and how it can so easily implode into self-doubt and sabotage; and, with self-honesty, that’s not easy to come across for any of us, about how it affects her relationships, whether it’s chasing something that she knows she should walk away from, or pushing something away that she knows she should hold close. It’s all so internal – a clue that points to a lot of time spent inside her own head. In the age of lockdown, especially, that’s something many of us will recognise.
The record is infused with the folk/country leanings that so many indie records of the last few years have toyed with. It’s a style that, used right, can create something transcendent – something to do with the depth of atmosphere it can allow in the instrumentation, and the room for vocalists to give their words life in the melodies. Slow Pulp’s take on it is a really nice one; Massey’s vocals and melodies, especially, lend the songs a certain warmth, while there’s that compelling atmosphere of disquiet throughout.
It does sometimes feel that they don’t take the style to all the places that they could, and particularly in the first half of the record, tracks tend to blend together. The parts of the record that show the most promise are when they depart from that direction, like the driven fast-paced At It Again or the densely packed ‘90s feel of Channel 2. Conversely, though, Falling Apart makes a very convincing case for their take on the folk sound late into the record – it takes the style to beautiful heights, crafting a wonderfully melancholic vibe bolstered by the appearance of violin, and it’s perhaps the record’s best song.
It’s fairly hard to keep in mind that Moveys is in fact a debut, given the confidence in its craft and the quality in how the band play together. It’s a record that’s complete and certain, and one that creates a gratifying world to inhabit. Maybe it stops short of a masterpiece, but with more years as Slow Pulp under the belt, and without such derailing circumstances plaguing them, it’s not a stretch to believe they have it in them.
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