It’s no secret that this publication has a bit of a crush on Slug Wife, but it might have just exploded into full-blown infatuation as the label takes a 180-degree turn away from their business as usual like massive bass lines and shredded synthesis. The lead gastropod Seppa has collaborated with a previously-unsung instrumentalist to whip up a bonafide jazz production, Bright Spots, that will leave any set of ears in a fit of ecstacy. The collaborative partner in question here goes by the moniker of Chalky, and is a local musician of repute over in Slug territory, the United Kingdom. Bunched together with Seppa, who apparently has more than a knack for shredding a saxophone in his free time, they’ve produced a record that’s worth its weight in musical gold.
When fans think of Slug Wife, they probably don't envision a jazz composition. That is the half the beauty of this record; it smashes the assumed M.O. of the entire label releasing it. Yet even in tossing away the presumed conventions of a Seppa production, it retains a certain veneer that is all the same typical of his releases. The percussion is incredibly bright and biting, crunching through the mix with the same major compression that’s usually fit for more visceral interpretations of music. Melodiously, it’s nothing short of rich in its texture and arrangement. The instrumental dialogue is presented with a fluid mastery as each tone dances in tandem with the harmonies and rhythmic pulses around it. Chalky lays down most of the instrumentation, and melds vivacious guitar chops with Seppa’s high-octane saxophone lines throughout the record. The entire 13-track album avoids musical ramblings and run-on phrasing, instead honing in on the finer details of each auditory climax and point of tension.
The composition of each song is fine-tuned to the slightest detail, as in “The Fiddler”, with complimentary string lines bouncing along the semitones in between harmonized slices of brass. “Slowdow” takes on minor scales and modal shifts, rocking between the ominous and the noire and climaxing into a pure mood potion that swims in the head long after the song has ended. Tapping into the power of staccato movement, “Time To Kill Again” keeps it short and sweet with bouncing pockets of rhythm sliding into smooth musings and tactile chord phrasing. Overall, the entire album is best characterized by its opening track, “Boss Rat Jam Man”, which exudes the exact attitude its name projects. Exceptionally delicious instrumental interactions bring to the mind granular images of red-carpet ballrooms and the posh aesthetic of modern jazz’s flashier epochs. While it appears to have been designed to be enjoyed top to bottom in one shot, the record plays out as a tonally brimming and well-meshed experience regardless of starting position or track order.
The first glimpse of Slug Wife’s bold step at shedding its usual veneer began with their Wack Lack series, which showcases “battlewax” more befitting of scratch DJs and vocalists. Bright Spots is an ambitious dive into territory that is yet another step away from the public sonic associations made with such titans of unconventional bass music. For all of Seppa’s production prowess and musical affluence, the real spotlight here is on Chalky, who by the admission of his production partner should be unveiling even more aural butter in the months following this first major release. As always, those Anglican slugs are never found resting on their laurels, instead constantly pushing the envelope of their total musical explorations and output. Bright Spots is a stellar edition to an already explosive release catalog, and is surely indicative of further left-field developments in the world of Slug Wife.