It’s probably fair to say that we have all experienced disappointment when a musical act we’re fond of suddenly changes direction. There’s a sense that as fans we have been almost betrayed as we bid a bitter farewell to a group searching for their next level of success. The trick is, of course, to make the change in direction convincing enough so that it doesn’t really matter or, even smarter, to keep two identities running in parallel.
A fine case in point would be Belgium’s Silicon Ballet who also operate as a bright and idiosyncratic act with a knack for infectious, if slightly naive, indie pop called Showstar. As Silicon Ballet, they have matured into a string-laden outfit and although, ‘Utopia’, their first album, certainly had a lot of positives, I did rather yearn for more Showstar material instead. The ‘Slowly Slowly EP’, however, makes a much more convincing and consistent case for the new project.
Keeping in character with its title ‘Slowly, Slowly’ begins gently like a lullaby, with soothing vocals and delicate guitars. Gradually the production becomes grander, though, as strings are brought into the mix and suddenly the song has built into a miniature epic. ‘Goodbye Low’ brings in the strings right from the beginning and the track rattles along at a fair old pace from start to finish. Dynamically it couldn’t be more different from the opening number. ‘Blind Boy’ sounds haunted as soon as the glistening guitar is heard, the vocals are full of trepidation whereas the strings incline towards a sinister path. In this excellent company, the final track ‘Nowadays’ appears to be ending the EP on a bit of a damp squib but after some folky murmurings, it recovers the urgency two minutes in and ensures Silicon Ballet’s endeavours are completely rewarding.
Ultimately, ‘Slowly Slowly’ consists of four very strong songs, which impress to such an extent that the transition from quirky indie poppers to multi-layered chamber pop begins to make perfect sense. Now it feels like there are two great bands to follow for the price of one which surely has to be a good thing.
Showstar, My Life Story