Emanating from the same spaced-out Balearic universe that spawned recent acts like Quiet Village and A Mountain of One, Low Motion Disco’s debut full-length, Keep it Slow, is a kind of concept album about epic chilling. The album — out on Eskimo Recordings, which has quickly become a serious force in recent spaced-out disco adventures — has an explicit aesthetic agenda, and as is often the case with such an endeavor, the record sinks or swims depending on how well this is carried out: Here, most of the songs have “low” somehow worked into their name, and the group has issued an accompanying manifesto in lieu of any biographical info, saying “we have developed a way to dance while not moving. We do it standing at a bar, or sitting on a sofa, in a car, wherever.”
In other words, “disco” here is however a bit of a terminological red herring: Any flashing lights involved are not going to be on the dance floor but the kind that percolate in the backs of your eyelids. Recent forays into heavy-groove sample-based disco production like Keep It Low and Quiet Village’s Silent Movie have two big toes planted in the ’90s: one in Ninja Tune-style trip-hop, the other in Orb-style ambient house. Keep It Low seems most directly indebted to KLF’s landmark Chill-Out album, right down to the opening pastoral soundscape of sheep baas and brook babbles.
What separates Keep It Slow from its forefathers, however, is that it adheres to a pretty strict guideline of aiming to tease out a certain kind of grand drama that somewhat paradoxically is inherent in smooth jams. It’s the same principle that makes Air so effective and so distinct from their imitators — the ability to conjure up an implicit theatrics by way of careful control. Kitsch territory requires surgical precision, and restraint is the name of the game: One piano line or synth pad too many and you’ll topple a track like it’s a game of muzak Jenga.
When Low Motion dig deep and stay low, they manage to strike pretty solidly smooth gold, coming up with ideal cannabis-infused make-out anthems like “Talk Low When in Space.” And while on the surface it may seem that a cover of “Things Are Gonna Get Easier” is aesthetically, almost morally, questionable, to their credit Low Motion Disco transform the unbearable folk tune into of the most near-immobile bliss-outs on the record. It’s the sonic equivalent of a daytrip to the beach, some parts accompanying the anticipatory car ride (like the SoCal surfer rock of “The Low Murderer Is Out at Night”), others the first foray out into the breaking waves, and still others perfect for lying face down in the sand after several hours of domestic beer and gas-station snacks.
Keeping it slow, however, is enough of a hit-or-miss prospect throughout the course of the album that the title seems like a self-bestowed imperative: Okay, we gotta remember to keep it slow. “Frantic Low Moment,” for example, sounds like a little more than a cluster of drifty samples being mixed in and out of one another. If you’re going to dance to stand still, you’re gonna have to drop some sick zero-gravity moves to make it worth while; simply having nothing going on is not going to cut it. The track’s irritating wah’d out guitar riff, which lacks much appeal on first listen, only gains in grate when it’s been cut and pasted ten hundred times.
In the end, though, although propped up by well-received twelve-inch material like the smooth-groove burner “Love Love Love,” there’s a few too many filler tracks on the disc to make it as much of a go-to grill party soundtrack as, say, Silent Movie. Not to say that Low Motion doesn’t pull off some serious quiet-storm action on about half the record; it’s just that the other half is not much more than euro-lounge electronica in slightly new clothes, some paint-by-numbers IDM slow jams for the hipster waiting room.