Slate – Deathless

A debut EP full of complexity and atmosphere...

Slate immediately impressed with their debut single ‘Tabernacl’. The Cardiff four-piece gelled over a love of poetry, finding an affinity with the surreal works of Arthur Rimbaud and the Welsh poets R. S. Thomas and Dylan Thomas, whose reverence for their country resonated deeply. Slate release their debut EP ‘Deathless’ this month – the title comes from a review of Joy Division’s ‘Unknown Pleasures’, an entirely fitting reference point for this EP.

At over seven and a half minutes previous single and EP opener ‘Remoter Heaven’ steadily, almost imperceptibly grows. The vocal of Jack Shepherd introduces us to a protagonist who we encounter on a single day throughout the EP. What struck on first listen was the echoes of Ian McCulloch in Shepherd’s vocal. The repetition of “I was awake with feeling” grows ever more passionate and tormented until it finally softens away, leaving just the electric guitar to embrace the space, itself taking a haunting turn in the final few bars. It’s interesting to note that each track here was recorded in one take. ‘The Heir’ is an off kilter, unsettling combination of Raychi Bryant’s pounding drums and the tormented guitar of Elis Penri. This is followed by ‘Sun Violence’ with its deep basslines and sprawling epic soundscapes which fill the ears. This is music to fall into and let it sweep you away. The gothic undertones wash over the listener, and it is difficult to resist immediately hitting the repeat button. The haunting title track ‘Deathless’ is just one minute 30 seconds long, slate are not afraid to play around with convention. It begins with spoken word and encapsulates a claustrophobic ominous space, until the final third which lightens. The three final clicks of the drumsticks at the end suggest the seeds of a new beginning. 

‘Shade In Me’ is a highlight of ‘Deathless’. It’s about compassion, inspired by a speech from Chung Mong-hong’s film A Sun (2019), where the character talks of how his friends can always find shade to shelter from the glaring absurdities of life, but he can never find it himself. The perhaps expected melancholy does not arrive.  Dense and impassioned it may be but the pace is more upbeat, ‘Shade In Me’ is lyrically introspective but musically uplifting. The guitars add to the atmosphere, especially towards to the end with a thrilling outro. And the vocals of Shepherd dance around throughout the song, combined beautifully in parts with bassist Lauren Edwards. Closing track ‘Hailstone’ is haunting, with a constant propulsive drumbeat throughout, reminiscent perhaps of a heartbeat. We have arrived at the end of the day, and ‘Hailstone’ sees vocalist Shepherd at his most expressive. Two-thirds in it’s the beats that dominate with Shepherd’s vocal layered gently underneath, until they quietly fade and we are left with the contemplative vocal to close.

Slate have produced a debut EP full of complexity and atmosphere. Self-confessed lovers of words, they have nonetheless produced an EP whose storytelling is produced by the instrumentation rather than the lyrics. The band are to be applauded for giving the music the space, because what glorious music it is.  


Words: Julia Mason

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