‘The Slowest Lift’ extends an artistic relationship between Sophie Cooper and Julian Bradley convened initially for Volume 3 of ‘The Blow’, a split cassette series for the Front and Follow label. The label’s brief emphasized collaboration, and the resulting shift from standard ‘my-track-your-track’ split release practice to more integrated working led the pair to cement their partnership under the Slowest Lift moniker. That this album title and one of its tracks shares that name provides suitably cosmic serendipity, given the deep synth, guitar and brass entrancement on offer here.
That said, ‘The Slowest Lift’ does provide a more varied sonic terrain than the gleaming pulsations of its predecessor. True, the initial foray was always going to be more interesting than simple ambient drift, with the duo’s skill sets deployed to tarnish excessive sheen and fleck the sharp edges with corrosion. But this time around Cooper and Bradley push further out and down and the autumnal chill of their debut hardens into proper winter freeze.
Cooper’s vocals are more in evidence on this second outing, resulting in some initial similarities to the spectral choirs of her ongoing investigations with Delphine Dora (Think Away is a recent highlight from that partnership). Yet the clanging thumb pianos and terse electronics of opener Crystal Fracture turn away from the airy lightness of those releases and face the gloom full on. Even Cooper’s full-throated channeling of Simon Le Bon on the duo’s cover of Duran Duran’s ‘The Chauffeur’ – a yacht rock deep cut if ever there was one – stops short of linen-and-Bacardi gloss by virtue of daemonic backwards vocals and nicely grainy fuzz.
Bradley is one of those unsung gurus whose activities, whether as part of Vibracathedral Orchestra and The Negative Kit, in his Never Rad duo with Luke Poot, or solo as Piss Superstition, make this no-audience underground such an interesting place to hang around. And, while it’s not always easy to suss out who’s done what on these tracks, I’ll wager his twilit palette seeps through on discombobulating cuts like Hi From the Skyline Swim, where Cooper’s dreamy mantras are folded into a slow-moving vortex of looping guitars and synthetic wheezes.
The duo hit the darkest, grittiest reaches on the instrumental Preset. A driller-killer guitar whine carves a truly unnerving path through layered trombone blasts as stormy, billowing echoes suck the air out of the room. The dank oppression is the sonic equivalent of encountering some obscure Ken Russell mediaeval horror schlock on the telly after a night in the pub, the cries of mud-caked peasants refracted through an ale haze and the Witchfinder General gurning manically as he whips a cart full of heretics towards the gallows.