To paraphrase John Steinbeck, what one man sees through a peephole – be it whores, pimps, gamblers and sons of bitches – might look like saints and angels and martyrs and holy men to another. Steinbeck believed everybody was everywhere, and it was only perspective that changed the view. Musically, when it comes to Saskatoon’s sprawling collective, Slow Down, Molasses, perspective is equally as important.
For me, knowing that SDM was originally the singular vision of Tyson McShane, one he augmented with a ragged cast of musician makes the layered, spacious sounds seem more relevant and required. I completely understand that seen through someone else’s eyes (or heard through their ears), distinguishing the process and end results from the countless number of sprawling collectives hoping to piggyback on the success of one of Toronto’s most identifiable outfits, Broken Social Scene, is challenging. Unlike the band he and his cast of friends are often compared to (and a band I don’t enjoy at all incidentally), the songs never feel like the noisey meanderings moving in countless directions. SDM, while cohesive, still feels like the genesis of each melody is covered with Tyson’s fingerprints. Without question, his friends – 16 people helped him reach his ultimate end state, Walk into the Sea – are essential to the success of the record and without them McShane’s creativity wouldn’t have shone through.
Whether it’s Olenka and her lovers harmonizing and offering string arrangements, or Julie Doiron providing the perfect, fragile foil for Tyson to sing with on the beautiful “Feathers”, every song is a complete thought and each meticulously added texture feels necessary. The band effortlessly finds the balance that eludes most sprawling affairs. The melodies are immediate, but little gems are hidden on almost every song (like the typewriter that puncuates the epic “Sometimes We All Fall Apart”). Spacious, prairie post-rock are littered with soothing strings and triumphant horns, but as dense as those arrangements are, they stand nicely beside more straight ahead country folk and flow naturally. More importantly, at a concise 39-minutes, Walk into the Sea is focused and leaves you wanting more. With the sheer size of the band, the scope of the project and the ambition of the songs, that might just be it’s greatest success.