Slowly Rolling Camera is a British four piece band made up of Dionne Bennett (lyrics and vocals), Deri Roberts (sound design, electronics, trombone, additional saxophone and production), Elliot Bennett (drums and drum programming) and Dave Stapleton who is the composer as well as playing keys. There’s a whole host of other contributing musicians on the eponymous album (out now through Gearbox Records) and the guy that recorded and mixed this record (Andy Allan) may be familiar to some as he’s worked with Massive Attack and Portishead in the past …and this is where the heart of the Slowly Rolling Camera sound lies.
The album has eight tracks and kicks off with Protagonist which launches with haunting pads and double bass before launching into frantic broken beats. Despite the beats the overall feel is one of a cool vibe with the “You give me…” vocal being for some reason reminiscent of a Yes track from way back…but that’s where the prog similarities finish!
Dream of Life is gloriously uplifting with beautiful strings and a sublime guitar line. The soaring music is complemented wonderfully by the simple and yet beautifully rendered vocal performance that leaves us with a track that puts me in mind of the masterpiece that is “Unfinished Sympathy” …and that is high praise indeed!
Listening through the record as I have loads in the last couple of weeks I’m struck by how refreshing it is to hear live instruments used on an album that could quite easily have gone down the route of using patches and samples and this use of live instrumentation gives Slowly Rolling Camera a real vivacity to its feel.
The Rain That Falls is the third tune on side A and takes the tempo up a little whilst retaining the broken beats theme. It’s a laid back tune with a really lovely and lush arrangement.
There’s quite a nostalgic feel to Slowly Rolling Camera in a lot of ways but its production and sound is very much of this century. It’s a calming album…and yet quite exhilarating, perfect for winding down after a hectic day or for that Sunday morning vibe of endless cups of coffee, sun shining outside and knowing you have nothing to do for the rest of the day.
Side A finishes with Outside and it’s a simple piano introduction building to a huge wall of sound via solo saxes.
The first side of Slowly Rolling Camera is very much a record about the music and instrumentation with vocals being used relatively sparingly but when they are they’re used to great effect -very much a case of less is more!
Side B kicks off with Two Roads and it’s simple, repetitive electric piano sound and a plaintive vocal. Of all the tracks on the album I’d say that this is the one that will have the broadest and mass appeal. That’s not to suggest that Slowly Rolling Camera is a difficult record, it’s far from it and is really accessible, it’s just that Two Roads is what many would call the stand-out “single track” to me.
The albums title track is up next and is a slow string and vocal number with a slow tempo in its intro before the drum breaks begin and the tune goes soaring up into the atmosphere and getting into all the trick aerial acrobatics with the sax solo. The tune just builds and builds and builds before breaking again to bring the track to a close. Edge of your seat stuff!!!
Fragile Ground is up next and is another great tune that could well be single fodder in more sympathetic times. It’s accessible and yet remains left-field enough to stand its self apart from the pop dross that seems to populate the charts these days.
Bridge brings Slowly Rolling Camera to an end with its sombre feel building to a mournful yet beautiful song…a fitting finish to this album I’d say.
In a perfect world then Slowly Rolling Camera should do very well beyond those that are already familiar with the trip-hop sound. Jazz lovers will get it, lovers of laidback vibes will groove to it, jazzers will enjoy it and it’s got enough broad appeal for a really wide audience base.
The record is beautifully recorded, nicely recorded and very well presented. Gearbox Records deliver yet again!!
So far my record of the year.