Richly layered with afro-beats, jazz rhythms, pop hooks, and Sachal Vasandani’s opalescent vocal timbre, the ten anfractuous and soulful tracks of sophisti-pop on Slow Motion Miracles flow like one body of water into another.
Sachal will perform at the Living Room (134 Metropolitan Ave) on Tuesday, June 23 at 9:00pm.
Leading up to Slow Motion Miracle’s release on April 7, Sachal scheduled retweets with mysterious lines and the hashtag #SlowMotionMiracles.
The lines had the same pacing and ebullience of the lyrics to “No More Tears” and “Cover the Water,” tracks released as a preview to the album.
Composed of 19 retweets and one original tweet from Sachal, “…When he awoke, she was gone. #SlowMotionMiracles OUT TODAY,” the resulting poem was a prelude to the album. “I enjoy writing, so I wrote a story, ” he explained. “I loved Teju Cole’s narrative idea and liked how he involved his colleagues and friends. There were a lot of people involved in making this record and I wanted to not only shout them out [but also have them] participate [in its release].”
“[Having to] edit the narrative to fit the Twitter characters really helps you boil things down to an essence because you’re just not able to express everything,” Sachal said.
As he developed the album, he similarly focused on dynamically capturing the tectonic qualities of the atmosphere that inspired him. “There was a vision I was trying to serve here, which was, give me a lot of summer-type vibe…a nice groove you can move to … textures that had some depth and uniqueness and …lyrics that, you know, you could swim around with for years.” This approach meant agonizing over each decision related to composition and production.
About half of the songs on the album were written months or years in advance of recording, like “Haystacks” and “No More Tears.” These tracks evolved through experimenting with different musicians, instruments and formats in gigs and rehearsals until they became what we hear on the album.
Over the last two years, “Marie” and “Waiting on the Roof” underwent testing in such a manner that an entire album could be comprised of their demos. “[At one point, “Marie”] was more jazz-oriented or opened up for solos, or guitar. It was a tough one to make the right decisions on because I wanted certain textures to be in there, yet in the live version, when they weren’t, it still also [had to] work. Each [version had] some standout qualities, but for the album, this is the one that made sense.”
“When I was listening to [demos of] “No More Tears,” I thought about a lot of the space I heard in different types of music, like James Blake, which I appreciated,” he shares. “So when I was arranging “No More Tears”, it was like, how do we create [the record] to allow for that? There’s a lot of space in the middle, drums are felt more than heard, [and] the harmony oozes over you.”
Other songs, like “Neither One of Us,” “Cover the Water,” and “Denim Lights,” were created through Sachal’s work in the studio with producer Michael Leonhart.
Sachal’s poetic aptitude and penchant for writing is evident in his lyricism throughout Slow Motion Miracles, where story, structure, music, and imagination simmer. The output is an album bookended by two concretely reflective songs, “No More Tears” and “Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye),” with a sunburst of magic realism pulsing in between.
While the tracks hazily float into autobiography, “these songs are also about something wider and wilder and richer than my own personal story. It’s experiences and experiences and dreams and fiction and everything in one.”
“I didn’t want to close the lid of my imagination, I wanted to keep it open. Sometimes I wasn’t thinking about love per se, I was thinking about someone on a journey, just getting the fuck out,” he says. “That’s kind of what I love. At the time we hear a song, we hear it from our own perspective. And we make it our own. Even as I listen to my own songs, I have evolving kinds of feelings towards them. And I like that.”
The first song, “No More Tears,” is one of his oldest unrecorded songs on the album and opens with just his voice. The lyrics seem to evoke the time at the end of a romance, when former lovers are caught between the ghost of the relationship and the inevitability of moving on. “But your soul is sewn into my skin / Can’t rid myself of you / Not even sure where to begin / Or that I want to,” Sachal confesses in a verse of the song. Unstitching precipitates the opening of a wound.
Deliberately set against a fantastical soundscape, the middle tracks offer solace as paeans to a woman and to hope in love. In the mercurial “Haystacks,” which conjures images from Monet’s series, both devil and angel urge him to give up his fruitless search for ‘the one,’ “Boy you better give this up / Boy you better give this up / She ain’t never comin’ ‘round.” But, as he sings in the chorus, he won’t be dissuaded, “’Cause you’ve been on my mind / For a while now.” In a compassionately different aural environment than the rest of the song, he patiently closes with two rounds of the reassuring lines, “And it’s okay / And it’s alright / If you don’t make it home tonight / It’s where you are, not where you’ve been / And in my mind you’re here again.”
Starting with “By chance we / met…,” inspired by the poem “Some Trees” by John Ashbery, the popular “Cover the Water” showcases Sachal’s vocal range with the lyrics: “Like the sea / We flow through / With wild energy / I draw it all from you / And we can’t / Keep silent desire / Let’s blast off and / Cover the water with fire.”
Preparing for this song forced Sachal into a vocal deadline. “Getting better vocally is like going to the gym. It’s a long-term process. You’re always working on it. Two steps forward, one step back. There’s always something more that I could and quite frankly should be doing with my voice,” he says humbly, despite his 3.5 to 4-octave range.
The final track, Jim Weatherly’s “Neither One of Us,” made famous by Gladys Knight, “was one of the ones that came late. It wasn’t really original, but I loved the message, and that one I pretty much fooled around with on my own and I was able to get to something into what I liked.” His arrangement is effectively bare, lyrics expectedly fervent, and his delivery clear.
Infused with tasteful textures, uplifting instrumentation, bold melodies, dreamy synthetic production, electronica, and some double-tracking of Sachal’s sunbeam of a voice, the work in the studio then needed a certain amount of translation for a live performance. “The record’s layers we’ve brought out via programmed sounds, but there’s a freshness to the nature of playing the music live which is always different than a record and it changes over shows.”
Sachal’s show at the Living Room (134 Metropolitan Ave) on Tuesday, June 23 at 9:00pm will feature songs from the album, assembled for a live performance, “so that it kind of respects the vibe and sound of the record and brings some fresh energy.” Though he has already been on tour to Mexico City and Finland, this is his first show in New York City since the release of Slow Motion Miracles. The show will include Buster Hemphill (bass), Jeremy Dutton (drums), Ryan Scott (guitar), and Ben Stivers (keyboards).