VERGANGENHEITSBEWÄLTIGUNG (CRATER SPEAK): ALBUM REVIEW
Vergangenheitsbewältigung (Crater Speak), the newest album from Slauson Malone, is a gentle listen. His music is clearly inspired by deep thought and reflection, and every track reflects the spontaneity of thoughts popping into his mind. The project is full of voices whispering, guitars gently weeping, and muffled drums. Although Vergangenheitsbewältigung portrays a calm atmosphere, the music on the project never stays still. As soon as you begin to relax and sink into the music, Slauson Malone changes a key or the overall feeling of the piece, effectively ripping the carpet from under you. The EP is a constantly changing and flowing piece of music that has the power to put you in a reflective and meditative state.
The word "vergangenheitsbewältigung" is a German word defined as “public debate within a country on a problematic period of its recent history.” Slauson’s approach to music has always centered and addressed Black pain and suffering, and his most recent project is no exception. Vergangenheitsbewältigung (Crater Speak) truly feels like a response to a country refusing to have that period of debate, and instead, ignoring its recent history. The album feels both measured and completely broken.
If you haven’t heard Slauson Malone’s debut, 2019’s A Quiet Farewell 2016 - 2018, go listen to that right now. Not only is it one of the best debut solo albums I have ever heard, but this new EP acts as a respite to the musical onslaught that Malone put forth on his debut. On Vergangenheitsbewaitigug (Crater Speak), Malone put many of the same guitar tones as in A Quiet Farewell 2016-2018, but everything on his new project feels a bit more muted. Malone isn’t in any rush to convey a message, he simply lets each song flow and tell its own story.
Many of the songs on this EP seem to be drafts or extensions of the tracks on A Quiet Farewell 2016-2018. For example, the project begins with the tracks Smile #6, #7, #8 which all borrow from the guitar riff on the Smile tracks on A Quiet Farewell 2016-2018. Smile #6 features vocals from Nick Hakim that oscillate between Frank Ocean and King Krule. They are delivered in a monotone, yet deeply emotional manner. Hakim is one of the many voices that wander in and out of the album, sharing a few thoughts with the listener before moving to another realm.
The deeper you venture into the EP, the clearer the inexorably links are between it and A Quiet Farewell. All of the songs on Vergangenheitsbewaitigug (Crater Speak) are accompanied by pages in one of Malone’s recent publications, Crater Speak. Each song references a page, or multiple pages, in this published catalog. Thematically, Crater Speak is a centering force for the project. Each sound feels deeply influenced by an external force of beauty. Crater Speak holds the strands of the project together. Unfortunately, we do not get access to the entirety of Crater Speak through the purchase of Malone’s album, but what is included is equally beautiful.
The album comes to a head with the final song, “The Wake pt. 3 & 2.” This song again utilizes a winding and complex structure, with voices dipping in and out of the mix. As a guitar strums in the background, a horn section gently caresses the beat. The horn is expansive, including two saxophones, a trumpet, and a tuba. This variety of instrumentation makes every track feel gigantic and every shift in tone feel monumental. “The Wake pt. 3 & 2.” brings many elements of what makes this album magical together.
Vergangenheitsbewältigung (Crater Speak) is another interesting step in the legacy of Slauson Malone, an artist who seems to be ever-evolving right before our eyes.