Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Slauson Malone 1’s EXCELSIOR is a masterpiece of American surrealism


Release date: 06 October 2023
Slauson Malone 1 Excelsior cover
12 October 2023, 09:00 Written by Noah Barker

Four years ago, Jasper Marsalis began his crusade against the confines of music with a vocal sample dredged in the static of time and the ceremony of the oncoming rapture: “The world is coming to an end.”

That record, A Quiet Farwell, 2016-2019, was as much indebted to the liminal spaces between genres as it was to the vast distances between moments in time. The indie rock and rap of now found themselves lodged in the stylings of eras past, doomed plunderphonics for an eternal nihilist. Tracks moved at their own pace, somewhere between medleys of scorched interludes and the occasional beat of lucidity. Time moves non-linearly in his music; remember, it all began with the end of the world. Now that genre is a relic of that more sensible, increasingly decayed world, EXCELSIOR is the oft-imagined after.

The soundcraft of EXCELSIOR is ornately languorous yet surreal and bittersweet as if Frank Ocean’s Blonde was re-imagined as Brain Wilson’s Smile. It takes the pulse of a time and place without giving in to its trends; one could hardly imagine how the serenely burning synths and sudden spells of madness that colour this record would fit into a Top 40 track or even the typical underground darling.

In a time where the experiments of the underground are either the repackaged standards of the 70s and beyond or the edgy imaginings of sweat-laden white teenagers, Marsalis understands the bold creative risk that is true deconstruction. It takes bravery to let discomfort and silence fill spaces that your contemporaries would indulge with the expected comfort of noise. Much like Sloppy Jane’s Madison, this record is an addition to American surrealism that is made to challenge the now complacent temperament of what is acceptably ‘experimental.’

Skating across the 18 tracks of this record in just under 45 minutes, each moment is a setup for a punchline that may not come with immediacy or at all; Marsalis edges patience out of the listener one idea and moment at a time. When the finality of the record’s closer does indeed release all of this anticipation into the glorious ether, one can look back at the tracklist like a roadmap across a grim Seuss book. There are pit stops and asides completed with more fervour than most career musicians can muster for an album, as is the sign of a yearning musical spirit.

The actual content of the record should remain undisturbed here, like a monument one has to visit for themselves because it is not enough to simply describe the surprise of a sudden beat or the humour in juxtaposing a drumroll to a waltz. There is such a thing left in the world as discovery, and there are such creatives like Marsalis who can guide you to the water and wait for you to take the plunge, but it must be taken up yourself. EXCELSIOR is that litmus test: how brave do you want to live?

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