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Americana chill-out

The War On Drugs - Slave Ambient
(Secretly Canadian)
4 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Aug. 17, 2011
The War On Drugsg

Review by Tony Bonyata

Americana and electronic music are two genres you wouldn't normally expect to be forged together into one gorgeous union, but the Philly-based band The War On Drugs have successfully wedded these two odd bedfellows together on their second full-length album, Slave Ambient.

Led by the band's creative fountainhead, Adam Granduciel, The War On Drugs lace Granduciel's sturdy compositions - recalling the likes of Dylan, early Springsteen, The Byrds and, more than any other, Tom Petty - with beautiful washes of psychedelic electro-noise and majestic ambient soundscapes that wouldn't sound out of place on an old Spacemen 3 or My Bloody Valentine album.

Slave Ambient doesn't open with a bang, but rather with the slow-burn of "Best Night," a sumptuous slice of early '60s folk-pop channeled through modern indie-rock with an equal measure of fluid electric guitar and bubbling synths. Granduciel's drawling vocal delivery hangs over the numbers "Brothers," "I Was There" and "It's Your Destiny" as if Tom Petty was on beachside holiday - all sunny, breezy and cooly unconcerned through a haze of rum-filled concoctions. Injecting a bit more rock & roll urgency in the vein of a fist-pumping Bruce Springsteen on the number "Baby Missiles" they add an earthy harmonica and piano flourishes which solidly grounds this ballsier roots track. Perhaps the most affecting song on this effort, however, is the folkier and gorgeous "Blackwater," a song that wouldn't have sounded out of place on Bob Dylan's 1975 masterpiece Blood On The Tracks album. Yeah, it's that good.

It's not until some of the spacious instrumental pieces seep into the mix like a vapor under the doorsill, such as the ethereal "The Animator," "City Reprise" and the ominous "Original Slave," that we begin to understand the grasp of the album's title. And it's some of these moments that show us that Granduciel and The War On Drugs are as committed to the sounds of the future as they are to those time-honored classics of the past.

The War On Drugs are performing Saturday, August 27th at Club Garibaldi, 2501 South Superior Street, Milwaukee, WI (414) 483-6335.

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