The Ascension Of Slow Dakota by Indiana native PJ Sauerteig is a dense, modernist novel of a conceptual indie pop/folk record. A dense cast of characters, including Walt Whitman, Franz Kafka, James Joyce and even an angel from heaven spiral and cavort over an equally dense musical bedrock of acoustic piano, ukulele, acoustic guitars, ethereal electronics and antiquated, wheezing organs.
If this sounds unbearably precious to you, you'd be missing out on both the musical and literary merits of The Ascension Of Slow Dakota, which would be a great loss indeed.
The Ascension Of Slow Dakota, the third and most ambitious LP from Sauerteig under the Slow Dakota guise, bears the closest sonic similarity to the ambitious song cycles of Sufjan Stevens, particularly the "State Cycle" records of Come On! Feel The Illinoise! and Greetings From Michigan. Like those records, The Ascension Of Slow Dakota uses a complex pallet of field recordings, spoken words and stories to capture the fertile soil out of which The Ascension has sprung from. The Ascension Of Slow Dakota is like Sufjan Stevens state albums fused with his more experimental electro-pop material like The Age Of Adz, using interesting, modern production techniques to flesh out the story/songs with interesting, conceptual psychedelic textures. It also prevents the record from becoming too twee.
Slow Dakota's folk songs never succumb to becoming nostalgic with plenty of modern flourishes - great beats, electric guitars, which are set in the folk tapestry like jeweled threads. It's the hallmark of a musician capable of anything. The intricate compositions - melodic piano lines (written on the piano Sauerteig played as a child) running parallel with high, ethereal vocals - are evidence of a carefully constructed, thoroughly realized concept album. The website PopMatters called Slow Dakota's previous LP Burstner And The Baby "the concept album of the decade" and it's no wonder. If I didn't know any better, I'd swear we have a new Sufjan Stevens, or even a Van Dyke Parks, on our hands.
Saurteig is nothing if not ambitious. He's a published poet, studied Literature at Cambridge and is about to put his musical career on momentary pause to study law at NYU. Hopefully he's not gone too long, but takes the opportunity to pick through Slow Dakota's existing catalog, and lets Saurteig's rich characters and poetic imagery spiral and dance through your dreams, in the meantime.
Top shelf art-pop! Hear it immediately!
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