Slow Life isn’t just a label, it’s a philosophy. The Berlin-based collective, helmed by percussionist and producer Sergio Moreira, have spent the last three years organizing EPs, podcasts and parties that explore the deeper, more introspective landscapes of house and techno. Their sound is clearly rooted in Detroit techno, from the blissful pads to jittery scifi synthwork, but the accompanying rhythms are more modern – dry, complex drum tracks that glide effortlessly along the seabed. It’s a kind of music that makes you stop, take notice, and then sink back into the silky groove.
Chromophore is the label’s biggest release to date. After five EPs featuring S. Moreira (two alongside a collaborator), this double-pack offers nine cuts that introduce a host of new names to the collective. Mick Welch’s opener Serenity sets up most of the base sounds that the other tracks will explore, a glassy techno cut made of brittle drums, beetling scifi melodies and gentle, pillowy pads. It also exemplifies one of the aspects that make Slow Life tracks so distinctive – they’re gentle, with synths that practically caress the ears, but always propulsive, ready for the dance.
But there can be a problem in developing a distinctive sound as a collective. All nine tracks here are clearly variations on a theme, and as a result they have a tendency to blur together. Each is expertly crafted, with lovingly soft textures and well-paced structures, but there’s not quite variation enough to keep each track distinctive.
Better then to see Chromophore as a double-EP, a compilation for DJs, rather than an album. Viewed through this lens, it has a lot to offer. Luis Malon’s Good Morning adds a touch of funk to the formula, the glistening synthwork rooted by a broad, wandering bassline. Seafoam gives the Slow Life style a UK twist on Raz, where a swooning jungle bassline and splintered breaks lend the smooth surface a nervous energy. Saverio Celestri comes up with one of the true highlights on closer Jez Zie, dialing up the mournful ambience with a healthy dose of dub effects.
Ultimately, although Chromophore invites a host of new talent to the Slow Life fold, it underlines the brilliance of main man S. Moreira. The three tracks he contributes to the release are probably its best, and also offer the clearest departure from the established mould. Clean Or High is on a relaxed house tip, all lingering keys and nimble drumwork, while Elevate has an anxiety to it, its synths bristling caustically, a seasick melody rising over the drums. Best of all is his collaboration with Primary Perception, C2M, which is the strongest club track of the bunch. Here a big mutating synth line rules the roost over a tough, clanking rhythm, offering relief from the polish of the rest of the songs.
If you like the Slow Life sound, and many will, then the fact that Chromophore doesn’t offer a great deal of variation shouldn’t be a problem. It’s a double-pack for dream-inclined DJs, and the level of finish on these productions suggests they won’t wear out easily.