To fans in tune with the sounds of Tame Impala but less inclined to the life of Kevin Parker – the project’s primary songwriter, producer, and performer – it may seem to have been a quiet few years for the Australian psych-rock outfit. On the heels of his globally celebrated, pop-laden album Currents, the multi-instrumentalist/producer took a five-year sabbatical from his ever-growing project.
With the insatiable synth permeation of Currents contrasting the phased, guitar-driven sounds of Parker’s career prior, audiences were left wondering if the Tame Impala sound had pivoted. Parker likely lamented the iconic nature the release with his production services in high demand as artists of every genre clamored for the captivating sounds of “Let It Happen,” “Disciples,” “The Less I Know The Better,” and their likeness.
While all sorts of artistic factors likely contributed to the incidental hiatus, it is impossible to argue inactivity on account of Parker’s musicianship. In the five years since the release of Currents, Parker has netted production credits in every corner of the industry in lending his ears and talents to other superstars – ZHU, Travis Scott, SZA, and Lady Gaga to name a few.
Rest assured, however: the wait was well worth it with the emphatically recouped sound on display for Tame Impala’s latest album. Masterfully blending the diverse sounds captured on all three of its full-length predecessors, The Slow Rush displays the depth of Parker’s artistry and confirms that Currents was hardly a pivot but a stepping stone in his effervescent evolution.
The album, much like its antecedent, opens with a swirling, slow-burning odyssey. The wavering reverberations of the opening notes immediately establish differences between the two otherwise: while the inclusion of synth-pop sounds are certainly lingering, their influences are much less face-forward. The overture “One More Year” resides in its own psychedelic sound-space comfortably in contrast to the feverish momentum of its parallel in “Let It Happen.”
Following in the atmospheric footsteps of the opener, “Instant Destiny” weaponizes a multitude of influences to create and intoxicating and enjoyable tune. The bounce-beat of the damp percussion is reminiscent of early hip-hop music, and it is the undeniable onus of the invasive hook that was conceived ready to repeat – short only a record scratch to signify the refrain.
The frantic, arpeggiated synths of “Instant Destiny” serve more as an introduction than a parting shot for the ‘electronicism’ on display throughout the rest of the album. Following from this is “Borderline,” a familiarly groovy tune that has been available for sometime now. The track features an iconic, old-school Roland sound on its constant synth chords that underscore the dreamy harmonies of vocals that seemingly drift through the instrumentals with delay effects exacerbating the Doppler effect on display.
“Posthumous Forgiveness,” another pre-ordained single, shows that Parker fit some listening into his busy sabbatical – the melodic guitar riff echoing the enticing instrumental line of Childish Gambino‘s mega-hit “Redbone.” The similarities stop there, however, with the somber tone of the laboriously peregrinating tune reflecting a more mature version of Tame Impala’s own “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards.” The song rewards audiences for its length in the low-lying catharsis of its synth-heavy finale.
Next up is “Breathe Deeper,” another lengthy track (noticing a trend yet?) that borrows most visibly from the popular sound of Currents in its attention-grabbing bassline that reflects influences of modern R&B music. The song often feels more like a beautifully produced jam-piece with diverse synth layers – precipitating or glittering or frolicking – each getting their own spotlight as they build to a explosively deep and spacey resolution.
The subsequent “Tomorrow’s Dust” is one of the greatest departures from Tame Impala sounds that audiences have grown accustomed to in the immediately identifiable, acoustic guitar pluckily plucking its way through the synth deluge of the prior tracks. This track is perhaps the summation of all that has been said so far: its initial introduction of new elements eventually buried deep beneath the modulating piano chords and phased guitars that defined previous studio releases. The acoustic guitar resurfaces midway only to again be lost in the mix, although its symbolic newness is imitated in the rippling synths and climbing faux-orchestra characterizing the conclusion of the piece.
A supposedly perfunctory skit-piece punctuate the outro of “Tomorrow’s Dust” – the most noteworthy but not the first of such dialogues thus far – and it bisects the album beautifully as the following “On Track” represents the most atmospheric track on the release. Parker’s production prowess is a spectacle to behold with the punchy but muted percussion delicately supporting an ethereal vocal-synth blend that is a descendant of spirituality if not downright sublime.
Beginning with “Lost In Yesterday,” the album gets in a groove that it refuses to relinquish aside from occasional interludes. The charming bass on the tune is undeniably reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel” as it pushes the pace of an exciting track whose scattered laser-sounds offer comforting repetition outside of the captivating, round embouchure of the occasional guitar solo.
“Is It True” blends so many external and self-referential influences throughout that its borderline-impossible to focus on any one part. The funky, off-beat sirens never overpower the falsetto-vocals of the verses that call back to the potent sound of previous single “Disciples,” and it is perhaps lyrically respondent as well: the indeterminate anxiety of the prior tune exchanged a disillusioned decisiveness reflective more of Parker’s mental state than the relationship in discussion – “I don’t know / I don’t care.”
Following is a similarly resolved ideal in “It Might Be Time” whose percussive foundation evokes heavy feelings of boom-bap rhythm. This track is charged with an aggressive distortion coloring just about every instrumental piece that blends the fuzziness of InnerSpeaker and Lonerism with the modern polish of the later Tame Impala releases.
The penultimate tune delivered by The Slow Rush is perhaps the greatest indication of Parker’s intended evolution for future Tame Impala music. “Glitter” offers only a glimpse into an electronic-blended instrumental – minus another talky intro skit – that we will hopefully hear more of down the line. The introductory words mockingly suggest that the bass be cranked up all the way, and while the motivated, club-like beat pushing the poignant instrumental exudes a yearning to be house music, the exquisite simplicity of the synths bring it together for an enchanting piece that is fervent but chill at all times.
Closing out the record is “One More Hour” – a complex tune that is scattershot in approach but deliberate in execution. Powerful drum fills establish the presence before vanishing to give way to pizzicato piano chords beneath hauntingly dreamy vocals from Parker. The piece waxes and wanes with an indecisive dynamic that culminates musical ideas from Tame Impala’s entire discography – especially the sweeping guitars of InnerSpeaker – but never escapes from the new identity forged by The Slow Rush holistically, akin to the piano that hides in ambiance but never departs entirely. The acoustic guitar of “Tomorrow’s Dust” resumes in unceremoniously subtle fashion that ties the album together with eloquent reservation.
The intermingling of all these ideas in the album’s finale serves as a musical statement of evolution: some things old, some things new, but everything different. In solemn reassurance, “One More Hour” reminds us of these competing factors while gratefully asking audiences for patience: a thank you for the time devoted to the latest release and hope that it will be enough to hold attention until the next release. If Currents’ continued relevance is not indicative of this enough, The Slow Rush ensures that Tame Impala will never get old. Parker will be back one way or another, and he leaves his audience asking for one allowance: “as long as I can spend some time alone.”
What was your favorite song off of The Slow Rush? Let us know below in the comments and thanks for reading!