Album Reviews: Slip Silo – Monsoons / Koplant No – Transit EP


Slip Silo - Monsoons /

Slip Silo and Koplant No are two local groups which share two members (Brian Lewis on trumpet, keyboards and laptop, Drew Morton on bass, synth and vocals) with adjacent releases. This invites a classic English Final “Contrast and Compare” review.

Firstly, Slip Silo (also starring Matt Logan on vocals and guitar and Justin Leduc on percussion) is the more conventionally poppy side of the coin … without really being conventional at all. These guys studied in The University of Iowa’s Jazz program, so they have the chops and music theory to write and perform sophisticated music. Thankfully, they don’t mistake widdly trickiness for sophistication. Their songs are songs, not scaffolding for exhibitionist soloing.

Lewis’s keyboards owe more to left-field electronica than any jazz precursor, and his trumpet playing is fluidly integral to the arrangements. Rock music rarely features trumpet as a lead instrument and yet it really works here.

I get the impression that they had some Radiohead CDs mixed in with their Mingus and Coltrane, but Slip Silo stay out of Radiohead’s shadow. They emulate the UK’s grandest mopes only in that they fearlessly experiment, but integrate their experimentation into accessible song forms. Leduc’s drumming elevates every song with propulsive, restless virtuosity. He finds the freedom to jab and weave within the song structure, sometimes (as on “I Need To Know”) approaching the barely-controlled chaos of Keith Moon.

Slip Silo’s music is hard to describe by comparison to contemporary groups, which is good. The thing I’m reminded of most is the brief time in the 1970s when bands like Genesis, Brian Eno, Soft Machine and Traffic pushed rock music into new, weird directions. Slip Silo gets plenty weird, but they do so without leaving the listener behind.

Koplant No - Transit EP /

On Transit EP Koplant No incorporates Rob Baner on drums, vibraphone and sampled percussion, and Joel Vanderhayden on Saxophone. If Slip Silo derive indirect inspiration from Radiohead, Koplant No derives theirs from Boards of Canada. For all the weird swirly noises they incorporate into these pieces, they’re more conventionally jazzy, but it’s a contemplative, through-composed music, closer to Carla Bley than the jazz of a dour traditionalist like Wynton Marsalis.

Maybe someone’s already doing this and I just haven’t heard it yet, but I’m impressed with how organically perfect the fractally dubbed-out abstract electronic textures fit with the trumpet and saxophone as lead instruments. It seems seductive, inevitable and necessary when Koplant No does it.

Monsoons and Transit EP are similar in the way they realize a common attitude of adventurous lyricism. None of these songs are three-chord bangers or one bar drum loops. I’ve been left cold by a lot of music I’ve heard coming out of university Jazz programs—always technically accomplished but lacking in soul and fire. These guys seem to have internalized the craft taught at the University without letting it become a straightjacket.  —Kent Williams