Slim Charles – Versus Fatso Jr EP – “Triangulate” Review
Representing a synthesis of disparate musical forms, Slim Charles wears their influences proudly, even as they carve out a sound that is distinctively their own. Traces of math rock, indie, space rock and funk are all apparent, but Slim Charles does not fit neatly into any category. As one might expect, juggling these disparate styles, often in the span of one song, requires considerable technical skill. Fortunately, each band member – vocalist/guitarist Dom Green, guitarist Ben Mickelson, bassist Ken Siu and drummer Alex Jarvis – brings a healthy portion of chops to the table.
Yet, on their debut EP, Versus Fatso Jr, Slim Charles never gets bogged down in vacant pyrotechnics, playing with as much heart as brains. They possess the rare ability to challenge listeners in a manner not incompatible with good, solid hooks. Fan-favorite track “Triangulate” simultaneously serves as a testament to the band’s songwriting talent and impeccable musicianship.
It begins with a syncopated guitar figure which introduces the song’s off-kilter time signature and foreshadows its subsequent vocal refrain. A second guitar soon joins in, working organically off its predecessor in a manner recalling the restrained, yet skillful, interplay of virtuosic post-punk musicians like Tom Verlaine and Richard Hell circa Television. This guitar-focused verse of sorts soon gives way to a hypnotic, forceful chanting of the phrase: “hey you, trying, make moves triangulate,” the melody and cadence of which repeats several times throughout the song with similarly enigmatic lyrics.
In tying emotional resonance and philosophical weight to an empirical spacial concept, Green calls to mind Tool vocalist Maynard James Keenan, but without the bombastic pretension. The vocals cut through the mix with a detached urgency that complements the instruments weaving angles in the background. “Triangulate” deftly straddles the line between free-form jamming and premeditated structure, thanks in no small part to Slim Charles’s rhythm section. Jarvis and Siu skillfully transition between the song’s multiple parts, anchoring the deft guitar interplay of Mickelson and Green in a solid foundation, thereby lending form to what could otherwise seem directionless.
Although far from the mainstream, Slim Charles may well find wider popularity nipping at their heels if they keep turning out songs as anthemic and sophisticated as “Triangulate.”
Slim Charles will be playing at the Bat House Coworking Space in Brooklyn, located at 279 Starr Street, on Saturday, April 6. Also performing: George Robson, SiLyA, Petty Nobles, Hzrdsrsns and DJ Shae Bryant. Visit the event’s Facebook page for more information.