Slow Down: James Gleick’s Faster and Dead Swords’ Enders

Before I even arrived on campus for my freshman year, I had a homework assignment. A copy of James Gleick’s Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything had been sent to every incoming freshman at my college and we had been instructed to read it prior to orientation. At the time, this really pissed me off. The gall they had, sending me homework in the middle of summer! When I think about Faster now, though, I don’t think about how annoyed I was at having to read it; instead, I think about how prescient it was.

Gleick’s book addresses the demand for ever-increasing expediency that undergirds contemporary culture. Astonishingly, Faster was published in 1999; Gleick’s assessment that our desire for everything to be faster and more efficient is, in fact, a destructive one, came a solid seven years before Twitter launched and global communications were set to a permanent state of fast-forward, years before we were checking our phones every 12 goddamn minutes.

Even a distracted boyfriend can’t stop staring at his phone.

But in 2004, at the age of 18, the idea that society’s acceleration was potentially disastrous seemed like little more than a journalist throwing stones across a generational divide. Gleick was old, I thought, and he couldn’t handle the pace of a world built to cater to the energetic young. Now, in 2019, at the age of 32, I just want a fucking break. Can’t we all agree to slow down and take a breather for just a few minutes?

One of the unexpected manifestations of life’s exhausting pace is that I rarely feel like I can listen to slow music anymore. When my quality listening time is constricted to the gaps between taking my son to daycare, drafting an overdue memo for work and trying to simultaneously cook dinner, read the news on my phone and watch Parks and Recreation for the millionth time, a three-minute song that bops along at a solid 120 beats per minute is a lot easier to metabolize than a sprawling, 10-minute epic that features three interludes and is built upon droning loops.

Not pictured: someone with the time to really dig into the back catalog of Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

But ease is a flawed decision maker and by relying on it I’ve been shortchanging myself. Despite how challenging it can be, or maybe because of how challenging it can be, there’s still tremendous value to be found—in both music and life in general—in slowing my pace and embracing a more methodical approach. (That this feels like a revelation to a man whose life was once changed by the meandering songs of Sigur Rós is further proof that time moves faster as we age.) And so lately I have spent a lot of time with Dead Swords’ debut LP Enders, a slowly churning record that will be released tomorrow.

Built on a foundation of crunchy guitar work that spins and twists in unhurried whorls, Enders, whose shortest non-interlude tracks fall just shy of the six-minute mark, turns “slow” and “sludgy” into undeniably positive descriptors. More often than not the album sounds like doom on a summer day, turning apocalyptic distortion into something shiny and bright by deploying a subtly genius sense of melody in its restrained vocals and searing guitar solos. It’s like if “First Wave Intact” fell into a blender with Black Sabbath. And that’s worth slowing down to hear.

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