After ten years in the instrumental ensemble Balmorhea, Rob Lowe is releasing his first R&B-inflected solo LP, Slow Time, under the moniker RG Lowe. The record, while incorporating elements from pop and choral music, largely looks back on the warmth and spiritual ecstasy of early R&B through the disjunctive lens of contemporary life. Lowe, who plays keys, guitar, and provides the vocals on Slow Time, wrote and arranged about forty songs from 2014 to 2015 at his studio in Austin, TX, where he resides. He then headed to Philadelphia to record most of the album with producer Jeff Ziegler, whose raw and energetic production work on albums by Kurt Vile and The War on Drugs had inspired him. He decided to record most of the album in Philly, rather than in Austin, hoping that the record would be infused with the city’s grit, and rich history of funk, soul, and pop.
What’s most shocking about Slow Time is that Lowe’s voice, which he eschewed for eight years in his work with Balmorhea, is the central star of this project. The key role his vocals play on the album might be less surprising knowing that as a kid in West Texas, he often performed in church choirs and musical theater productions, and even considered heading to New York to pursue a career in theater after high school. Though his wordless vocals appeared occasionally on Balmorhea’s albums, on Slow Time we hear the impressive range and malleability of his voice as he glides from hymnal backing harmonies, to melismatic bridges, to punchy choruses and pained screeches that stretch his voice to its unbelievable limits.
The spirit and structure of the album’s title track, which closes out the album, perfectly encapsulates Slow Time as a whole. Like the palindromic sequence of the album, the song “Slow Time” patiently builds with a series of crescendos, and then winds itself back down. The album similarly features a string of spirited, uptempo songs in the middle, from the combative dance-pop pulse of “Bluff” to the heartsick insistence of “Building”, which contains a host of vamping instruments taking turns carrying the rhythm before colliding together into a soft bedlam. The album and its title track ride out on a pair of saxophones that softly pulse as they fade away, like distant sirens, an ideal last note for a record that hovers gracefully in the long shadow between loss and hope.