Slow to the Core

Timonium shows that hardcore don’t gotta be fast

March 29, 2001

Stick out your tongue and give me the laziest Bronx cheer you can muster. As slow as it’ll go. I want to hear every cycle as clearly as I’d hear a two-stroke engine idling in my garage on a cold morning in January.

Good. Now speed it up. Stick out your jaw so you can really hear it rattling around between your ears. Just reef on that mother until you can’t even hear what you’re doing anymore. And that’s about as far as you can go with a regular ol’ raspberry, isn’t it?

Good. See, that’s what sucks so bad about hardcore these days. We’ve pretty much reached the limits of what speed can teach us. Blurrcore, blastbeat—call it what you like, some of these drummers are getting more animal every day and what they come up with is physically amazing, rock stupid and old as dirt. There are bands out there who can play so fast that a kind of phantom slowness emerges as a motion artifact, like a helicopter blade spinning so fast it looks like it’s barely moving, and I could care less. Ultrafast is way past past. Slow, man, slow is the new frontier.

Slow food, like the artisan cheesemakers. Slow hand, like the Pointer Sisters. Slow core, as they’re calling bands like Timonium these days. The DIY ethic is there, but musically it’s got only the most distant taxonomic relation to the ruff stuff. Here are some of the tools in the Timonium bag, as displayed on 1999’s Suspende Animation: Reverb (cf. the cheesy death metal guitar compression). Interlocking guitar lines with enough room to breathe (cf. moth-eaten suffer-the-children D-tuned wall of Peavey sludge). Snare beats slow enough that you can practically measure the dimensions of the room where the band recorded calculated on the half-life of each echo. Faint, barely whispered vocals (cf. both the plangent yelping of the emo soft-boys and the ROYGBIV spectrum of shrieks and constipated bellows that announce intent in a hardcore song but rarely, so rarely, truly convey anything original anymore. At their most prominent, Timonium’s vocals could still get shouted down by the Alan Parsons Project). Hard-won crescendos erupt into wild sheets of noise that recall Lenola or the Swirlies and fold back into pastoral calm

Suspende Animation is a great listen for a quiet afternoon. It would also be perfect for a late-night solo drive on roads still slightly wet from rain. If I got to pick a live setting to my tastes in which to see Timonium, it would be someplace like a living room where everyone got to sit in their own space-age ’60s chair—those plush-lined spheres cut in half—and take it all in, in semi-privacy. For myself, I would like to have taken just slightly too much cough syrup for my cold. It won’t be as perfect at Jay’s (people will be talking and their conversations—“duuude, my aaaaaasss!”—will seep through at the most inappropriate times). But it’s better than not seeing Timonium at all. Quiet please, and down in front.

Timonium puts Jay’s Upstairs through its paces this Wednesday at 10 p.m. Cover TBA.

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