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Moon Ruin’s Slow Down Ego inhabits a world where gauzy vocal washes glide across sinewy
melody, soulful horn charts rise from the sonic mist only to fall away as a twinkling piano runs joust playfully with syncopated electronic percussion. Palpably atmospheric and profoundly transporting, Slow Down Ego is the sound of persistence and sacrifice, born in that flash of a creative gap flitting between real-life obligation.
Slow Down Ego is the creation of Jared Bartman, but it was not formed in a vacuum. Birthed in the refuge of makeshift basement studios, and featuring co-conspirators Mike Noyce and Liam O’Brien, plus Bartman’s wife and children, the record is a tribute to the potential of partnership and the strength it provides; it is a document of community, of friendship, of family.
The narrative of Slow Down Ego starts some years ago in rural Illinois when Bartman began
writing songs. After a handful of projects and a mercenary DIY touring schedule, life caught up with Bartman in a very visceral way and forced him to clarify his priorities. Balancing full and part-time jobs and the responsibilities of a new family, Bartman managed to maintain his drive for writing and recording music. For the years in which Slow Down Ego was made, this meant holding down the night shift as a US postal worker, sleeping for a few hours after work, and spending the remaining waking hours with his family and working on music.
The battle to nurture his creativity in the midst of life’s swirling difficulties only served to focus Bartman’s vision. The clouds parted, a modicum of stability was restored, and Bartman was able to refine his process and bring in collaborators to color in the sketches. With the addition of Noyce and O’Brien creativity bloomed, and the project quickly became a series of accords with the group agreeing unanimously before moving forward with any creative decision.
Bartman, Noyce, and O’Brien convened for numerous week-long sessions every few months
between 2015 and 2017, and the work gradually took shape. After over two years of recording, arranging, and mixing in Bartman’s and Noyce’s home studios, and extensive mixing sessions at April Base in Fall Creek, WI, the trio put the record to bed.
Slow Down Ego is an album of intriguing sharp angles and deceptively dense structures. Each song appears as a carefully crafted bauble, a curio who’s meaning you sense at once, yet requires focused exploration to begin to fully grasp. Their shimmer captures your attention, and their warmth invites you in to sit a while with their complex arrangements, exciting more wonder with each puzzle solved. It is the sound of an artist creating exactly what he means to.
Moon Ruin is the new music project of Jared Bartman. Ephemeral yet timeless, it is the home where Slow Down Ego can find repose. Having released music under his namesake for ten years, the move to Moon Ruin is a throwing off of preconceived notions and the pressure of expectation. Slow Down Ego is a manifestation of internalized anxiety; that uneasy feeling that follows you like a melancholy ghost. It nags your decisions and creeps into idle thoughts. As a catalyst to reckon with forces, both internal and external, it influences our lives.
More than all, though, Slow Down Ego is a sanctuary. The love child of Bartman, Noyce, and
O’Brien, it shows we are better facing uncertainty and hardship in the arms of comrades. It is a haven, but it is not a retreat. It is an album of comfort, strife, resistance, and acceptance. It is Jared Bartman’s most fully-realized work yet, and a beacon that signals a path forward.
Former Yellow Ostrich frontman and touring member of The Tallest Man On Earth Alex Schaaf will release his debut full-length album as Human Heat on September 15, 2017 via Offline Records.
The album was mostly self-recorded in Schaaf’s home studio, and was mixed and mastered by Zach Hanson (Bon Iver, The Staves) at April Base in Fall Creek, WI.
A recent arrival in Minneapolis, Schaaf had been based in Brooklyn the past few years after moving from Wisconsin to start Yellow Ostrich. Schaaf toured the world with the band’s signature vocal-loop and guitar fuzz style, quickly gaining a sizable audience and signing to Barsuk Records. After four years, the band wrapped up in 2014, with the guys interested in pursuing new avenues of expression.
Schaaf then hit the road with other bands, backing artists such as Tei Shi and The Tallest Man on Earth. However, after a few years Schaaf started getting hungry to again focus on his own music. Work started on a new project called Human Heat. Progress was slow at first, as Schaaf worked on a batch of songs for a few months without anything really sticking.
But then, after the sudden end of a relationship at the end of 2016, Schaaf left Brooklyn and relocated across the country back to his native Midwest. Dealing with the raw feelings and heartbreak that emerged from the breakup, Schaaf scrapped old songs and quickly wrote new ones seeped in the bittersweet emotional aftermath. This fresh spark of inspiration manifested as All Is Too Much, his debut full-length as Human Heat. Gone are the quirky vocal loops and signature guitar fuzz of Yellow Ostrich, as Schaaf has transitioned to a smoother, more assured and mature voice -- keeping the earnest feelings but channeling them into something new, a sound full of warm synths, heavy organs and stately rhythms.
“These definitely feel like the most personal songs I’ve ever done,” he said. “Heartbreak is one of the oldest pains around, but it was a new one for me.”
Drawing inspiration from old favorites like Arthur Russell and Bill Withers, as well as incorporating more contemporary hints of Caribou, James Blake and Bon Iver, the songs pulse with a barely restrained energy, ranging from the downbeat heartbreak ballads “Remember When” and “Someone Closer” to more upbeat R&B bangers like “I Need My Space” and “Best For You”. The album closes with “2 Is a Stranger”, a song centered on quiet piano and vocoder that lays out a delicate strategy for how to move forward. Hanson plays drums throughout the album, and Jon Natchez (The War on Drugs) adds horns on two tracks. Schaaf has assembled a live band of local Minneapolis musicians that has already started playing shows around the area, preparing for a tour around the album release.
The live band includes local musicians Matt Vannelli (Haley Bonar, Van Stee, Warehouse Eyes), Kevin Scott (Eric Mayson, Hotelecaster, Warehouse Eyes), and Mike Gunvalson (On An On, Val Son, Warehouse Eyes).