Slow Music is aptly named.
The improvisatory collaboration led by former Ministry (and current R.E.M.) drummer Bill Rieflin, with R.E.M.’s Peter Buck and King Crimson’s Robert Fripp on guitars, composer Hector Zazou on computers, and Matt Chamberlain (Pearl Jam, Wallflowers, Fiona Apple) on drums, plays music that takes its time to develop. It’s music that aims for a target midway between the noisy, atonal, blissed out freakouts of avant jam bands such as Sonic Youth, Swans, Television and the section of Grateful Dead concerts usually called “Space” and the more considered, contemplative aspect of Eno’s Ambient Music series.
But the two extended pieces they performed to a sparse and attentive audience at the El Rey Theater Saturday night were long on sensibility but short on personality. There were moments of glacial beauty, but the music never seemed to expand. It was as if the musicians were instructed not to develop their ideas for more than a few bars. Buck and Fripp are two of the most distinctive sounding guitarists out there, but their playing was more textural in nature. Occasionally, Fripp’s quicksilver tone could be heard weeping underneath the crescendos and toward the end of the first piece, Buck added his trademark ringing guitar arpeggios, but none of the other players picked up on them.
This meant that the most interesting sounds were heard when the guitarists laid out. Rieflin, bassist Fred Chalenor and Chamberlain found a playfully funky groove in the first piece; in the second and better of the improvs, Zazou provided a raspy counterpoint, to their snaky, African rhythm. They were moments that called out for a solo, to which Slow Music declined to respond.