It seems like a stretch to refer to Slow Bloom, the new EP from Scree, as an EP. It’s more of a single with a couple of very brief B-sides. Scree’s previous release, Live at the Owl (2019), was also an EP, but it seems positively epic at six tracks clocking in at about 25 minutes compared to their new one. But for fans of that previous release, Slow Bloom is still very much in Scree’s lo-fi jazz trio wheelhouse.
Comprising guitarist Ryan El-Solh, bassist Carmen Rothwell, and drummer Jason Burger, Scree create a definite mood. El-Solh’s guitar work provides a reference point that evokes a more tamped-down version of Nels Cline’s atonal jazz/punk stylings. Meanwhile, Rothwell’s nimble bass lines dance around the guitar melodies, and Burger’s drumming goes back and forth between standard timekeeping and a unique raucous clatter. The improvisational title track is credited to all three band members and moves along at a deliberate pace. With the guitar and bass interacting beautifully, the drums provide a subtle bed of noise. Eventually, the tension of all three instruments rises with a brief, noisy coda – like the best jazz ensembles, the interplay between the band members is deeply inspiring.
The remaining two tracks, compositionally credited to El-Solh, are brief, clocking in at under two minutes. “Quentin’s Big Night” is described by El-Solh as “based on one of my cat’s many nocturnal adventures”, which seems appropriate, given the music – the guitar and bass dance around each other playfully while Burger’s rattling percussion gives the impression of late-night feline misadventures. Closing out the EP, “Cut Short” has a more traditional structure, sounding more like a mid-tempo indie rock backing track than anything before it.
This kind of eclectic execution speaks volumes and proves that Scree is comfortable in various musical settings. In addition to their work here, El-Solh and Rothwell both released impressive, unique solo albums last year (Music of the Years Gone By and Don’t Get Comfy/Nowhere, respectively), and they also played on Winston C.W.’s 2020 elegant art-pop release, Good Guess. Burger has an exhaustive session resume. But when the three of them get together as Scree, everything clicks beautifully. Let’s hope a full-length release is coming soon. In the meantime, Slow Bloom is a sumptuous appetizer.