Anyone familiar with Matt Carroll’s work in the brilliant jazz/post-rock trio Typical Sisters will be pleasantly surprised by the change in direction the drummer takes in his debut solo album, Symbols and Mirrors. Released under the name SloGlo – which comes from the idea that the sun, which represents life and clarity, shines even when we can’t see it – Carroll’s new album takes some of the same inspirational cues as his aforementioned trio but pushes the experimental nature even further. The result is a strange, curious, but warmly and movingly executed album.
Leading up to the pandemic, Chicago-bred Carroll lost his father to a brain disorder, moved to Denmark, and had a son. He also toured as a drummer in the band Finom (formerly known as Ohmme). During that tour, Carroll became intrigued by noises, such as bathroom air vents that gave off odd, shrill sounds. “It was as if I could get close to some of the traumatic moments from recent years without experiencing them full force,” he explained in the record’s press materials. Gathering together his field recordings, along with sampled vocals, drum machines, and synthesizers, Carroll began improvising with velocity-sensitive drum triggers. The sum of these parts became Symbols and Mirrors.
The result is an album that embraces the cumulative styles of improvisational jazz, found sound, electronica, and experimentalism. The lo-fi rhythmic clicking that kicks off “Found Form”, Symbols and Mirrors’ opening track, soon gives way to synth washes and sampled vocalizing that immerses itself in the vaporwave genre. This is followed by the skittish, tentative “Dreaming About Ghosts”, a track that allows Carroll to create soundscapes that roam free, seemingly unbound by traditional musical boundaries. Anyone who revels in the otherworldly beauty of music released on the Orange Milk or Hausu Mountain labels will love the odd compositions Carroll has conjured up here.
Occasionally the soundscapes delve into a true chillout atmosphere, as “Invisible Art” proves with its sustained synth chords and deep bass notes, which float around Carroll’s low-key percussive funk. The field recordings add even more texture, unexpected but welcomed by anyone with deeply adventurous ears.
Carroll plays everything himself except two tracks: Will Miller contributes trumpet to “My Love”, an odd, luxurious intergalactic slow jam, and Nicolas Meyer plays keyboards on “My Love” and the closing “JC”. On the latter song – as on most of Symbols and Mirrors – Carroll has acquired the knack for combining the melodic sensibilities of jazz fusion and marrying it with a glitchy, experimental vibe.
There’s plenty to love and dive into on Symbols and Mirrors – it’s adventurous and unique while still hanging onto many traditional musical gestures. The album is indicative of some fundamental tenets of great experimental albums: it’s unusual, lovable, and offers something new with each listen