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Gregory Scott Slay - Horsethief Beats (Communicating Vessels)

6 January 2012

Gregory Scott Slay was the drummer of Alabama-based Remy Zero, as well as a performer a number of different other Remy Zero-related bands and projects. Cystic fibrosis would claim him in 2010, but before he died, he prepared his final statement, Horsethief Beats. If, given time, it would be unsurprising for a musician to make a final statement, a reflection on a life well-lived, or to simply make a statement about what it means to be human. Slay didn’t do that. Sure, there are themes that could be about that, but the themes are just vague enough to be overshadowed by his passing. Lyrics such as “keep it all together” or “keep it secret” or ones of the like…how can one not think of these things as a double entendre? Musically, Horsethief Beats is very much of a piece with the darker yet more sardonic moments of Eels, except Slay is much more into playing around with loops and beats. There’s some pretty good moments, such as the bizarre spoken-word “Visit With a Snowman,” sounding not unlike King Missile, or the jaunty, repetitive “Hidden Among the Somethings,” with its tribal, catchy melody. One is left with the feeling that, on some level, this album is incomplete. Though finished—and initially released—a few weeks before Slay’s passing, the inevitable does cast a pallor over the affair. It’s hard to judge a posthumous release, especially one that is compiled by the creator shortly before their passing. But Horsethief Beats is an interesting, curious record of a man experimenting with sound and music at a time in his life when most people would be preoccupied.