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Ben Sloan - Muted Colors (New Amsterdam)

23 March 2023

With credits ranging from the National to Beth Orton to Mouse on Mars, percussionist Ben Sloan has a large address book he could access when it was time to make his own record. Augmented by frequent clients Felicia Douglass of Dirty Projectors and the entirety of WHY?, Sloan takes years of home recordings, fragments, and voice memos and turns them into Muted Colors, a collection of rhythmic soundscapes and abstract pop tunes. Sloan sets up a background of electronically altered sounds and rhythm tracks, then brings in his buddies to add melodies and lyrics. Sounds simple, right? In performance it probably was, but once you get the hazy textures of “Calm Loop,” sung by Douglass as if she’s just woken from a dream, or the ADD barrage of “Too Much Internet,” featuring vocalist Serengeti, one suspects more devious minds at work. Each track includes sonics that both soothe and agitate, allowing the Liz Wolf -sung title track, for example, to swirl like a leaf in the wind, but with the knowledge that wind might herald a tornado. Muted Colors? Don’t believe it.