You have to be pretty awesome to play in the Adrian Belew Power Trio and Julie Slick is Definitely THAT awesome! A phenomenal bassist and an inspiration to women bass players and musicians all over and to those who want to get in to music and she’s in PROG! A student at Paul Green’s School of Rock who taught students to help pay his way through university had the blessing of a 12 year old Julie Slick who learned how to play bass from him in Philadelphia, USA. Well it has certainly paid off for her as she has gone on to play in several bands and is currently for some time Adrian Belew’s bassist currently on tour with the French Proto-Metal-Heavy Prog opening act LizZard from France, another power trio. She’s released three albums under her name and today we are looking at her first self-titled record from 2010.
She’s been a part of; The Crimson ProjeKct, EchoTest, R_M_S, Motzer Slick Ti, PAPER CAT, and Springs as well as the Adrian Belew Power Trio so she definitely has her chops in order and she knows how to throw down a hard driving bass line as you will discover in her first album here. The album opens up with “Mela” a twisted mechanical hard edged biter of a song to kick things off. The complex percussion and swirling synths adding in to the mix with a grooved and fluid bass line this song has Prog written all over it with that heavy King Crimson sound of the 90’s, very “Thrak” album guitar sound. Like the theme from a futuristic robotic carnival this song belts it out all guts and no grease to spare. Short, punchy and no notes wasted on dabbling or tinkling around. Another great example of how you don’t have to be a twenty minute song to be Prog. “Many Laughs” is more straight forward almost riff rock till we get about a minute in to it and the guitar tone reflects another passage of Prog, the compression of the sharpness to make it like metallic silk streaming across barbed wire. The bass is prominent here as it thumps and slams back and forth without regrets and no prisoners either giving it a forefront lead in spots. A great addition to your highway driving mix for sure.
“February“, an interesting title for a song as you usually don’t get too many tracks using actual month names in them. The traditional third song pull back and go a little slower, a little softer and relax your nerves before another onslaught of massive sound hits your ears. A sombre little piece with no drums in it giving leeway to everything else to come to the foreground and make do with extra space where drums would have filled in. Near the end a mild fraction of percussion sounds off in the background but the synths have this one wrapped up as Julie does some fine arpeggio and bass harmonics throughout which showcases her talent for not just hammering out notes and doing a giant slaughter of the fretboard but that she has tact and taste as well as precision and style. “Mora” is the first track we hear a human voice on the record and it’s a girl’s voice on a recorded track perhaps or has had added effects attached later to a live voice reciting words about noises heard in her head. A tight snap drum beat let’s us begin this short journey in to what is almost what you could call Industrial Prog as it again has that robotic carnival sound to it which is not to say that this music is a joke, HELL NO!, but rather a look in to the creative mind of a musician who has a view of a different take on the sounds of Prog and music in general which clearly explains how she ended up playing with Adrian Belew!
“Aphrodite” has a sweet New Orleans groove feel to it to me that just doesn’t escape you it’s very addictive as it bounces and funks itself out an entirely new groove slot to call its own here. It maintains the same riff fairly throughout the song but you can’t help but keep your foot tapping as it swings and sways along until it zips its mouth shut and makes way for the next track, “Baron Aloha“. This one gives way to more friendlier sounding tones as the bass has a very jive, jazz feel to it as it carries the undertone here quite nicely as the guitar sails over top with a good mid-range fuzztone. An almost Caribbean Prog sounding track if you will as it definitely also has a salsa flare to it as well so your hips will feel it as you listen to this and want to get up and move around. This is a great moving track as it doesn’t go neither too fast or slow but right in the pocket where you want it. The Prog recipe of start/stops and a little bit on the tempo/timbre changes gives you the feeling of this is her inception record to the genre for sure but at the same time realize that she is still new to it and discovering her sense of bass playing so one can certainly appreciate this as her sophomore record in to the world of Prog, even though it’s her first album! “Nothing to be Done“falls next as a sweep in song that has a very dreamscape tone to it as the brushes on the drums carry you around the clouds as does the swirling synthscapes and the whole song just rests perfectly in your ears. The ending of it has a distinct Pink Floyd sound effects to it a la “Grooving with a Pict” bit from “Ummagumma” almost which was a nice little add on there. “Choke” brings us back to the industrial Crimson side of things with this piece of madness that sounds like Kraftwerk on acid as the drum machine is sped up and the synths are wreaking havoc and then it just stops leaving you ten seconds of silence to contemplate what the hell just happened there. Brilliant!
“Awake” keeps with the mid-range tone for most of the record so far that has you listening and able to absorb everything thrown at you. This track showcases Julie’s tight form bass playing and ability to pop in notes and then drag others longer. This one has an ominous overtone to it, very desert drive leave you out in the middle of nowhere vibe to it then it just stops and you’re stranded until the next song begins. “Shadow Trip” has a clear bass intro to it that allows Julie to get her funk on and the synths create another dark tone as this one starts to take shape. Here we have the classic head bop song where the bass clearly leads the path of enlightenment and has you moving and tapping all over the place. This one for me had a very dark soundtrack to it like in another world kind of music you’d hear in some spaceport bar where nothing it what it seems anymore and has a surreal feel to the air around you. The beginning bass line comes back at the end to complete the trip and bring you back to earth but part of you will always be left in the spaceport bar looking around at all these different lifeforms that aren’t speaking any language you know.
“Spice Trade” has a very King Crimson ProjeKct Two feel to it and conjures up images of “Dune”be it the movie or the book, your choice but it’s all about the SPICE! This song has the impressions of what it must be like on the spice and especially the end note a single bass hit that says you need to do more and take more now. “The Rivalry” begins with a trippy bass inflection reminiscent of the hardcore 80’s punk scene and it plays throughout as such with that speed induced feel to it making you tremble in your seat. Another perfect fast driving song for the highway mix tape but be Careful with your speed Eugene! (Floyd fans will get that one!) “Cage Match“, another fast paced speed freak motorhead song that should be some UFC fighter’s theme song before each match because it’s pure Techno-Prog adrenaline here and doesn’t stop for a split second and has your pulse racing furiously as if you’re going in to a match yourself. Best played while you’re glued to your favourite racing, flying or fighting game on whatever console you play because taking this one out to the streets…. you’re on your own there!
“Blood Blisters” the final track on the album of 14 songs plays out as if Julie just recorded the album in one shot and is now nursing those blisters on her fingers as she plays out the final epilogue here in another great mid-range tempo song giving you some solace in knowing that you can calm yourself down after the onslaught of fury she reigned down on your cerebellum and caused it to short fuse earlier. One can hear many different influences throughout the record and see where it has brought Julie Slick to this day and where she is musically and how she has grown as a musician in her own right and has created a unique tone for herself as well as being able to be fluent in the bass which is no easy task so kudos to her for sticking with it and becomming a great bassist and musician in the modern age. I leave you with a display of her multitasking bass playing demonstrating Pigtronix gear but the performance she does is fantastic. Enjoy.