Slow Heart Music’s debut album, This Body Is Not Me, submits a soundtrack for day dreamers neither displaced by chase nor erased by fear. Avoiding cul-de-sacs of revelry and rivalry, Ben Rath’s six strings peddle spiritual splendor, dappled in the nether of warm Polaroid landscapes, vine-ripened for health and happiness.
Unlike the ambient music Rath releases under his own name—computer-composed and heavily processed—Slow Heart Music favors a minimal, lo-fi set-up. Raised from humble improvisations, in homage to a buoyant spirit, Rath recorded This Body Is Not Me using a small classical guitar purchased for £5 from a bring-and-buy sale in a café basement.
The album cover depicts a babbling brook bending through rolling hills. It’s the kind of scenic fantasy housed in the garage of a model train hobbyist: lakes lie tousled; trees loom with long limbs; and the landscape hums with frozen energy.
A silent stillness pervades This Body Is Not Me. Some songs lope and glow. Some sag with heavy head. Others float in beams of light. Yet its moods transcend New Age platitudes. Instead, with summer leaning into fall, Rath’s nylon strings crackle like tinder from a bonfire found in a wasteland.
On “Another Way,” a field recording of rainfall actually sounds dirtier than the fey-like guitar, pinched so purely between fingers and frets that it threatens to dissolve. “Keep On” could claim the “Head Banger” title of the year for solo acoustic guitar, its climatic motif slowly ratcheting every loose lug nut within the heart. Meanwhile, “Interlude” hovers in halos, smeared into a luminous haze.
The slow heart waits, shepherded by grace, fresh as mountain springs. With This Body Is Not Me, Slow Heart Music begs the question: Does water not run downhill solely because in motion alone is it holly still, and wholly free? The spirit treads the same banks down the flesh’s slopes. Embraced by Mother Nature, though defaced by human nature, the slow heart moves freely, not fleeing from peak or pining for sea, but pleased with the journey: here-now-complete. (Todd B. Gruel)