Top 20 Releases of 2017: No.5 – Sapphire Slows – Time

This sort of gauzy, ethereal electronic pop doesn’t get much play on this site, and one of the main reasons for that is that despite the vast amounts of it being made, it so rarely amounts to anything more than eminently tasteful elevator music – triumphs of atmosphere over imagination. For a long time, I held the deep suspicion that Sapphire Slows was one of those artists and could therefore be safely ignored, but Time tells a different story.

Time is richly textured but never excessively-layered, with the distorted pulses and wispy vocals of Reach Out Your Hand To Me demonstrating Sapphire Slows’ ability to create powerful effects from just a few well chosen elements. On The Edge of My Land the atmospheric effects go hand in hand with disarmingly chirpy, almost technopop synth loops, and this lightness of touch gives the music a lively internal dynamic.

It also help a lot that songs like Piece of You work on a very basic level simply as dance music – although it definitely helps if your idea of dancing is that writhing silhouette thing people do outside on the balconies of rich people’s parties in movies when a disaffected main character is having an existential crisis. What makes it such a lovely record, though, is the way you can concentrate on each simple-yet-intricately-arranged moving part and see it has a role to play, with nothing extraneous. The sum of those parts is atmospheric, melodic, dreamlike and affecting, but there’s a different and equal pleasure to be taken from dissecting them and luxuriating in the machinery.

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