The music Sapphire Slows conjures up on her debut EP, “True Breath,” floats between genres: dance music, dream pop and ambient are just a few. However, the element uniting these five songs is really how unsettling they can sound — even at their most danceable.
Slows’ tracks feel like a home for some wayward spirit who also happens to have a fondness for club music obscured by trippy effects. This puts her in tune with her labelmates on Not Not Fun (Maria Minerva, Peaking Lights), but those artists tend to keep the mood lo-fi. “True Breath” sounds a touch higher quality, while retaining that hypnotic vibe.
The first single, “Spin Lights Over You,” has been attracting online attention over the past few weeks, and it serves as a solid introduction to the world of Sapphire Slows (like with many new Japanese acts, she’s not divulging her real name). “Spin Lights…” features the EP’s danciest sounds courtesy of its bass and party-ready percussion, which comes together to construct something resembling a strut. Still, this isn’t typical dance music in any sense. Slows coats everything in a synth glow concealing myriad small details that only reveal themselves over repeated listens, making “Spin Lights…” a track you almost have to study in order to really figure everything out. Slow’s voice (or whoever provides the singing) stands as the best sonic addition. The whispers that run through the EP say something that, while ultimately unintelligible, is also strange and alluring.
“Cosmo Cities” swelters while harsh beeps rain down on the track. “Green Flash Mob” follows the “Spin Lights…” example of blurring dance elements with dreamier electronics to form one detailed cloud of music, yet this song-to-song similarity is also the EP’s one weakness. Slows is confident in her style, to the point her tracks start blending together, her formless approach feeling rigid at times. “True Breath” clocks out quickly enough that this doesn’t sink the EP, but a longer release would suffer.
Calling music “mysterious” in the age of Google search seems pointless, but “True Breath” really does deserve that tag. Sapphire Slows isn’t indulging in media intrigue — her music genuinely seems like it is keeping something secret, but it ends up highly listenable.