Last year PJ Sauerteig, under his musical moniker Slow Dakota, released the elegant and elegiac The Ascension Of Slow Dakota. That album was an aged musical narrative about people and the things that people do. It was part prolific chamber pop and part poetry in motion courtesy of spoken word segments strewn throughout. It was a magnificent musical statement that begged you to pay attention and fill your brain with what that album had to offer.
Slow Dakota has returned with the EP Rumspringa. Rumspringa takes that urgency of Ascension and has turned it into a bit of a dance floor jam. Chamber pop has been replaced with seductive beats and early New Order and Depeche Mode vibes. Each track is a tale about different odd characters that may be living among us in the Midwest. Or, they may have sprouted from Sauerteig’s imagination. Either way, it’s a fascinating character study with a hell of a beat.
“Abram, Indiana” announces itself as something separate from what came before in the Slow Dakota canon. Its groove and airy demeanor feels like glorious dance floor freedom. Subtle piano and synth touches bring elegance to the proceedings, while the drums make you want to get up and move. Lyrically it brings visions of open fields and toiling away the day in small towns, wondering what’s beyond the property line. “Elijah Yoder” has our subject leaving the small town life for the big city lights and reminiscing about those simple days, all the while a heavy electro beat and New Order feels carry the song along. More subtle regret permeates the world of “Cherry Mary Michigan” as she laments “Helicopters watch me through my window/Helicopters watch me close the blinds”, ending that thought with “I don’t know any of my neighbors’ names”. “Jebediah Iowa” talks of a young man telling his father he sees his future in the kitchen and not the courtroom, to which is father replies “Look into the future, then,” He told me hard and slow,/”And tell me if you’re happy there”/”Paid in pastry dough.”
Sauerteig recorded and wrote Rumspringa over his first year of law school. The EP was produced by Sahil Ansari, and mastered by the legendary Greg Calbi. The EP as a whole has a vibrancy of movement, which fits perfectly with the stories here. Stories of finding new soil to root in, but looking back and wondering if you made the right choice or not. The decision to go with a more electronic feel this time around works well to tell the tales of these characters. It shows new layers of sonic depth for Slow Dakota.
There seems to be a back and forth on this EP that Sauerteig seems to be fighting with, which is in order to follow your dreams you must leave behind what made you you. Trading the comfort of home for the unknown of finding who we can and will be can be exciting, but lonely. When miles are put between us and our past there’s a melancholy perspective that comes over us. In art we can look back and find a humanity and empathy towards characters we grew up with that couldn’t be found if we just “stuck around”. Sauerteig has done that here on Rumspringa and it’s a fascinating listen.
Grab a copy of Rumspringa or The Ascension of Slow Dakota over at https://slowdakota.bandcamp.com/