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Masked musician Slow Magic brings glittery, glo-fi sound to Anchorage

  • Author: Katie Medred
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published March 4, 2015

The musician known as Slow Magic values anonymity — so much so that despite a budding career, wide press coverage and an aggressive tour schedule, very little is known about the masked man.

His private approach to a public profession is intentional, well orchestrated and utilizes a platform of co-conspirators. His aim, he says, is to create a space that speaks about the music, not the man behind it.

"I want the music, and the artwork that surrounds it, to be the main focus," Slow Magic said over the phone from an undisclosed location in Colorado -- the one potentially identifying detail he was willing to give up during a 45-minute interview. "I'm somewhat of a private person, but not in a way where I want to alienate myself from fans or other people who are interested."

In fact, he is intent on building a community, he said, referring to Slow Magic as a twofold artistic project that creates and enforces an imaginary space.

On one hand is the music Slow Magic makes; on the other is the character Slow Magic, an "imaginary friend" made real through sound. "No one really knows where it comes from, but that's what the project is about," he added.

The "imaginary friend" is not human, but animal, he said, though what kind of animal is up for interpretation. Zebra, deer, wolf and horse have all been suggested, but Slow Magic would neither confirm nor deny any of them.

Friend, fellow artist and co-conspirator Jonas McCluggage created the first mask for Slow Magic three years ago. McCluggage's original design has since been updated, with vibrant colors illuminated by LED lights, a shaggy mane and a more streamlined look, but the contours of the original mask endure. And yes -- it is hot in there, he confirmed.

Right out of high school, the artist not yet known as Slow Magic started working at a small recording studio learning "a bit about all that," he said. Growing up, he'd always played music, specifically the drums. "My dad was in a band, he played guitar, so I grew up with instruments in the house and I taught myself how to play, or tried to. I started on drums and then piano and keyboard. I did music in school, and then played in punk bands and ska bands, hardcore bands, electronic bands," he laughed, "everything, I guess, when I was growing up."

In the studio, he said, he learned some new tricks, which led to different ways of thinking about music. "I happened to have some ideas," he said, and at the time, those ideas didn't fit into anything else his friends or musical collaborators were working on. He created one song and an accompanying video, which, naturally, he put on YouTube.

"I just had this idea, and it probably only took one day to create," Slow Magic said. "I just wanted to do something really different than what I had been doing," adding he had no idea it would get the response it did.

His first song, called "Sorry Safari," featured a retro clip of an unkempt musician explaining rudimentary recording software with a slow-budding graphic and animation overlay. The video got attention, right out of the gate.

"The next day, I don't even know how, but some blogs had found it and posted about it online," he said. "It encouraged me to do more. That's when it all started, I guess." That was in early 2012.

Almost since day one, Slow Magic has been on the move. The artist said in his first year of touring, he racked up some 160 days on the road. From Brazil to Ukraine, Germany to Alaska, Slow Magic hasn't let a moment of his newfound popularity go to waste.

"(Slow Magic) started a little over three years ago now, and I'd like to say ... just a few months later, I was in Europe. At max I'd say I've probably only had a month or two break (from touring) in three years."

His very first album, 2012's "Triangle (?)," delighted many a music writer and critic, who quickly (and collectively) dubbed the sound "glo-fi," a blend of chillwave and dream pop marked by sleepier, more melodic electronic influences. Indiecurrent.com called Slow Magic a master of the glo-fi genre, and "Triangle" a "dreamy, swirly concoction of glittering synths and swooping bass."

Truth be told, there is something iridescent about Slow Magic, like an evening stroll surrounded by moonlit hoarfrosted trees; he creates mysterious and mellow soundscapes with a crisp, frosty edge. His live shows, however, are almost the opposite. He brings a tangible energy and calculated commotion to the floor, often dismounting the stage -- drum under arm -- to join the crowd, breathing life into the current of bodies engulfing him.

Hellen Fleming and Ray Flores of Anchorage's Showdown Productions brought Slow Magic to the city for the first time last summer. The artist played an all-ages show at the old Shirts Up building behind the Tap Root Public House and another at Chilkoot Charlie's, for the 21-and-up crowd. Both shows were intimate, energetic and ethereal -- in a neon kind of way.

"Ian Chang, one of our friends, actually brought me a YouTube video and that's where I first saw him," said Fleming, referring to a recording of the live version of "Corvette Cassette."

"To be honest, at first I didn't understand the whole concept of a Slow Magic show (but when we brought him up) to Anchorage (his performance) exceeded my expectations by a long shot. There's not a lot of ways I can use the English language to describe how I felt during the show. The way he involves the audience makes every single member actually feel a part of the show. It's a giant dance party illuminated with homemade masks, and an indescribable energy that pulls everyone together."

Slow Magic

When: 8 p.m. Friday, March 6

Where: The Fiesta Room, 420 W. Third Ave.

Tickets: $18 in advance, $20 at the door, at AK Boardroom or online at showdownalaska.com.

Open to all ages

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