Slow Clinic, AKA James Armstrong, cites his latest work ‘Become Nothing’ as “an uncomfortable listening experience”. Track titles such as ‘My god, these vivid nightmares!’ and ‘Relapse’ do nothing to quell the feeling that his opinion may be a tad extreme. However, a few full listens of this six track album and a read of Armstrong’s beautifully honest accompanying release notes, confirms that this is a true piece of artist self-reflection, complete with a strong message regarding an important social issue.
Work on ‘Become Nothing’ began in early 2018, in response to the multiple side effects Armstrong was experiencing during changes in antidepressant prescriptions, including; vivid nightmares, auditory hallucinations and withdrawal. The album actually opens with ‘Possible side effects include’, a four minute spoken word offering which lists out all known side effects to Mirtazapine, a common antidepressant used widely by the NHS.
The result is powerful, with almost sixty minutes of music offering a stark representation of the impact of depression, with effects pedals and field recordings saying more than any spoken word could. The album was shelved in 2019 after what Armstrong describes as an ‘unforgiving relapse’, but has fortunately made it to release in the form of limited edition cassette and CD, available via the Slow Clinic Bandcamp page.
Armstrongs’ output through his Slow Clinic moniker is a journey of compelling experimentation and consistently strong productions. ‘Salt’ for example, is an improvised long form track, the result of a morning of experimenting with adding small amounts of Himalayn rock salt to his guitar strings. ‘Fără o Frelungire a Sunetului – Without the prolongation of sound’ is the result of him producing without the assistance of reverb, an effect he had confessed to have become reliant on.
Amstrong understands sound, and he understands the feeling(s) it can evoke – an evening scrolling through his varied discography was an evening well spent.