The term “slowcore” has been making the rounds more and more over the past few years, and although the term itself has been gaining a lot of traction, I find myself routinely surprised to see just how many people are discovering the term and sequestering it to a genre unto itself, because the history of slowcore and its characteristics is a rich one that has been continually active largely since its inception.
Although the genre is sometimes referred to as “sadcore”, slowcore has been around since the late 1980s and early ’90s, and essentially includes minimal musical backing and production, melancholy lyrics, and of course, a slow tempo. Slowcore is often thought of as an offshoot of indie rock or a combination of sadcore and indie rock, but the qualifiers of slowcore, it seems, are intentionally nebulous.
Sure, there are some more specific qualifiers, too, like the open tuning styles of bands like Duster or the faded vocals of bands like Mazzy Star. But ultimately, slowcore has the ability to overlap and act as a blanket or umbrella to so many other styles—from midwest emo to shoegaze.
That’s a part of the beauty of slowcore, but also one of the reasons why it’s been able to remain relatively stealth for so long—the movement remains purposefully inclusive. Unlike a lot of other subgenres, slowcore doesn’t exist as a part of an insular scene. It’s also this nebulous nature that allows for so many more bands and artists to utilise the principles and weave them into the unique style of whatever they’re exploring.
One might be inclined to ask, is the purpose of making a scene nebulous futile? What’s even the point? But I think that’s one of the important points of contemplation here. As important as any, in fact. Does a style need to be a scene? What’s more important, exclusivity or longevity?
When you take a look at the Spotify playlists for slowcore, you’ll find everything from Galaxie 500 to Sharon Van Etten to Smog to Codeine. Sometimes, bands or artists you wouldn’t immediately describe that way will pop up and make you think, “Well, maybe, I guess this is slowcore, right?”
Again, not that this necessarily makes a genre as we’ve arrived at a place in both music and technological history that allows for these specifications. There are more artists and bands than ever being introduced to wider platforms, and the sharable nature allows for artists to enter different spaces simultaneously that the scenic nature of music hasn’t allowed for in the past, just in terms of logistics.
All of this is to say, slowcore isn’t just a new thing, and it’s not a trend. It isn’t even really making a comeback per se. Really, slowcore has always been around, even if it hasn’t been the star of the show. But if it’s something you like, now is the right time to be around to know where to find it.