Slow Dakota’s “A Competition” begins a perplexing, spellbinding concept album that demands of its listener time and the kind of extratextual scavenger hunt that accompanies literary epics such as Ulysses and Moby Dick. Flipping through spoken word, baroque pop, folk, and other genres, Slow Dakota (AKA Columbia alum PJ Sauerteig) references Walt Whitman, William Blake, the authors of the aforementioned epics, as well as contemporary musicians, antidepressants, and high-fashion boutiques.
The most prevalent theme in The Ascension of Slow Dakota is religion, and the video for “A Competition” emphasizes that. Opening on a church, the song plays through its intro of keys and wordless vocals over dark images of stained glass, empty pews, and dizzying handheld shots of the artist hunched over the piano. As the intro fades out, so do the visuals.
When a human voice returns, it comes in the form of a spoken narrative poem about a competition to write God a song, and the narrator who lends a song to an angel friend who sings it for the competition. When the angel and the narrator’s song don’t win God’s competition, the narrator says, “You have given me the greatest gift of all—a thoughtful listener, even one who rejects me.”
As the story unfolds, the video displays the words to the poem, a suggestion that less than a religious commentary, the song, and the album as a whole, is a meditation on words. As this latest video in Slow Dakota’s series establishes in a brief glimpse, The Ascension of Slow Dakota—saturated as it is with allusion, poetry, and slipping musical themes—is as much a literary endeavor as it is a work of music.