PJ Sauerteig writes and records under the name Slow Dakota. His songs are like Sherwood Anderson short stories come to life; a mixture of parable, human postulating, and carefully-crafted musical structures all with a Midwestern sense of purpose. His music is refined but never stiff or cold. They’re songs that feel like baroque pop; carefully woven strings, keys, beats, and vocals that sometimes resemble the musical worlds of Beirut, Andrew Bird, and even Dan Bejar’s Destroyer.
Since 2012 Sauerteig has released a steady and consistent flow of music starting with The Ascension of Slow Dakota in 2016, followed by Rumspringa, the single “Areopagitica”, and the most recent is last year’s Suite for Voice and Ukulele. Every release has unlocked and unveiled a little more, and has shown a consistent movement towards something greater in Slow Dakota’s music canon.
For Valentine’s Day 2019, PJ Sauerteig and Slow Dakota gave us a musical Valentine in the form of new single “Canticle 69”. Though if you think it’s some sort of hearts and kisses and rose petals floating in a bubble bath kind of Valentine’s Day song, you’d be mistaken. Also, you probably don’t know Slow Dakota or PJ Sauerteig very well, either.
The song opens up on a cascade of marimbas, piano, guitar, and an infectious beat. It feels almost jubilant, which carries with it an almost defiance these days. Then Sauerteig sings “Easy, easy, a stranger to the Real thing/
And what are all these blemishes, red smells in bed?” as the upbeat vibe turns to mild concern over the current state of intimacy. “Easy, frankly, I’d rather have a Terabyte, a copy of a clone/ I don’t know when I fell so out of love with flesh and bone/ I hope the Real doesn’t take offense/Wonder when I fell so out of love with hair and spit“, the lyrics go as the marimbas carry on.
Here’s the song. Check it out for yourself:
There was a point in the creation of this current modern world where virtual reality has taken a bit of the physical reality away. Personalities and minds already marred by shyness and the inability to reach out to strangers in a room find a world within their own four walls. A world on the internet, through Oculus Rift, and the adult entertainment world. Scratching that primal itch has been made easier, with no use or need for an extra set of hands to help scratch.
I threw a few questions at PJ Sauerteig about “Canticle 69” and about where the idea for the new song came from.
J. Hubner: So tell me about your new single “Canticle 69”. What’s the idea behind it?
PJ Sauerteig: It started with that underlying marimba riff, which I wrote, goofing off one night in law school. After a year or two of more noodling, I finished recording the vocals back home in Indiana. I waited until i had the house to myself because it was very awkward recording the kind of screamo whisper vocals you hear near the end of the song. My dear friend and producer, Sahil Ansari, mixed and added a tiny bit of guitar, cymbals, and deep, layered bass!
J. Hubner: Did you work with Greg Calbi in the mastering phase once again?
PJ Sauerteig: We had Greg Calbi master – he’s become an integral part of our little music family.
J. Hubner: So what’s the inspiration behind the track?
PJ Sauerteig: As for the song’s meaning, I was studying Art Law this Fall at school, and we talked a lot about pornography. Aside from worries about how porn is made, I worry that porn has become SO widespread, so intoxicating, that – at this point – the prospect of real intimacy with other real human beings in real life is… kind of “meh”.
J. Hubner: I went down a rabbit hole reading up on Incels recently. I think we should be worried. People are losing the ability to communicate with others and are holing up in their homes, jaded and disconnecting. Virtual reality is starting to actually get very Matrix-like.
PJ Sauerteig: I worry that people are losing their taste for the real thing, and instead are content to dwell in porn’s fake, but dazzling universe. The substitute (porn) threatens to overtake the real thing. Like if more people were going to see a tribute band than the ACTUAL band in concert.
J. Hubner: So “Canticle 69” is really sort of a cautionary tale about losing ones grip on real intimacy and a sexual reality based within flesh on flesh, and more flesh on keyboard.
PJ Sauerteig: Eerily, this is what J Baudrillard predicted – people becoming more interested in the simulation than they are in the real thing – but that’s a whole other can of worms, yikes.
J. Hubner: So what do you want the take away to be from this new Slow Dakota song?
PJ Sauerteig: I dont want to write moralizing, high-horse music – its not meant to be a hellfire sermon, or me shaking my finger at anyone. The song is just me wrestling with my fears, my own personal trepidation. I dont claim any sort of moral high ground. I feel the same pull towards the deadening substitute.
You can head to Slow Dakota’s Bandcamp page and listen to “Canticle 69”. You can also download it for a measly $1. It’s worth that. Easily. And if you’re in the Brooklyn area on March 2nd, you can see PJ and Slow Dakota in the flesh performing. Details are below.