Where I Go, Where I Gone: Slauson Malone 1 @ bodyshop Studios
“Why is there a ‘1’ in his name now?”
Many avid listeners have asked themselves the same question over and over again after the sudden release of EXCELSIOR on October 6, 2023. The answer to this is evident in Slauson Malone 1’s crudely designed tour poster, with an even more confusing stage set up at a rental art studio in the silent outskirts of Toronto.
Located in an eerily quiet, almost sinister alleyway marred with graffiti, old brick walls, and an endless line of moving trucks lies bodyshop studios. The tiny space that was encased in four white walls were waiting to be colored with the sounds and creations of the next creative they invite into their homely abode. This time, Slauson Malone 1 has graced his presence in the cramped art studio, bathed in fluorescent lights while he screams at the microphone in nothing but a wife-beater and semi-tight, skinny jeans. Accompanied by cellist Nicky Wetherell, the duo goes between instrumental intermissions, fused with the campiness of Malone 1’s janky acoustic guitar and Wetherell’s prolific command of the cello, and industrial 808s that boom across the speakers from the complex strings of wires connecting a vast concoction of soundboards behind the stage.
Jasper Marsalis, previously known as Slauson Malone and now with an added ‘1’ to his musical persona, is an enigma, to say the least. Kickstarting his solo project, A Quiet Farewell, in 2019, Slauson Malone 1 became a quick favorite for many avant-garde, lo-fi listeners familiar with the likes of King Krule (whom he toured with in 2023), Cosmo Pyke, billy woods, serpentwithfeet, and Jerkcurb. Marsalis is also an artist, working across multiple forms of media including paintings, sculptures, mass installations, photography, and videography. With a foothold in both the musical and artistic spheres, there’s no doubt that the type of audience he attracts is a fusion of rather stuck-up music nerds, hipsters stuck in the 2010s, and art aficionados who dwell in the crevices of your local galleries.
While Marsalis as a person tends to separate his government name from his musical projects, there are also a lot of crossovers and blends of dimensionality in his craft as Slauson Malone 1. Apart from hosting his stop in Toronto at an art studio, the performance he delivers borders between a concert, slam poetry, and performance art. Although there were no visualizers reflected on a tarp or projected background that often helped artists convey a certain mood to accompany their shows, Malone 1 is the type of person who doesn’t need any decor. A single breath on the microphone is all he needs to silence the crowd and capture their attention; he is the sole installation in the gallery that continues to captivate and bewitch anyone at an ethereal level. In addition to Wetherell’s melodic accompaniment to Malone 1’s mind sounds echoed through the metallic strings of his acoustic guitar, each rendition of one of Malone 1’s previous tracks from A Quiet Farewell and Vergangenheitsbewältigung (Crater Speak) turns into an audio-visual hallucination of raw truth, esoteric sounds, and an infinite pastiche of layers that can be difficult to decipher—which is rather unfortunate since the audience for those that, for the most part, claim to appreciate experimental craftsmanship tend to be difficult to decipher themselves.
Even though Malone 1 himself as an artist was a deity to behold up close, pulling me into a reverie of his creations, the audience was arguably the worst part of the show—almost so that it made my partner and I leave halfway through his set. Echoing the elitism and snobbiness of millennial hipsters who pride themselves on their vinyl collection and their homegrown beards, these long-haired champagne socialists crowded the entire space, slowly nodding their heads and failing to engage with Malone 1’s presence. In a sense, I can understand that silently appreciating music for what it is can be a beautiful thing—I too was someone who prided themselves in listening to “real” music or whatever that means. What made the show turn sour was how many of the attendees had the gall to talk to themselves in the middle of a performance, press onto people while blocking others’ view of the stage, and ignore any form of social cues that signaled a bathroom break or a trip to the bar for water. The audience was, to put it simply, so far up their own asses with their phones constantly recording the entire performance that it beats the entire purpose of Malone 1’s more intimate setup of breaking barriers between himself and the audience.
The worst part about this all was how the greatest offenders tend to be white people—those that grow out their hair and slap a Joy Division shirt on to show the world their oh-so-unique and special tastes. It doesn’t help too that I caught a glimpse of a white man using the N-word with a hard R during an intermission after the opener, Colloboh, ended his set. Additionally, the best members of the audience were often at the back and made up the backbone of the show—a majority of them being POCs who looked like they were having a nice time. Unlike the general demographic of the front row, the makeup of the middle and back rows had a more relaxed expression on their face, accompanied by an inviting smile that swayed back and forth with the musings of Malone 1 as he asked “What time is it?” while galavanting and strutting with confidence in circles upon circles of a spiraling crescendo that resulted in a loud, almost ear-grating scream followed by a mellow piano accompaniment from the soundboard.
There’s a bigger problem to pose with the type of audience that artists like Slauson Malone 1 tend to attract—which deserves its own meditation sometime soon. The links between indie/alternative or underground music created by the BIPOC community breeding white men that border the alt-right political spectrum is a never-ending paradox that spans a historical stain of music’s ties to elitism and classism. I am not saying that all white listeners of Slauson Malone 1 and genres adjacent to his music are all belligerents to this specific crowd, but it is important to note that the audience of a show is integral to every concert-goer's experience. No matter how good of a musician or a performer someone can be, the energy and general mood of the crowd can either spoil or enhance the show—and for Slauson Malone 1, it, unfortunately, resulted in the former. Alternatively, though, the placements of the audience can be a message of its own, fitting the very political and raw nature of Malone 1’s projects.
Marsalis recalls that the decision to put a ‘1’ on his musical persona came from the feeling of his project not being his own anymore, a supposed “stupid departure” from his previous works. He details that the way he thinks about Slauson Malone 1 tends to mirror the addition of numbers into emails, such as adding a ‘1’ or ‘5’ to Laurin to make it Laurin1 or Laurin5 because the name was already taken in an online registration. In a way, perhaps Malone 1 as a performer feels this way due to the type of listeners he gathers from RateYourMusic and Reddit forums, dissecting his music and art piece by piece until nothing belongs to him anymore. Or perhaps, I may be putting two and two together in thin air after a bad concert experience. Regardless of what it is, I know that some artists that I adore are not meant to be watched within the dynamism and context of a show. Malone 1 is the type of artist that is best kept within the speakers of my room, blasting loudly without a single whiny connoisseur having to steal his thunder by deliberately blocking my view and leaving a bad aftertaste of millennial music elitism in my mouth.