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Album review: Slow Dakota – Rumspringa

Between the ages of 14 and 16, Amish youth are given a period of free exploration, allowing them to dip their feet in the vast world of modern luxury. After investigating what else the world has to offer them, these youth are expected to either leave their community or choose to be baptised in the Amish church. This right of passage is referred to as the “rumspringa,” which literally translates to hopping/running around.

Slow Dakota undertakes his own exploratory period in his latest EP, Rumspringa. Since the 2015 release of The Ascension of Slow Dakota, the man behind moniker, PJ Sauerteig, graduated from Columbia and enrolled in the prestigious NYU law school. Rumspringa is the result of Sauerteig using music as a creative outlet to keep himself spirited amidst his massive workload. However, the thoughtful, complex, and engrossing tracks that make up the five-song EP should not be thought of as the simple side project of a law student.

Each track unfolds cleanly, naturally, and comes to transition with a pleasant smoothness. There are certainly distinct movements, but they are all part of a cohesive and multi-faceted unit. In his earlier recordings, the instrumental composition sometimes feels like a platform for structured, poetic lyricism. Sauerteig clearly has a way with words, and his lyrics across the board are enthralling and carefully constructed. Rumspringa brings the colors of an atmospheric, synth-driven composition coupled with eloquently bucolic lyricism to distinguish it as his most well-rounded publication to date.

In his own musical rumspringa, Slow Dakota is experimenting with modern instruments and techniques that are absent in his previous records. A consistent theme with great artists is the desire to constantly push the boundaries of their own comfort zones. Doing so allows them to either embrace something new or return to what’s working for them with an enlightened perspective. The Amish are some of the most conservative-minded people in the world, yet they see the value in exploration. Take Rumspringa and use it as a reminder to always remain open-minded, and as a motivator to always be exploring in art, education and culture.

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