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Mac McCaughan is a punk-rock alchemist—he turns what could easily be the leaden influence of his record collection into something golden, with a minimum of impurities. While on break from the melodo-punk of his primary band, Superchunk, McCaughan creates pop symphonies with his solo project Portastatic. Slow Note From a Sinking Ship, with its amalgam of influences, is markedly dissimilar from the band’s debut, which seemed a loose collection of average Superchunk demos. The disc’s material includes tracks whose incessant pulse and electronic density are reminiscent of Suicide (“Angels of Sleep,” “Spooky,” and the uncredited closing track), country- and cocktail-jazz-tinged pop songs (“Running Water,” “When You Crashed”), mostly acoustic ballads (“Pastime,” “Skinny Glasses Girl”), and only one Superchunk-style raver (“San Andreas”). The sparse instrumentation and mid-to- slow-tempo songs on Slow showcase McCaughan’s mastery of melancholic moments and simple, soaring melodies. McCaughan’s an underrated lyricist: His “In the Manner of Anne Frank” combines Eno-esque electronics and an infectious bass line as his sing-speak vocals tell a moving tale of nostalgia’s power to assail the present. Portastatic opens for Guided by Voices June 24 at the Black Cat.