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Spring Heel Jack
(Thirsty Ear)

After a two-album excursion with major label Island, Spring Heel Jack is back on a smaller label with their more experimental new effort entitled, Treader. It's their fifth full-length disc, and if Busy, Thirsty, Curious found them toying with new ideas, this release finds them them leaping into these new efforts and throwing down the accelerator, resulting in many different sounds for the group who was mainly known for their jazzy-fusion drum and bass before this.

Those wondering just how much the groups style has changed need to look no further than track number 1. The track "Is" starts out with several, eerie sounding blasts of noise, that finally all collide and wind down into a background that's more agreeable. On top of it all is some excellent guitar playing by John Coxon. Eventually, a shuffling sort of offset beat makes its way into the mix and drags everything screaming along with it. It's kind of an odd sound, but surprisingly listenable, and it leads into the more familiar sounds of "Winter." While it might sound like their standard fare (after a bit of a warbling beginning), there are several breaks in the song where it completely collapses into distorted blasts of horns and nothing else. Not only that, but the last 2 and a half minutes of the track finds it going into an odd comedown of drones and strings, then dripping ambience. The group then pops the very familiar sounding "Blackwater" before the disc drops off into the album-titled track "Treader." Running just under two minutes, the track starts out with chiming ambience, but blasts into full-on noise at one point before calming down again.

The group changes things up again on "More Stuff No One Saw," dropping a beat that is surprisingly similar to the one that Underworld does on "Bruce Lee" from Beaucoup Fish. It's sort of an electronic hip-hop, but Spring Heel Jack takes things in completely different directions with a nice use of strings and some horns. "Outerlude" is one of those awesome tracks where the group combines very light sounds with crispy beats and those thick bass moans they're so adept at using. After a beginning that sounds almost Baroque, the group lets loose and takes off. After the squealing funky-ness of "Toledo" and the hard-hitting clang of "Pipe," the group closes down the album with a more ambient track called "1st Piece For La Monte Young." Filled with layered organ sounds and strings, it's another track that hearkens back the classical leanings and feels like it could be the perfect soundtrack piece for a film.

Tagged on the end of the of the album are two tracks from The Sound Of Music EP that the group also released recently. They literally are deconstructions of the Rodgers and Hammerstein pieces, and they've been broken down into their base units and reworked from the ground up by the duo. "My Favourite Things" is turned into a twisted feedback-laden music-box squelch that would certainly send fans of the original running back into the hills frightened while "Climb Ev-ry Mountain" is given some live-drumming sounds, a pitch-bent chorus, and some other haunting noises before it turns into crackling dub.

Overall, it's a very interesting departure for the group, and although it may confuse fans who absolutely adhered to their old sound, it also shows that the duo has a lot more up their sleeve than they've shown thusfar. They still have a number of tracks that sound like they could have come from older releases, but even those have been injected with a new sort of approach and the continuation of the final track and the two EP tracks show that things could still get a lot weirder before Coxon and Wales are through with us. Hey, I'm all for it.

Rating: 7.5