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Putting It Together

Spring Heel Jack
(Thirsty Ear)

Marking their third (four, if you count their collaboration with Low on the Bombscare EP) release already in 2000, Spring Heel Jack are showing no signs of slowing down. While two of those releases were technically stateside re-issues (Treader came out late last year in the UK, and Oddities is a collection of B-sides), the duo has still no doubt been very busy and this most current release proves that they're showing no signs of slowing down in terms of evolving their sound. While their debut album was a light, jazzy drum and bass affair, they've taken elements of that original and tweaked them on every album, and this one is no different.

One thing that is readily apparent on their progressive releases (and especially on this one) is that their work is definitely getting more cinematic sounding in scope. Not only are they using lots of different instrumentation and production tricks, but they're also using a much more greatly varied sense of song structure, relying less and less on the drum and bass numbers and often times rolling into ambient soundscapes, as well as toying around with heavy doses of noise.

After reading all of the above, one might actually be misled after hearing the first few measures of the first track on the album entitled "Rachel Point." It starts out with a fairly wicked breakbeat that's reminicsent of the beginning of their Busy Curious Thirsty release, but with a much more filtered sound and some nice muted trumpet work. Eventually, though, the drum and bass beat structure falls sort of by the wayside as a completely odd, stutter-stepping beat mixes up over it seamlessly and makes the track absolutely stomp. The heavily-filtered theme continues on the very next track "Mit Wut" in perhaps the most cinematic track that the group has done to date. With some super-fuzzy guitars, another tromping beat, and some truly great blasts of noise, the track conjures up images of a large city at night, with stacked-down traffic, lights flashing, and just enough breathable room for actual people.

The group has several collaborations on the disc, and one of them is with Bass Clarinet player John Surman on the two-part album-titled tracks of "Disappeared 1" and "Disappeared 2." The first one comes on the heels of the noisy previous track and provides some much-needed cool ambience (albeit a bit odd) while the second part comes near the end of the disc and also is used as a calm before the group slams the lid on things on the last track "Wolfing."

That's not all, though. After the rather metallic and harsh sounds of "Galina," they pull the listener right in again with a super-smooth track called "Trouble And Luck" (on which they collaborate with trumpet player Ian Watson) that rolls with their most straight beat to date before they kick things up a huge notch on "I Undid Myself." With filtered horn sounds, a wanky bassline, and a stomping beat, it feels like the soundtrack for 70's heist film that has been updated for the year 2000 (and I mean that in an entirely good way). Overall, this disc is the one that shows the most range for the group and it finds them pulling together nearly everything they've been toying with for their past 3 releases and finally putting it all together. Those who enjoy their earlier work may not find as much to enjoy here, but it's their most mature and sophisticated release yet, and if they don't get a job scoring a film (or have some of the tracks off this release used), then something is wrong. A very solid release.

Rating: 8.25