Saturday, March 22, 2008

Spring Heel Jack - "Songs And Themes" CD

The UK duo of Ashley Wales and John Coxon have undergone quite a rebirth and, indeed, a near-total re-invention in recent years. Depending on your tolerance for out-jazz and avante garde improv, this can be seen as either a good or a bad thing. Taking their initial (jungle electronica) roots into account, I'd say it's quite a monolithic progression. Enlisting the assistance of esteemed instrumentalists like trumpeter Roy Campbell, Jr. and guitarist Jason Spaceman (Spiritualized), 'Songs And Themes' is a masterful sort of ambient jazz, highly organic in sound, but augmented with a subtle touch of sampling and electronic effects. Noteworthy are the classy string/brass overplay on 'At Long Last', or the dissonant skronk of 'Antiphon'. There's beauty and lush melodicism running all through the album, and an artery of dark noise that filters through now and again. Topping it all off, 'Garlands' is a powerful and sinister post-industrial take on a timeless seasonal theme. Simultaneously encompassing sounds both lovely and bent, 'Songs And Themes' is a masterstroke. (Thirsty Ear)

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