splendid > reviews > 3/18/2003
Cul De Sac
Cul De Sac
Death of the Sun
Strange Attractors Audio House

Format Reviewed: CD

Soundclip: "Dust of Butterflies"

Buy me now
Three years in the making, Cul De Sac's concerted effort to create something different from the rest of their catalogue is a high-water mark for this Massachusetts-centered backwater bunch.

With the addition of a new member solely responsible for the adaptation and inclusion of sampled and sequenced material within the context of Cul De Sac's sound, the group brilliantly explores the possibilities of merging their acoustic roots with the liquid potential of the digital realm. Rather than simple appendage, the sequenced material is an unremovable element of each of these selections. The most exciting moments are those in which these new textural, passive electronic elements coalesce with acoustic instrumentation and the warm, organic environment they evoke.

Extensive liner notes from each full-time member of the band concerning the recording of the album and related experiences offer an insight and context too often missing from contemporary instrumental composition, in which the artist's project is often left unarticulated. Histories sometimes need to be written in order for the significance of the present to reveal itself, and Robin Amos's reflection upon the pronounced position electronics occupies on Death of the Sun accurately and astutely summarizes the shift that has occurred since the band's last studio album. Cul De Sac's fascination with the simple pleasures afforded by guitars, violins, melodica and percussion remain in place, while accent is placed upon the reconstituted sounds of field recordings, scratchy 78-RPM Creole recordings and the ghostly harmonies of a 1930s German a cappella vocal group.

Sequencing is the album's only flaw. As a listener, one comes to understand Cul De Sac's inclination for tribal drum exercises and manic, Indian-inflected drone extravagance. But on Death of the Sun, some of the most impressive down-tempo moments aren't given the opportunity to rest in our consciousness; instead, they get caught beneath an avalanche of percussion or sound-experimentalism. Album opener "Dust of Butterflies" offers the most mellifluous vision of Cul De Sac's project, yet this neo-pastoral beauty disappears throughout "Bamboo Rockets, Half Lost in Nothingness, Searching for an Inch of Sky" and "Turok, Son of Stone", only returning (in part) during Glenn Jones's majestic personal reflection, "Bellevue Bridge". Despite this relative weaknesses (and it's a fairly subjective criticism), this is easily Cul De Sac's most accomplished and exciting release yet.

Death of the Sun could very well be the crowning achievement of this mature Northeastern collective of music connoisseurs. Imagine Ry Cooder with a sampler and satchel full of fresh ideas. There are no dead ends here.



Brian Cherney

Tomas Korber


The Rude Staircase

Dian Diaz



The Crimes of Ambition

Karl Blau


Gary Noland

Tommy and The Terrors


Bound Stems

Gary Noland

Carlo Actis Dato and Baldo Martinez

Quatuor Bozzoni

The Positions

Comet Gain

Breadfoot featuring Anna Phoebe

Secret Mommy

The Advantage

For a Decade of Sin: 11 Years of Bloodshot Records

The Slow Poisoner

Alan Sondheim & Ritual All 770



Five Corners Jazz Quintet

Cameron McGill

Drunk With Joy

10 Ft. Ganja Plant

The Hospitals

Ross Beach

Big Star

The Goslings

Lair of the Minotaur

Koji Asano

Splendid looks great in Firefox. See for yourself.
Get Firefox!

Grizzly Bear's Ed Droste probably didn't even know that he'd be the subject of Jennifer Kelly's final Splendid interview... but he is!

That Damn List Thing
& - The World Beyond Your Stereo
Pointless Questions
File Under
Pointless Questions
& - The World Beyond Your Stereo

Read reviews from the last 30, 60, 90 or 120 days, or search our review archive.

It's back! Splendid's daily e-mail update will keep you up to date on our latest reviews and articles. Subscribe now!
Your e-mail address:    
All content ©1996 - 2011 Splendid WebMedia. Content may not be reproduced without the publisher's permission.