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Remembrance of Things Unknown
Escapde
Remembrance of Things Unknown
Mother West

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This is music that gets work done. When coffee no longer does the trick, up the ante with this speed for cubicle dwellers. Escapade presents six cuts, most of them quite beefy -- as in ten-plus minutes -- and each of them recorded with a single stereo microphone. While long on improvisation and completely bereft of vocals, Remembrance of Things Unknown rarely stoops to Phish-style self-indulgence. Most tracks, cleverly arranged and teasingly presented, keep the momentum up. "Flat Fair", for example, lays simple percussion over a bed of alien gurgles to form an otherworldly atmospheric effect, as if Eno had the shakes. Over this creeps a heavily altered guitar -- sometimes noodling and at other times anxious. The upshot is a tasty ambient track that's somewhat prickly, yet unobtrusive.

Other cuts, such as "Crawlspace", take a decidedly Labradford-esque turn. Plodding along with odd percussive sounds and echoing bass bellows, it sounds like a crippled drum struggling to crawl up an angry and oily giant's back. As the track progresses, however, the percussion finds its groove -- aided, it seems, by tinkling keyboards. By the cut's end, the distorted bass has taken charge, morphing the song into a more traditional rock tune.

Clocking in at just under twenty minutes, Remembrance of Things Unknown's final cut, "A Useful Obsession," begins as if it was background music for Starsky and Hutch on a stakeout. The song collapses into near silence, only to resurrect itself with a wall of noise. While powerful, this onslaught lacks the chutzpah of, say, a balls-to-the-wall Nurse With Wound assault. A more forceful punch would have contrasted well with the gradual decline that follows as the track diffuses, breaking apart into its core elements of drums, guitar and bass. As with the other cuts, this is ambient music for people who hate ambience. I don't so much hear the music as I subconsciously react to it. Perhaps our Phish friends would suggest a little herb to sweeten the experience, but I'll just keep toiling away, letting Escapade spur my anxious impulses.

-- Rodney Gibbs
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