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Spring Heel Jack
Thirsty Ear


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I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise from this brilliantly innovative band, but Spring Heel Jack's seventh CD is one of the best instrumental albums you are likely to hear this year. It continues the band's routine of making great dance music that delights in urgent, throbbing complexities of sound. They occasionally blend jazz and electronica in ways similar to the work of the Chicago Underground Duo, but hybrids like "Disappeared 1" appear more successful when bookended by pounding, drum-heavy tracks like "Mit Wut" and "Bane". The variety gives each of Spring Heel Jack's songs a dramatic advantage over their peers' material, keeping listeners attentive and eager for the next beat.

I was consistently surprised by Disappeared; as awe-struck as I was by their use of drums (and what sounded like the banging of trash cans in the middle of "Galina"), Spring Heel Jack's grooves were even more stupendous. Despite some arguably obtrusive trumpet work from the fabulous Ian R. Watson, it's impossible not to lose yourself in "Trouble Luck", while the recklessly rocking "I Undid Myself" is probably what the Jam dreamed of making while recording "Trans Global Express". It might have helped the album's flow to insert another, less jazzy track between "To Die a Little" and "Disappeared 2"; as a back-to-back dose of their experimental side, this section becomes a little too demanding on the ears, thanks to John Surmans' complex bass clarinet playing. However, you can get through this little hump with exhausted pleasure, and go out with your hips shaking, your body "wolfing".

If you don't own any of Spring Heel Jack's music yet, this is probably the best place to start; the new treasures found here don't rest upon the foundation of music that came before them. Whenever that happens, it's a great thing, but when you're a veteran band like Spring Heel Jack, it's almost a miracle. Long may Spring Heel Jack continue to invent and astound

-- Theodore Defosse

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