Spring Heel Jack are closer than they appear
fu-q | Silverton, OR USA | 12/17/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Confined to my quaint Oregon suburb, my undying quest to find inspiring electronic music is carried out mostly on the computer, where I purchase CDs (sometimes by artists I haven't heard before, like Spring Heel Jack-) based on comparisons to other artists and reviews.
In my research of SHJ the logical first album to buy was 68 Million Shades, seeing as how the in-depth reviews of all the other albums mention it as "... the bomb", "... in full effect", "...off the hook", ect. Unforunatly it's hard to find online (if you don't have a credit card) and impossible to find where I live. So I opted for Treader based on the cover art. Yes you're right, that is stupid.
Drill & bass is my preference, but I was neither hoping for or expecting it on the purchase of this album (based on the cover art), so my review will not be biased... hopefully.
Spring Heel Jack is serious music. There is not one "cheesy" track on this. Whether that is good or bad depends on you. For me, it depends on the state of my mind. If it's earrrrly in the morning and my brain hasn't warmed up yet, hearing the monsterous brass & bass combo can be quite alarming, if not enlightening. On the other hand, I'm fully awake, it takes something with more gadgetry to break my total lack-of-concentraction than a good repeating beat with your choice of a woodwinds, brass, or synth orchestra behind it. And that's essentially what Treader is. Spring Heel Jack fans who read this think: it's so much more than that! And it is, but sound cannot be described in words, which is why the best way to review music is to decribe yourself and then say whether you liked it or not. Do I like it? Yes. Is it in my top 7? No. Will I buy more Spring Heel Jack releases? Definantly."
One of my favorite things...
R. Lister | Palo Alto, CA United States | 11/28/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Some groups stay the same, some evolve. Very few evolve as dramatically as Spring Heel Jack between 'There are Strings' and, say, 'Masses'.Spring Heel Jack are now the darlings of the avant-garde free-jazz crowd, but about when this was released they were still in the process of discarding the label of "Everything But The Girl"'s favorite 'jungle' remixer. And, since I come from a pop/dance-sensibility myself, this is a stupendous point to find them at.There's enough imagination and musical ambition to keep you riveted, but the emphasis is still firmly on an accessible and compelling beat structure. Put in my terms - it's still a dance album and you could dance to it, even with your brain disengaged.But it commands a little more attention than that: Black Water and Eyepa are *outstanding* examples of heavy 4-4 action boasting resonant atmospherics. In particular, there is a bass throb in Eyepa that could blow the doors off your house. Joyfully.Eleswhere, there's satisfying surprises in the instrumentation of Winter and in general, horns, strings and bleeps rubbing shoulders like a moshpit crowd. Exhilirating, if slightly moody, stuff.However, like most dance albums, 'Treader' fails to sustain its momentum to the end, with a couple too many inconsequential filler tracks - though you could argue this was the direction Coxon et al pursued later to it's logical (?) end.Finally, I'm luke-warm about the piecemeal addition of the Hammerstein tributes (they seem to belong to the SHJ of a later era). Still. One of my favorite things."
liberty janus | Seattle, WA USA | 10/22/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There's something immense, relentless, and unstoppable about the music on "Treader". While the surface of this music is pretty easy to analyze, with it's big repetitive beats overlaid with quirky, sideways, fractured, instrumental insertions, it's much more difficult to understand the staggering sonic force that results, a feature which, of all the SHJ catalog, appears most forcefully on "Treader". This recording stands alone on its own merits as a dauntingly compelling synthesis of massive driving rhythms and unpredictable, idiosyncratic sonic inventiveness. That's the core of this music - it's whole compositional focus. It's that unremitting and resolutely quirky synthesis of unstoppable beats with relentlessly off-center instrumental embellishments that motivates, drives, compels, and otherwise so forcefully invigorates this music. And when there's a momentary cessation in the juggernaut of beats, it's only a strategic pause to reaccelerate the listener into some new and brazen invention of oblong sound. Even the "1st Piece for La Monte Young" investigates sound and then leads the listener into the shredded, compounded, de-and-reconstructed intoxication of SHJ's take on two great Rogers & Hammerstein melodies, made new and darkly revealing by way of these strange intersections of textured, distorted, tinkling, groaning, leaning, sauntering, menacing, propulsive sounds.It's great stuff if your brain grooves on this kind of symbolism, and it's a kind of massive edifice and statement of where these guys had evolved to (because their recordings do record an evolution in the strict sense, where change has no moral connotation, is not better or worse, but is just where it is, and what it is, when it is). Spring Heel Jack had reached the point, with "Treader", where their music was a virtual force of nature: the beats are unstoppable, the groove as thick as tar, and the bold contrasts of sound and noisy fury sharp and fuzzy all at the same time. And now, of course, they've evolved yet again to another very cool place, and let's be thankful that these restless innovators even take the time to put their current musical mentalities on record to infuse and reorganize our brain chemistry.A mammoth and unique recording."