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Jason Talbot - Thank You

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Artist: Jason Talbot

Album: Thank You

Label: Kissy

Review date: Sep. 30, 2003

Three-inch CD-Rs are becoming for experimental music what chapbooks have been for poetry: small, coin-smart vehicles, easily produced and graciously distributed. Where a chapbook fills around twenty pages, a 3” CD-R fills 21 minutes. And as with chapbooks, the three incher’s economy of cost and size affects critical reception: British magazine The Wire dedicates a half-page ghetto to reviewing this ‘misshapen format’, the column kidding-but-not-kiddingly titled “Size Matters". But brevity does not kill quality: some work sings in short format.

Thank You is such a piece from Boston turntable player Jason Talbot. A follow-up to his solo debut Getting In The Way Of Progress (Gameboy Records, 2002), Thank You is also a debut release from Talbot’s own Kissy Records (released concurrently with Brendan Murray's Garden). The disc's title is significant – it's a public display of gratitude from Talbot to his machine, the same meat-eaters make to the animal before a meal. Talbot's textural improvisation digs into the machine with utensils, forgoing the machine's designed purpose (playing records) in favor of tickling the machine into song.

Talbot's techniques for manipulating the stylus get full play during Thank You's single 16-minute improvisation. The sounds created vary from meditative buzz and hum to the sonic equivalent of caricaturing – quick, rhythmic scratches that sketch out sonic shapes. A generous use of negative space allows each sound to breathe. Each pinch of sound and silence is given due consideration, then let go.

As the improviser's palette is largely textural, some sharp sounds grate, and others jog memories of dentistry. These moments are rare, however; Talbot is more intent on drawing listeners in than pushing them away.

Throughout Thank You there's an almost organic quality to the rhythm. The sounds breeze over, thrash about, soothe and jar, all with a pseudo-natural feel. Near the piece's end, Talbot summons up a storm, mixing feedback with askew, clipped, up-tempo rhythms. It's in this climax that Talbot packs his most expressive wallop. Over it’s 16 minutes, Thank You is exceptionally articulate and well-paced, driven by a solid composure just beneath its surface. Fodder for many a meditative listen.

By Sean Casey

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