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Jazzfinger - Slowed by the Grace of Water

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Artist: Jazzfinger

Album: Slowed by the Grace of Water

Label: Alcoholic Narcolepsy

Review date: Jun. 27, 2006

Since the quality of Jazzfinger's releases doesn’t appear to have made a massive dent in the underground’s upper reaches, hopefully the sheer number of them will. This is the fifth (at last count) 2006 emission from the duo, and this time they bust open the saloon doors, John Wayne style. 

What separates Jazzfinger from their peers is the way they combine multiple strands of underground music where other bands base their entire CD-R careers on one idea. Even if “View from Sea to Land” was just shopping-cart-full-of-cans percussion and shortwave radio, it would be worthy enough of merit. But the interweaving of a call to prayer shifts things left far enough to capture a magical spark; the unignorable summons to duty balances a fine cultural line with the spirit of free percussion. 

Slowed by the Grace of Water has been sweated down to a spare and specialized sound; simultaneously born of a stoned insularity and a concentrated exploratory mentality. With “Time Trapped in Falling Objects,” Jazzfinger perfectly captures both the feel of the song and album title. The slow drag of the low-end juddering is trapped by something thicker than water. Individual songs may contain that something-from-nothing facet; each piece would work equally well as a scriptless and sightless short story. Even when they hit upon a seam of rationality, as with “Mashroom Highway” and its folkish strum, the song is tattered and pounded by knackered caliper electronic arrhythmia. 

Wrapped in smoky liquid monochrome cover art, Slowed by the Grace of Water even looks head and shoulders above the usual drone. “Shiny”s Ed Wood organ and “New Identity not Needed” are the most courteous tracks here. The latter leaks a peculiar mix of Mike Garson / Erik Satie piano, droplets bending as the music plummets from the mic. The guitar notes take on the darker aspects of the song as the static begins to resemble a hoard of synthetic crickets. Jazzfinger’s drug of choice may still be the thrumming of drones, but they’re constantly (and rapidly) expanding their intake to kaput digitals and the repetitive and hypnotic use of melody snatches.

This incremental expansion makes most of their releases sound like they’ve been pieced together from hours of sessions, spanning different dispositions, times and equipment. Slowed by the Grace of Water proves there is no definitive Jazzfinger sound, but at least their name carries a complete satisfaction guarantee.

By Scott McKeating

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