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Von Spar - Von Spar

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Artist: Von Spar

Album: Von Spar

Label: Tomlab

Review date: Jul. 11, 2007

Of all the heavenly reasons to be a music fan in the age of computers, making mixes is way up there. Cassettes have all but disappeared, yet the memory of laboriously cuing tapes or discs to get the the end of 90-minute Memorex remains vivid for many of us. We still talk about mix tapes, just like we still dial phone numbers. Anyone who assembled a few remembers that momentary pause during the grunt work when you'd daydream about a mixing board.

Ripped to a computer, the mixing board is here. Queuing has replaced cuing. What used to be a whole night of squatting by the tape deck gets done in minutes. Maybe even on the clock, if the boss isn't in the room.

And there's so much music, so many tracks that haven't been given a respectful listen. It's so easy to delve into genres and subgenres; the queue grows huge and you keep feeding it more, like a tapeworm.

Von Spar is a successful version of that overly ambitious mix tape where it sure seemed like the King Tubby was going to sound good next to the Godflesh. The quintet takes full advantage of not just juxtaposing styles, but finding commonalities that let them flow from one another. One track starts out as wooden clicks and electronic purrs and found audio. It grows denser with an electric piano arpeggio, but remains plausible as a German house track, along the lines of Booka Shade. Even when real drums enter, it doesn't spoil the vibe. The same can't be said when the distortion pedal is pulverized and the bird calls turn into lupine howls.

The really original thing about Von Spar is its awareness of how lush the musical possibilities are these days. Historical attempts at fusion have usually plucked the obvious strengths from two styles and assembled them into an ugly bouquet. This isn't a record about fusion, this is a record about listening. Von Spar illuminate what's so attractive about funk, metal and trance without kowtowing to stereotypes. Even more astounding, the record never strives to be eclectic or strut its broad palette.

In knitting together material that could have been developed into free standing songs, Von Spar bucks the Maxell mode of the past and the MySpace mood of the moment with an album tailor-made for the multi-gig mix tape.

By Ben Donnelly

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