All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

255

Spring Heel Jack: Songs and Themes

Troy Collins By

Sign in to view read count
Named after a character from Victorian folklore, Spring Heel Jack (the English electronic duo of John Coxon and Ashley Wales) has vaulted across stylistic divides with the same ease that witnesses attributed to the legendary figure. Undergoing a gradual aesthetic transformation over the past decade, they have expanded from experimental drum 'n bass duo to innovators in a genre of their own devising: free-ambient.

Since the turn of the Millennium, their recordings have featured appearances by such notable free jazz icons as Tim Berne, Evan Parker, William Parker, Paul Rutherford, Matthew Shipp, Wadada Leo Smith, John Surman and Kenny Wheeler.

Songs and Themes, their eighth album for Thirsty Ear Records, features another stellar cast, including trumpeter Roy Campbell and saxophonist John Tchicai. A dusky aural journey through soundscapes ranging from the pastoral to the urban, this is their most accessible and harmonious record to date.

Beautifully recorded at Abbey Road studios, the understated session unfolds episodically, knitting somber transitory themes and subtly tense interludes with judicious restraint. Cinematic in scope, the album weaves an effervescent mosaic of shimmering vibes, lush synth washes, and plangent horns driven by reverberating bass and sporadic percussion.

Campbell and Tchicai ply mournful tones and lyric refrains from their horns across rich sonic landscapes, with Campbell as the primary voice. His tender phrasing on "With Out Words" sets the stage for the majority of the album, eliciting soaring cadences that drift effortlessly into the ether. Campbell and Tchicai engage in a melancholy but animated duet on the lengthy "At Long Last," warily navigating an ominous neo-classical setting.

Passages of assertiveness are rare, but not absent. John Edwards' abrasive arco bass dominates "Folk Players," while guitarist J Spaceman (Spaceman 3, Spiritualized) unleashes a torrent of caustic feedback on the dramatic "1,000 Yards," bolstering Campbell's plaintive cries on the anthemic closer, "Garlands."

Seamlessly blending textural dissonances and rubato rhythms with aching lyricism and bittersweet harmonies, Song and Themes offers a level of emotional commitment and structural sensitivity that other electro-acoustic artists can aspire to.


Track Listing: Church Music; Dereks; With Out Words; Eupen; For Paul Rutherford; Folk Players; Silvertone; Claraa; 1,000 Yards; Antiphon; At Long Last; Garlands.

Personnel: Roy Campbell, Jr.: trumpet, pocket trumpet, flugelhorn, flute; John Coxon: electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bass guitar, sampler, violin, glockenspiel; John Edwards: double bass; Tony Marsh: drums; Orphy Robinson: vibraphone; John Tchicai: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, bass clarinet; Ashley Wales: samples; J. Spaceman: electric guitar; Rupert Clervaux: drums; Mark Sanders: drums.

Title: Songs And Themes | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Thirsty Ear Recordings

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
Extended Analysis
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
 

Mass

Creole Stream Music
2009

buy
Songs And Themes

Songs And Themes

Thirsty Ear Recordings
2008

buy
 

Songs & Themes

Creole Stream Music
2008

buy
Spring Heel Jack: Live

Spring Heel Jack: Live

Thirsty Ear Recordings
2005

buy
The Sweetness Of The Water

The Sweetness Of The...

Thirsty Ear Recordings
2004

buy
Live

Live

Thirsty Ear Recordings
2003

buy

Related Articles

Read Seymour Reads The Constitution! CD/LP/Track Review
Seymour Reads The Constitution!
by Doug Collette
Published: May 23, 2018
Read Colours of Sound CD/LP/Track Review
Colours of Sound
by Jack Bowers
Published: May 23, 2018
Read A Blast From The Past CD/LP/Track Review
A Blast From The Past
by Roger Farbey
Published: May 23, 2018
Read Rhapsody CD/LP/Track Review
Rhapsody
by Glenn Astarita
Published: May 23, 2018
Read You're Driving Me Crazy CD/LP/Track Review
You're Driving Me Crazy
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: May 23, 2018
Read Dirt...And More Dirt CD/LP/Track Review
Dirt...And More Dirt
by Karl Ackermann
Published: May 22, 2018
Read "The Danish Sessions" CD/LP/Track Review The Danish Sessions
by Chris Mosey
Published: August 2, 2017
Read "TITOK" CD/LP/Track Review TITOK
by Mark Sullivan
Published: June 14, 2017
Read "First Impressions" CD/LP/Track Review First Impressions
by Chris May
Published: March 29, 2018
Read "Love Letters" CD/LP/Track Review Love Letters
by Rokas Kucinskas
Published: December 27, 2017
Read "Albert Mangelsdorff And His Friends" CD/LP/Track Review Albert Mangelsdorff And His Friends
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 16, 2017
Read "Discussions" CD/LP/Track Review Discussions
by Glenn Astarita
Published: September 20, 2017