Spring Heel Jack: Amassed

Thristy Ear, 2002

With Spring Heel Jack's 2001 release Masses, Thirsty Ear introduced a new series of avant garde jazz and electronica collaborations: The Blue Series. They couldn't have chosen a more appropriate flagship for the project.

On Masses, the hardcore, frenetic rhythms of Spring Heel Jack's drum and bass origins remain only as faint traces, informing but deeply obscured by a new turn toward improvisational jazz.

As the title suggests, Amassed continues along the trajectory introduced by Massed, blending improv jazz with complex sampling, and offering collaborations between Spring Heel and other artists working at the front lines of a British jazz revolution, including Jason Pierce of Spiritualized.

Traditional jazz instruments, such as saxophone, drums, bass and piano, are complemented by samples of found sounds like springs stretching and contracting, the crackle of flames ("Lit"), and the pops and hisses from an phonograph, frequently recalling the early industrial experiments of Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire, or Einsturzende Neubauten. Beneath the samples and traditional instruments, electronic gear makes its complaint through bursts of feedback or electric guitar on tracks like "Duel."

Perhaps a result of the ironic tensions created in the contrast of electonic and acoustic, the manufactured and the created or discovered, or the antique and the contemporary, Amassed is often bleak and somewhat disturbing, deeply somber, and, like all good jazz, intensely visually -- to the point of being cinematic (a perfect companion to visual art such as Twin Peaks or Blue Velvet).

Above all, the results are nothing short of beautiful. Unlike the more industrial electonic experiments of bands like Current 93, Nurse with Wound, or cEvin Key, are intriguing and facinating, but often laborious or challenging to listen too, Amassed always somber and relaxing, but no less fascinating for it.

Amassed is deeply intelligent music for anyone who's ever been mezmerized by a candle, who's laid in the dark all day staring at the ceiling, wished they were Johnny Depp, or who has felt like they were trapped in a David Lynch film with Kyle McLaughlin.


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