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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
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Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
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The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
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Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
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Fat Possum
Brian Ellis
The Silver Creature

Rating: 7.5/10 ?

September 24, 2007
At some point, Brian Ellis must have known he was embarking on a fairly divisive prospect with The Silver Creature. An attempt to modernize the meandering interplay brought to the fore by the likes of Weather Report in the seventies - to bring abstract free jams to the digital age - maybe? Speculation aside, Ellis's beginnings may not lend themselves to the world's collective palate so easily. To be sure, free jazz is a genre your average Joe will dismiss as self-indulgent wankery, its sole existence designed for the quasi-sexual gratification of those who perform it rather than those to happen to hear it. And the fact that The Silver Creature was composed, performed and produced by one individual, inherently devoid of the lengthy improv cook-ups that have come to typify the genre, will surely leave the masses scratching their heads. Then again, could Ellis be onto something new?

Though "electronicized" jazz is by no stretch a saturated genre, Brian Ellis is predated in some ways by Squarepusher. The latter's Music is Rotted One Note was released in 1998, embarking on a tangent from the breakneck electronica most had come to associate with Squarepusher. The Silver Creature is similar in many ways. Put simply, it marks one man's attempt to inject an electronic component into a jazz fusion record. Ellis plays everything on the album - drums, guitar, bass, flute, rhodes, kalimba, you name it - and his playing is formidable, if not impressive. Ellis' playing, however, goes so far as to reach a point at which production values take over; Ellis likes to play with his recordings, chopping his drums up and toying with arrangements to an extent that they wouldn't be replicable in a live setting.

What sets The Silver Creature apart from Music is Rotted One Note, however, is its loyalty to infectious themes. Squarepusher's jazzier moments are discordant, jarring affairs, whereas Ellis keeps things upbeat and catchy. "The Morning After" is a breezy number, with cool, brushed drums and rhodes piano stabs, before a guitar solo drenched in wah-wah kicks in and bongo drums spin the track into relative chaos. "Basement Boogie" sustains a catchy little tune over an indecipherable time signature, which gradually dissipates into atmospherics, while "Night Trails," the album's standout track, is dynamic, beat-happy, and driven by choruses of horns that build towards the end, marking The Silver Creature at its most solid.

Granted, The Silver Creature brings an element of awkwardness to the table, but after a few spins it becomes an embraceable entity. Though some may find it impenetrable, The Silver Creature makes for an interesting mix, and could well provide the stopgap for post-rock fans in search of something a bit more off-kilter than Tortoise.

Reviewed by Mike Wright
A staff writer based in London, England, Mike Wright is eternally troubled by the American bastardization of the English language.

See other reviews by Mike Wright



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