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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
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Janek Schaefer
In the Last Hour

Rating: 6.5/10 ?

November 29, 2006
With innovative music comes innovative packaging, or so it would seem. Janek Schaefer's inventive designs pass into the visual realm with the landing of In the Last Hour, which presents itself as a lush exploration of flaps, folds, and hazy photography. It is, needless to say, a decorative object to behold, but only the most na´ve of listeners make the mistake of allowing aesthetics to shroud the real issue at hand: does it sound any good?

But words like 'good' will never sound more subjective than when placed within the context of a recording like In the Last Hour. By Schaefer's book, there are no rules: no sample too ill-fitting to loop; no accompaniment too unconventional to harness; no two styles too at-odds to mix. In The Last Hour, therefore, comes across as a truly diverse, non-conformist, exploratory piece of music.

Having been recorded in one sitting at Huddersfield Music Festival in 2005, In the Last Hour should really be comprehended as one single piece, regardless of how broken-up it sounds. Schaefer jumps from instrument to instrument, to electronic device, to turntable, and as such, the flow of the piece is patently disjointed. The title-track begins with a slow subsonic rumble, before some drawn-out accordion swells come into play. At first it sounds quite unremarkable, and one wonders which direction Schaefer is intending to take with his idiosyncrasies, but within a few minutes the track begins to take on a life of its own.

"Between the Two" is a shimmering ambient affair, laced with tape hiss and record-player crackle, and switching between musical concepts as if Schaefer were tuning into his favorite radio station. The sparse "Half Submerged by Each" is a quirky piece, showcasing the man's dabblings with woodwind and whistle-pitch sonic shrieks, which become sustained with the climaxing and calming of "The Ruined City."

While In the Last Hour may make an interesting, expansive listen, it fails to surpass the level that few recordings of this ilk manage to. Schaefer's approach is diverse, granted, but somewhat unrefined and interrupted, and subsequently possesses greater merit when contemplated as a concept than when listened to through a pair of speakers.

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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