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Album Review

The transformation of Spring Heel Jack into its own brand of avant electronic jazz continues with Amassed, rather logically following up on the previous year's Masses as another entry in the "Blue Series." Performers like Evan Parker and Matthew Shipp once again return, accompanied by a slew of fellow improvisational musicians (drummer Han Bennink, trombonist Paul Rutherford, and bassist George Trebar among them). If not a regular performing group capturing a nuanced sound, the lineup readily demonstrates both the abilities of the performers and the relaxed-but-on-point edge of the overall performance ("Wormwood" is a fine standout, Bennink's drumming an understated but crucial part of the arrangement). There's also a ringer from the rock world — Spiritualized's Jason Pierce, who had Spring Heel Jack as an opening act back in 1997 and whose interest in free jazz makes him a perfect addition. He contributes to four tracks in particular, including "Maroc," written by Pierce and Parker, with the saxophonist ripping out some frenetic work while Pierce's guitar contributes tense shading and feedback shreds in the background. The air of Amassed in general is much like Masses in that the combination of on-the-spot work and collaboration and careful studio arrangement becomes blurry — one suspects just as much work went into the arranging of this as, say, In a Silent Way, but that's hardly a bad role model to have. John Coxon and Ashley Wales' joint ear for a moody roil of activity — rarely so explosive as to be overwhelming, never so calm as to be nonexistent — sets and keeps the tone. On the occasions where the ensemble completely lets loose — the title track in particular is a rampage and a half, while "Duel" kicks up a fair amount of noise while still keeping space in the arrangements — the results almost always satisfy.


Formed: 1993 in London, England

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '90s, '00s

The recordings of John Coxon and Ashley Wales as Spring Heel Jack were some of the earliest and best applications of hard-edged drum'n'bass to the full-length LP concept with no lack of energy, similar in result to Orbital's living-room/danceclub fusion of techno. A pop producer who had worked with Betty Boo, Marc Almond, and Spiritualized, Coxon met up with classical composer Wales while working as a soul DJ in London's East End. The duo soon began recording breakbeat jungle, initially with inclinations...
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Amassed, Spring Heel Jack
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