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Album Review

International Observer is the pseudonym of Thompson Twins alumnus Tom Bailey, whose love of spacy, dubwise reggae grooves became gradually more and more obvious as Thompson Twins went into suspension and then morphed into Babble, a relatively short-lived follow-up project with his wife and fellow Thompson Twins founder Alannah Currie. Now on his own, Bailey's long-sublimated fascination with dub has emerged completely and admirably in a series of instrumental collections, each titled after one of the five senses. Felt manages to do what relatively few similarly configured albums do: it creates a nicely varied and consistently compelling suite of tunes, textures, and effects while sticking faithfully to the core principles of dubwise reggae. But what really sets Bailey apart from the competition is his ability to take dark, heavyweight rhythms and disengage them from gravity: on "Rose Madder" he does so by means of a very subtle swing; on "The Death of Karamov" he does it by taking a rubbery rocksteady beat and adorning it with a glittering mass of twinkling bells, flying vocal samples, and faintly Latin-sounding percussion effects. There are other subtly brilliant maneuvers in evidence as well, such as the dub version of "House of the Rising Sun" (and a doubly dubbed reworking of that track titled "Abode of the Setting Moon") and a number titled "Binman Dub" that almost sounds like a tribute to Ryan Moore's Twilight Circus project. There is also a hidden track tagged on to the very end, an untitled number featuring layers of acoustic guitar and no dub effects at all.

Felt, International Observer
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