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Album Review

Steering further away from the explicit "high lonesome" sonics on Slim Westerns, A Small Good Thing on Block sounds a bit like what a crazed hardcore/jungle dance outfit going through a lengthy, slow comedown would produce. Given that's what the band is anything but makes Block that much more interesting. The sound has the same atmospheric sense of calm and at points unsettling creepiness from earlier releases, but the emphasis on sometimes buried, sometimes more upfront beats takes to the fore here. As a whole, it feels like the aftershocks of something tremendous, like the grooves and loops are all that's left after the bomb hit, floating in the echoing mix. It's quite a gripping effect in all, and all the more impressive that the same three members from Slim Westerns' days were able to tackle this material so well. "Cooling System" makes for an appropriate start, with guest trumpeter Nick Dean adding the occasional flourish (and perhaps betraying a certain sonic inspiration from early Sabres of Paradise as a result). Cuts like "Moving Heat Source" showcase the group's downright spooky ability with sampling: They have a guy named Sheik helping out on the decks, and what sounds like distant explosions and strange noises from deep underground really ratchet up the general level of unease. Other touches include snatches from conversations à la Scanner, if not necessarily from the cell phone conversations that the artist uses as his bread and butter, and fragmented rhythms from other sources given skewed further production. The general air of subtle strangeness predominates, even with the casual day in the life narration on "Girl From ICI Plant." If not the first band to approach dub and hip-hop techniques from a distinctly avant-garde/experimental perspective, A Small Good Thing still make a good job out of what they do throughout Block.

Block, A Small Good Thing
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