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Spanners

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Album Review

The last release under the group name before the trio splintered, Spanners is a great full-packed CD of modern electronic music, the band drawing on everything from dub to avant-garde experimentalism to create a varied, intoxicating collection. Funk samples are twisted and played with rather than lovingly reused, lyrics eschewed for obscure or unintelligible samples at most, generally straightforward dancefloor tracks still sound slightly hesitant or off. Even from the first song, "Raxmus," it's not too surprising that this appeared on Warp Records; the blend of shuffling yet crisp beat, ambient tones, and other sonic touches and tweaks practically could have been tailormade as a calling card for the label. Certainly, there's a healthy sense of playfulness and obscurity that won't surprise fans of labelmate Aphex Twin, neither will song titles like "Psil-Coysin" and "Nommo." The highlights are many, most often achieving a solid combination of dancefloor friendliness and unexpected sonic trickery. "Chase the Manhattan" may have a cringeworthy pun of a title, but the brisk funk/world percussion beat, soothing synth washes, and distorted electronic bass stabs all come together wonderfully. "Further Harm" shifts a number of times during its length, sometimes playing around with rough beats low in the mix and at other points serving up a variety of keyboard melodies interspersed with brief vocal bits. Other numbers of note include "Pot Noodle," with what sounds like a soft acoustic guitar or a keyboard programmed to sound like one playing a lazy, relaxed melody under the main loop, and the echoing, minimal percussion breaks and squelchy electro-inspired tones of "Frisbee Skip." A series of brief bridge tracks entitled "Bolt" (i.e., "Bolt1," "Bolt2," etc.) crop up throughout Spanners, mostly following their own curious logic as they slide from one track to the next.

Biography

Formed: 1989 in London, England

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Taking their name from a British euphemism for imminent doom, the Black Dog (also appearing variously as Black Dog Productions, Balil, Xeper, and Plaid, among others) formed in the early '90s as the trio of Ken Downie, Ed Handley, and Andy Turner. Forging a challenging, relentless combination of early techno, electro, and hip-hop with a penchant for odd time signatures, high-tech atmospherics, and Egyptian iconography, the group immediately distinguished itself from the scores of disposable techno...
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Spanners, The Black Dog
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