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1 Inch / 1/2 Mile

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Album Review

The days when you could count on Ninja Tune to consistently deliver dark electronica, nu jazz, and weirded-out hip-hop seem to have come to an end, and good for them. Musical curve balls are always healthy, and the debut from this British duo curves all over the place. Andrew Phillips and Marcus O'Dair have been making off-kilter electro-pop together since 2008, and their sound is a wild and often claustrophobic mishmash of digital and analog sources: cheap-sounding keyboards, broken drum machines, samples taken from ancient shellac records, their own vocals, and other frankly unidentifiable sound sources all jostle each other for a place on the duo's cramped soundstage. The results are frequently impressive and tend to grow on you with repeated listens, gradually giving up their multi-layered secrets. The aptly titled "Old Machines," for example, puts piles of odd and creepy mechanical sounds at the top of the mix, nearly hiding its blissfully jaunty groove and straight-faced, laid-back vocals; "Meltwater," for all its own sonic weirdness, turns out to be deeply hooky. "The Tin Man," on the other hand, is operatically weird (are those Beijing opera samples?), while "Muppet" passes gradually from straight-up bouncy synth pop fun into frightening aural chaos. That kind of juxtaposition comes up over and over again on this complex and ultimately entrancing album.

Biography

Formed: Brighton, England

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '10s

Formed in the late 2000s, Grasscut, a Brighton, England-based duo comprised of notable television and film composer Andrew Phillips and keyboardist/classically trained double bassist Marcus O'Dair craft glitchy, sugary, ambient-steampunk confections that skillfully blur the line between the natural and synthetic worlds. Drawing inspiration from the likes of Kraftwerk, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Devo, and Robert Wyatt, the latter of whom appeared as a guest vocalist on the pair's second studio album,...
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1 Inch / 1/2 Mile, Grasscut
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