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Jack o' the Clock — Night Loops
(Bandcamp no#, 2014, CD)

by Peter Thelen, Published 2014-07-16

Night Loops Cover art

What a difference a year makes. After three excellent albums of mostly acoustic eclectic folk laced with strange pop influences, jugband, classical, chamber, and avant-garde experimentation, Jack o’ the Clock has deemed it an appropriate time to evolve and change things up a bit. Many of the unique ingredients of the first three are still present here on Night Loops, but the tone is darker, far more experimental, and there seems to be more rock and electric instrumentation in the mix, including electronics and samples. Vocals are often treated to strange effects, giving those cuts an other-worldly feel. The core band remains the same: violin, bassoon, drums and percussion, acoustic and electric guitar / keys / flute, and electric and acoustic bass, with vocals shared by the core members, and additional instrumentation (saxes, clarinet, bass clarinet, pipe organ, additional electric guitar, and vocals) provided by guest players on a track-by-track basis. As always, the vocal harmonies and arrangements are superb throughout, with plenty of attention given to shifting moods and interesting melodic threads. Some of the cuts like “As Long as the Earth Lasts,” “Down Below,” or “Come Back Tomorrow” might well stand alone as memorable songs, while other pieces tend to act as instrumental or experimental interludes that serve as glue to tie the program together nicely. They’re never afraid to try unusual textures and novel ideas, be they created with instruments or voices or even studio effects. The marimba and voices alternate to wonderful effect on “Fixture,” while the follow-up “Furnace” is comprised almost entirely of whispered voice overlays, flowing into “Salt Moon,” where herky-jerky rhythms and delicate instrumental interplay between woodwinds, strings, and percussion create something approaching later period Henry Cow sans improvisation. Another strong effort from this excellent Bay Area ensemble, and kudos for their willingness to incorporate new ideas into the fabric of their sound.

Filed under: New releases, 2014 releases

Related artist(s): Jack o' the Clock

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