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Jack O' The Clock: Night Loops

Although highlighting a couple of minor reservations, my esteemed SoT colleague Jon Neudorf summed up the 2013 release from Jack O' The Clock, All My Friends, as "Recommended!"; a sentiment that seems to have been pretty universal. Keen to build on that critical acclaim, this Oakland outfit have made a quick-fire return with the enigmatically titled Night Loops, an album which sits as reasonably accessible avant-garde, with tinges of modern folk and a slightly Progressive edge. From start to finish this album is about moods, emotions and atmosphere, gentle progressions built upon through a variety of attacks. Some are decidedly standoffish, while others practically beckon you in to experience more. In essence what we have here is warming music for the soul that can still be amazingly cold and remote. It makes for a wonderful contradiction, as sounds and ideas whizz past at dizzying speed, waiting patiently for the next mind snagging hook to pick you up, twirl you round and place you once more in a discordant feast of challengingly intricate constructs.

In essence themes and movements are what pass for "songs" on Night Loops and while there are engaging lyrics throughout, don't expect to stumble across a chorus, or repeated refrain, as many of the short tracks run into one another with subtle, unnoticed ease. Instruments which are unusual in "rock music", such as piccolo electric guitar, guzheng, bassoon, baritone violin or bundt pans, are all incorporated to help build the involved pieces as they slide by and when employed alongside the part-spoken-part sung vocals from Damon Waitkus, sections of synthesized, mesmerising birdsong, or plaintive pipe organ become even more engaging. Factor in vocal contributions from Kate McLoughlin, which also manipulate the mood, and sounds seldom stay in situ (in a good way); a feeling of being kept on your toes never far away. Some of the most memorable contributions do come from more expected sources, with occasional guitar swipes and clashes of percussion all the more effective due to the atmospheres they are surrounded by. Meaning that one thing this ever evolving soundscape ensures is engagement on many levels, the time and opportunity to zone out, simply never given.

Night Loops could never be considered an easy listen and in truth the sheer scope of what is attempted here does make an initially "difficult" introduction. However, once I got past that initial cold shoulder (and you will too), I have to echo my colleague's sentiments. Jack O' The Clock come Recommended!

Track Listing
1. Ten Fingers
2. Bethlehem Watcher
3. Tiny Sonographic Heart
4. Come Back Tomorrow
5. How the Light is Approached
6. Familiar 1: Night Heron Over Harrison Square
7. Fixture
8. Furnace
9. Salt Moon
10. Down Below
11. As Long As the Earth Lasts
12. Familiar 2: Barred Owl
13. Rehearsing the Long Walk Home

Added: October 12th 2014
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Jack O' The Clock on BandCamp
Hits: 2913
Language: english

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