Spiral System :: In Your Dreams
[macro records]   review from derek  

When visiting West London-based Spiral System's website, it is no surprise these musicians/producers offer a host of services: videos, soundtracks, commercials and recording capabilities appear in their repertoire. This studio diversity is most apparent on their debut, In Your Dreams, an 11-song journey through nations and atmospheres. As the title suggests, it is mostly concerned with an imaginary realm, though to arrive one must first find a very real sense of grounding. This they accomplish with excellent production techniques.

The epoxy holding this far-reaching album together is percussionist Joe Crisp and guitarist Cliff Ovenden, which explains the crisp acoustic strings and precise hits of drums, congas and other percussive stabs. Most impressive throughout the album is their heightened sense of gravity. Patience is obvious in each song, never rushing to arrive anywhere, taking an extra few bars for sonic adjectives, or using silence as an exclamation point.

One cannot avoid referring to fellow country mates Zero 7 (Simple Things era, not the trite '60s throwback The Garden). Zero also has roots in studio work, and while musically there are parallels, it is in production (as well as floating synthesizer hits) that these two share common ground. In truth, though, as dope as Sia Furler and Sophie Barker's voices are, Lottie Child's lush, luscious vocals on "Elephant" trump "Destiny" any day. Give equal credit to Ovendon's guitar work, which creates such a stellar groove that Ovendon's rampant follow on drums makes this Spiral's masterpiece.

Child adds her soulful touch to two others, both using orchestral strings to create a nocturnal ambiance. On the upbeat "Here We Are" this maneuver works well, while with the title track it becomes slightly overkill, sounding too sountrackish. The male counterpart to Child is MC Precise, whose Massive Attack swagger trots along dutifully on the laid back "Colour in My Name" and percussion-led "U Again." Precise's moniker is no hallucination: his lyrical edge admits a relaxed confidence, making these two cuts repeat listens on the iPod.

The other six tracks are instrumental, where Crisp and Ovenden get to play, tweak and nod along. At this point it truly becomes a mixed tape affair, sometimes with an air of globetrotting ambition, others a fluffier take on downtempo electronica. "T.O.P." utilizes a flute recalling the brilliant St. Germain cut, "So Flute," albeit with a dubby rhythm and trolling conga fills. They stay reggae-ready on "The Key," and while the horns and drums are killer, the bass needs a boost in the mix to get that true Rasta I-ration.

Spiral System downward dogs as they approach the Latin side of things. "Bright Side of the Sun" is a Louie Vega cut that didn't make the record, and the carefree bossa-tinged "Different Light" dangerously approaches the fatalistic New Age. These minor deterrents are made for iTunes, however: the majority of this dream is worth having, again and again.

ethnotechno rating: 3.5 out of 5
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  1. Colour In My Name (feat Precise) (pick)
  2. Elephant (feat Lottie Child) (pick)
  3. Top
  4. Here We Are (feat Lottie Child)
  5. Different Light
  6. The Key
  7. Joe Tuesday
  8. U Again (feat Precise) (pick)
  9. Bright Side Of The Sun
  10. In Your Dreams (feat Lottie Child)
  11. & So To Sleep