No Knife

Hit Man Dreams

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With Trombino once again keeping an eye on the boards, as well as contributing some keyboard and rhythm work here and there, No Knife takes to the studio again with Hit Man Dreams. Perhaps the most immediately noticeable change is in Ike Zaremba's drumming -- somehow he just sounds more powerful and dramatic than before, not that the beats on Drunk on the Moon were necessarily weak. But there's a sense that Trombino is emphasizing a sharper, brighter production all around: Mitch Wilson's voice cuts through the mix more readily, as does the background singing, grounded a little more firmly into the listeners' ears even as the music leaps up just as strongly. Many different moments through the record have a striking, sudden appeal to them: the clipped, stuttering opening notes of "Charades," the nervous pairing of acoustic guitar and voice that begins the subtle but intense "Testing the Model," the fire-it-up introduction to the brawl-and-bash of "Rebuilding Jericho," and the swoony and sweet chorus of "Lex Hit Reset." In their own way, No Knife could almost be a West Coast Dismemberment Plan, with an ear for slippery rhythm changes, poppy hooks, and thrilling intensity. It's in the way Desjean's bass comes up with sudden twists and turns without losing the central groove, or the way the Wilson/Ryan Ferguson guitar team can suddenly create a soft, mournful core hook with the gentlest of impacts (check out "Median" for the perfect proof). The sense of epic lift that really sends their music to another place remains strong, apparent in songs like the title track and the particularly fine "Roped in-Lock On," which manages the all-too-rare trick of being both huge-sounding and tender and close, down to its staccato nails-on-chalkboard ending.

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