U.S. Girls

In a Poem Unlimited

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On 2015's Half Free, U.S. Girls' Meg Remy combined some of the project's earlier tape loop experimentation and use of samples with the more polished avant pop of its previous album, GEM. Three years later, she returns with yet a different approach, collaborating with improvisational music collective the Cosmic Range for a dedicated live sound that lives and breathes like a festival stage. (U.S. Girls) In a Poem Unlimited features a six-piece core version of the Toronto funk-fusion band -- one of whom is Remy's husband and frequent collaborator Maximilian Turnbull, aka Slim Twig -- along with over a dozen additional guests. Those guests include keyboardist/programmer Rich Morel, who accompanies Remy alone on two of the songs, "Rosebud" and "Poem," which he also co-wrote. They provide a synth-poppy breather about a third and two-thirds of the way through the track list, at the same time further expanding the album's sound. So, too, do a pair of brief spoken word recordings, also balanced in the sequencing. At the other extreme, the jammiest song in the set is certainly the closer, a cover of Micah Blue Smaldone's "Time." At seven and a half minutes, it's by far the record's longest track, seeming to celebrate the collaboration in encore style, with prominent bongos and saxophones among instruments that add to the Cosmic Range's more regularly featured rhythm section, synths, and guitars. Far from an afterthought, the album's lyrics speak candidly on topics like sexism and violence -- domestic, terrorist, and state-sanctioned -- such as on "M.A.H." ("Mad as Hell"), which addresses the latter via an arty disco. Sprawling and complex as In a Poem Unlimited's structures and styles are, it's U.S. Girls' most immediate collection to date, in terms of both sound and message.

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