A Violent Narcotic

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Chicago band Jute combines the ethereal leanings of the Cocteau Twins and early Verve with the spooked, gothy leanings of more beat-driven bands like Portishead or Miranda Sex Garden. Frontwoman Julie Axis (formerly of My Scarlet Life) often croons indecipherable bliss into layers of studio gauze while the band, who spend an equal amount of time programming as in live sound, add mostly menacing ambient drones and deep, slow beats not unlike those of Chris & Cosey or other industrial/goth pioneers. The piano-sprinkled surge of "Rising of Reason" provides a more concrete base from which Joe Axis' sing-speech, a kind of Edward Ka Spel incantation, sets a base for Julie's soaring choruses. The otherwise-understated darkwave leanings of the album are much to their credit -- only "Free" takes on the truly cringe-worthy sheen of "for goths, by goths" by matching Charles Stevens' theatrically enraged spoken word with backwards reverbed drums and a slightly out-of-tune chant. Press for the album is decidedly subcultural, but Jute's amazing, mature production, and oozy, well-crafted songs have the potential to reach beyond the gothic ghetto.

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