Gallon Drunk

Black Milk

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Following up In the Long Still Night with another unqualified winner, Black Milk is actually the soundtrack to a Greek thriller, a connection which resulted from the film's director being taken by Johnston's solo single, "Hurricane," released under the JJ Stone moniker. That song appears here in a fine, fierce re-recording, while the album as a whole works as both a consciously cinematic backing and a stand-alone work. Indeed, arguably the leadoff track, "Theme From Black Milk," is the best John Barry-inspired British song since Portishead's "Sour Times" -- snaky, nervous, quick-paced, and haunting. Johnston's singing is some of his darkest and most passionate, Terry Edwards' sax keening in the distance, while guest Pauline Michailidis adds some wonderful wordless sighs and calls. The band went through a slight lineup change, with Johnston's original bandmate, Delanian, stepping down along with maracas player Byfield, while Jeremy Cottingham stepped in on bass to work opposite continuing drummer Ian White. This particular version of Gallon Drunk smokes beautifully, bringing in dark aggro-funk at plenty of points, played with a crisp, frenetic edge. Check out "Blood Is Red," unsurprisingly chosen as the single from the album, with its horror vocal samples and bells meshing with rumbling, huge beats and some brilliant Johnston guitar. Also notable is the amount of (for the band) modern instruments used -- acid bass pulses, chillingly beautiful keyboards, and more, transforming the group at many points into a true musical melange that shows how Johnston and company have expanded their reach over the years, and quite successfully at that. A duet with Rachel Mayfield, "Now and Forever," finds the band tackling downbeat tearjerker moods with perfect aplomb and a killer chorus, while the concluding "Lament" blends orchestral melancholy with slow-burning drum explosions to make for a killer ending.

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