Find the Cow

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Aardvarck's Find the Cow is an admittedly challenging beast to wrangle, confronting the listener with numerous mind-bending shifts of mood within a scramble of fully explored pieces and teasingly brief vignettes. Once you work your head around these 23 tracks that vary from tricky broken-beat to arresting ambient, it becomes evident that the album was stitched together with meticulous detail to flow, structure, and emotional impact. And it's hardly front-loaded with the key tracks, tapering off into mush that leaves you looking for the eject button. Instead, what you get here is a maze of a record -- an amazing one -- that knows when to entice, lull, attack, and pull back. One sequence that exemplifies this range is right at the very beginning: "Accept"'s nervously jittering beats are at odds with its sparse keyboard melody, giving way to the jazzy, Sunday-afternoon shuffle of "Caramel." Then, just when Aardvarck has you on your heels, he pulls the wool over your eyes and brings the doom with "Taa-Ba," a cluster of tense beats and alarming sci-fi atmospherics. The beatless "Th #1" lifts you out of the haze in less than a minute and acts as a bridge to "Dim," a head-nodding mood piece that is anything but dim. The only regret with Find the Cow is the fact that the brief interludes deserve an album of their own; eight of these tracks pass by in less than two minutes, and each of them sounds like truncations of greater works. Nonetheless, Find the Cow is machine soul at its most bewitching, balancing tension and grace to great effect.

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