Viktor Krauss

II

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A classically trained bassist who's backed up artists as diverse as Jewel, Lyle Lovett, Carly Simon, and Elvis Costello, Viktor Krauss is one of those musician's musicians who's made a name for himself as a backdrop. Krauss is a truly ambient musician; the most distinctive thing about him is his indistinctiveness. Which is probably why his second album, II, feels so drizzly and deep blue. Krauss was apparently fascinated with movie soundtracks as a child, and it shows; this is a film noir of an album, a disembodied soundtrack, a piece of music that displays such a diversity of mood and genre that it feels cinematic. "Hop," with its hollow-eyed drums, inquisitive vibraphones, and plodding bassline, feels like the kind of music that would accompany a crime drama, while "Pinky Ring," what with its slinky Wurlitzer organ and grimy guitar licks, feels like a descent into a seedy gambling den. Indian singer Shweta Jhaveri makes a surprising appearance (or a dis-appearance, rather) on several tracks; the sparkling acoustic guitar meanderings of "Eyes in the Heat" and "Ecotone" provide the perfect camouflage for her diaphanous, wordless vocals. Jhaveri isn't the only one to make an appearance here -- Lyle Lovett provides the brokenhearted vocals for "(I Could Have Been Your) Best Friend," Shawn Colvin gives a meditative interpretation of "Shine on You Crazy Diamond," and Ben Taylor makes a cameo on "When She's Dancing," a song he co-wrote with Krauss. II is a thoroughly atmospheric album, but that isn't to say that Krauss is any less potent on his sophomore effort; his influence, though subtle, is palpable throughout, as if he were a source of heat.

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