International Airport


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International Airport Review

by Stewart Mason

James McNew's third outing under the "band" name Dump is a vast improvement over the first two, which were occasionally diverting but often tedious one-man-band exercises. McNew is still the only musician on International Airport, but his four-track home recordings have a more assured, confident feel without ever quite stepping over the line into "professional." Side one in particular is terrific, with the hushed, tense voice-and-organ "Words" sounding much like Nick Drake might have had he been a bedroom indie artist in the mid-'90s. The 12-and-a-half-minute title track sounds almost like a reinterpretation of Yo La Tengo's "Blue Line Swinger" from the same year: Instruments slowly build over a repetitive but not monotonic rhythmic pattern, with each musical addition adding an interesting new texture to the whole, reaching a climax sometime before McNew begins singing, making the song itself almost a coda to the remarkable bolero-like buildup. Side two is somewhat less riveting, but -- with two more of Dump's trademark oddball covers (Versus' "Flax" and the little-known Kinks gem "The Way Love Used to Be," given one of McNew's most hauntingly fragile readings over a non-musical background of street noise coming from outside an open window) -- it's perhaps more representative. The remaining pair of McNew originals are the pretty but insubstantial organ instrumental "Memorial Trauma #1," and the noisy, droning rocker "Laurdine." Nothing on this side of International Airport is of vital importance, but then vital importance is not part of the Dump aesthetic, the powerful first side notwithstanding. The playfully experimental "a man and his four-track" feel is the point of Dump's records, and those not expecting the intricate sonic detail of Yo La Tengo's albums will likely find International Airport an interesting side trip.

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