Crescent

Now

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After a string of promising singles, Crescent took the full plunge with Now, at once very much of its place and time -- the mid-nineties Bristol avant-garde rock scene -- and making its own fierce stamp on things. Matt Jones is again main mover and vocalist, though his influence as distinct from the rest of his bandmates is hard to specifically distinguish, especially as the songs as a whole are credited to Crescent rather than any individual. Recorded in a two day session, the material shows signs of both a careful arrangement -- witness the exquisite tension between loud and soft on opening track "Sun," reappearing from the self-titled EP -- and a free 'see what happens' approach. If Crescent on Now is close to any of its sister bands in particular, it might be Amp, but instead of that band's often blissful if dark drone, heightened by lovely female vocals, Crescent are rougher, more brusque. Jones' speak-singing is often delivered in a semi-snarl, not really intelligible at many points, while the moody groove the band creates even at its calmest seems laden with a hint of threat. Sudden changes and surprises -such as Jones' burst into screams on "Song," leading to his hoarse delivery on the increasingly chaotic "Exit" and then the quiet acoustic strum "New Sun" -- keep Now from being entirely predictable. The unclean, commercially unfriendly production helps all the more, but it's not just simply style over substance -- it brings out the music in ways a crisper approach would have lost. More than once the feeling is of extended psych jams a la Spacemen 3, but with a less formal tone -- thus "Third Light Home," with its extended soloing, gently rolling drums and Jones' low-key murmuring up front.

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