Slicker

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John Hughes III's latest Hefty project is a make-or-break effort after the success of last year's Remixes release. The third Slicker release dovetails Hughes' obsession with textural techno and breakbeats. Utilizing various loop and sampling strategies -- like pairing vocal samples (courtesy of Asia Argento; yes, her dad's the horror film director), looped around three drum machines and threaded through a keyboard playing one endless chord slipping in an out of an airy mix on "Hard Track" -- Hughes walks a line between machine-like precision and warm musicality. In utilizing musicians such as guitarist Takeshi Mitsuhashi and pianist Christopher Case on "Open Huru," Hughes leaves a bit more to chance than on his previous outings. Allowing individual expression in a mix project is risky, but the results are more than worth it. Where the moodiness of Case's piano with its triads and minor trills hovers over the mix like a ghost, Hughes' drum loops are organic and subtle, they shift the ambience and texture in the tune rather than direct its flow from one place to the next. When Mitsuhashi enters, playing a slow, open-D-tuning series of chords and arpeggios, the music though filled out becomes incidental, as it would if it functioned in a movie soundtrack. The effect is haunting and beautiful, even jazzy in places, but it also leaves the impression of more to come, of anticipation. The use of vibes and Mitsuhashi's sampled guitar riffs work to an angular, off-kilter effect on "Swap Track," which features additional programming by Matmos and live drums by Kevin Dureman. The kit serves to keep the rhythm from spinning away since the sequencing is too tightly packed into the triggering of the samples. There is a hint of melody; it's suggested but never fully developed and then completely subverted by the vibraphone work of Ric Embach which criss-crosses over the drum kit leaving Hughes to layer his samples beside the drum tracks rather than under or on top of them. Everything is equal in the mix, all elements EQed to an even number and staggered only according to the order of their appearance and vanishing. It's a great chill-out track, but it moves like a DJ's interlude, or prelude to something else. That's the vibe of the entire album, each cut feels as if it's a prelude to something else, something grander coming down the pipe. But there's no frustration since upon deeper listening the grandeur is contained within these densely packed loops and rhythm tracks that insinuate themselves slowly and subtly over the listener in a manner that suggests aural seduction. Well done.

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