Spacek

Vintage Hi-Tech

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Whether heard as a jarring abandonment of the contemporary R&B rulebook or a blanching of the form's all-too-necessary characteristics, Spacek continues down its own little path for better or worse on its second album in three years. Vintage Hi-Tech isn't much of a change from Curvatia. Steve Spacek's voice barely raises above living-room chit-chat volume and drifts atop splintered, discombobulated grooves; flicks of keyboard; and the odd textural garnish. There's a nearly baffling absence of radio-friendly hooks, leaving the listener to hone in on the group's idiosyncratic production tricks. Though awash in a battery of percussive patterns, these tracks are songs in the technical, traditional sense. A less-than-immersed listen wouldn't indicate this, because they hardly resemble what you hear in the mainstream. Nothing explodes, everything is subtle -- which could play a role in the biggest argument against them: that they're too timid and tentative, that some more expressive and more effective moments could be wrenched out of the songs' core elements. What's evident on this album is that Spacek is now even more about sounds than the verse-chorus-verse pattern. And the sounds they employ are less likely to be smears of strings and disorienting keyboard effects, each of which are used sparingly in comparison to the debut. All time spent searching for the big hook or the quick fix of larger-than-life sounds is lost; it's best to let the group take you on a head trip. Love 'em or hate 'em, you have to admit that Spacek has their own sound working in their favor. They are the lone purveyors of micro-soul, and they set the standard with each successive release.

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