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Music for the cognitive musician - 98%

wEEman33, May 16th, 2004

So, what do you think of when someone mentions the word “technical”? Maybe your mind conjures up Meshuggah with their crazy polyrhythms, Liquid Tension Experiment’s endless wankery, or perhaps Coroner’s fanatical style that attempts to squeeze in as many notes as possible while thrashing at light speed. Yeah those guys are pretty technical, but their overall level of technicality is miniscule compared to that of Spastic Ink. From a musician’s standpoint, every member of Spastic Ink is so tight, so proficient, and so blindingly fast that one might initially suppose that “Ink Complete” is the work of robots created by scientists for the sole purpose of perplexing the minds of listeners across the world. But on the contrary my friend, while Spastic Ink has composed one of the most painstakingly mechanized albums to date, there are still odd bits of humor sprinkled here and there and an overall sense of haphazard fun that permeates from this delightful piece of plastic, giving it a distinctive, human touch. For example, “A Morning with Squeakie” is a musical interpretation of a squirrel’s daily peril in the park as he searches for food and tries to avoid becoming another animal’s snack. In addition, “A Wild Hare” is a meticulously conceived elucidation of a 1942 animation classic that was created by transcribing violins, violas, cellos, basses, flutes, piccolos, clarinets, oboes, bassoons, harp, percussion/timpani, lightning, and a singing female bunny, then arranging them for guitars, bass and drums. Ron Jarzombek also copied down the pitch and timing of the hare’s dialogue (including words, laughs, sniff, gulp, throat clearings), and fitted it into keys and times structures of the themes in the film. Then there’s the four and a half minute song “See, And It’s Sharp,” in which the band limited themselves to two notes (C and C#) and the simple 4/4 time signature. Here Spastic Ink displays the age-old paradox of achieving complexity through simplicity.

Clearly this record is designed to appeal to other musicians who understand the challenge coupled with creating and playing such complex pieces of art. Therefore, it is expected that everything will probably fly right over the listener’s head during initial spins. But don’t give up, because that moment of epiphany will come when you’re able to envision the squirrel’s every action just by focusing on the music. And when it does come, you’ll move on to the next track, until you’ve brushed off the web of bedlam that originally covered the enigma know as “Ink Complete.” I would compare this album to a Rubix Cube: though at first mixed up, all the information is tangible, so you just have play with it for a little while until it all comes together and forms several distinct colors.

The only minor quibble I have with this re-released version is the inclusion of a twenty-five minute bonus track that contains some live recordings, tunes recorded at slower speeds, solos played super slow, a few songs that didn’t make it onto “Ink Complete”, etc. While it’s interesting to listen through once or twice, I usually find myself hitting the stop button after “Mosquito Brain Surgery.”

Two reasons you should buy this and not download it: 1) Unless you have a copy of the liner notes, you will have no clue what is going on in the songs, and will not be able to fully appreciate the immense challenge that Spastic Ink faced when creating this album. 2) The band is not able to support themselves solely through their musical career, thus is one group that you have truly helped by purchasing some of their work (as opposed to say, Metallica who sell so many records that one or two copies doesn’t make a lick of difference in their grand financial scheme). So, if this review has piqued your interest, I urge you to head over to www.lasercd.com and order this CD ASAP. Also make sure to check out Ron Jarzombek’s solo album “Solitarily Speaking of Theoretical Confinement,” the second Spastic Ink CD “Ink Compatible,” and Watchtower’s “Control and Resistance.”