Neotropic: White Rabbits
Mush Records

In which Riz Maslen (aka Neotropic) largely trades in the solo electronic style of her past work for a more expansive group sound. The predominantly instrumental material blends ambient, electronica, rock, and folk and strikes a good balance between spontaneous live playing and predetermined song structures. While there's an emphasis on instruments like strings, guitars, drums, and piano, she subtly enriches the acoustic layers with field recordings (rainstorms, train station announcements), electronic noises, and phasing effects. The musicians stretch out, too, with long tracks acting like travelogues through varying moods and episodes. Prepare to be taken aback by the prettiness of “New Cross,” especially when Maslen's bright glockenspiel joins the laid-back piano and drums groove, imbuing it with a sunniness that complements the razor guitars floating in the background. “Feelin' Remote” surprises too when Joff Watkins' bluesy harmonica wails alongside Tim Glenn's powerful drumming, and darker moods are nurtured in the portentous “Magpies” when Jessica Hayssen adds her violin sawing to its dramatic cymbal splashes, ghostly vocal shudders, and anguished cries. A final eye-opener is the roaring, guitar-based hidden track where Maslen channels Motorhead. While not all of it succeeds (the twelve-minute, Eastern-flavoured “Joe Luke,” for example, is an interesting but meandering journey), what's more important is Maslen's wise decision to forgo a hermetic solo approach (“Odity Round-A-Heights” and “Small Moves” are brief pieces representative of that style) for the wealth of future possibilities the group direction supplies.

September 2004