The New Law: High Noon
The New Law

Nearly three years on from its self-titled debut, The New Law returns with its sophomore effort, High Noon. The album's nineteen tracks suggest that Seattle-based duo Adam Straney and Justin Neff haven't appreciably altered the group's sound in the interim so much as refined it. With the material sequenced sans breaks, High Noon unfolds as a mood-shifting travelogue of dusted instrumental boom-bap that's geared towards fans of Prefuse 73, Flying Lotus, DJ Shadow, and J Dilla. Drawing upon Straney's background in punk bands, DJing, and drum'n'bass and Neff's proficiency in piano and saxophone playing, The New Law's sound is cinematic in its liberal incorporation of saxophone playing, samples, voices, and synthesizers, and the album's pieces at times unfold like mini-soundtracks to an unreleased Western, with “The Trail,” for example, charting a funeral procession as a townspeople buries another of its fallen gunslingers.

Slowly coming into focus as a dust storm settles along the horizon, “Sundown” inaugurates the seventy-three-minute album with a promising overture of wide-screen atmosphere, before the hip-hop crunch and Moog synthesizer melodies of “Seattle Lights” kicks in. The lurching boom-bap of “Ghost Town Strut” features chopped voice samples, vinyl crackle, and tenor sax wail, while the tripped-out “Hell's Gates” suggests The New Law's been listening to J Dilla. The tabla-enhanced rumble of “Somebody's Out There” adds an exotic wrinkle to the proceedings, as does the low-end throb of “An Old Acquaintance,” which is as much dub-like in character and production design as it is hip-hop. Perhaps the most memorable moment arrives with Fanu's (Janne Hatula) remix of “Showdown” which includes a biting MC turn by Lokeye (Luke Lenintine) and backup by Michael Harris. The penultimate setting, “As The Waves Crash Against the Rocks,” at first brings the intensity down by adding an ambient-IDM vibe but soon enough the track throws down as hard as anything else on the album, while the recording's longest cut, “Blue Horizon,” closes the album with a slightly overlong trip-hop jam that gives Neff's jazzy saxophone the spotlight. At times, the pair's enthusiasm gets the better of them and a given track threatens to choke on an excess of sounds (e.g., “Barrels of Bourbon”) but overall High Noon is a more-than-solid sequel to the group's debut.

August 2009