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David Grubbs | The Spectrum Between (Drag City)
David Grubbs' latest album comes with a dedication. At the foot of the liner notes it reads, "A dedication - Phil Bonnet". Something in the perfunctory aloofness of this inscription epitomises the nature of David Grubbs' music: cold, cerebral and enigmatic. His previous project Gastr Del Sol were never renowned for the inviting warmth of their music, and, while being nowhere as unlistenable as Gastr Del Sol could occasionally be, Grubbs carries this chill tone over into his solo releases to sometimes stunning results. Like The Thicket before it, the songs on The Spectrum Between couch their structure beneath volt face time changes and stylistic surprises as dry strum turns to garrulous flourish. What sounds quixotic and random on first listen quickly finds a form of its own, like the Latin suggestions of Show Me Who To Love, with its clave rhythm and charming, innocent lyrics, made more so by Grubbs' well-defined but subdued vocal delivery. The singing is over and done with early on, leaving the remaining minutes of the song to concern themselves with a carefully measured freak out, with John McEntire's ranging drumming and a saxophone that squawks like a Wookie. Grubbs' lyrics - and he even breaks into almost-singing on Whirlweek, as opposed to his usual crystal-clear, spoken stylings - are straightforward and elliptical at the same time, but always interesting, as he gladly seems to feel no compulsion to squeeze banality out of his words or man-handle them into trite verse forms in order to fit his songs' shifting rhythms. This might lead to him occasionally coming across like some kind of ponderous Mr Logic - "some people think they choose who to love/ the idea hits them all at once/ and thus the phrase 'show me who to love'/ is a kind of grotesquerie" - but it does make The Spectrum Between never less than interesting.
CWAS #6 - Autumn 2000