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Rachel's | Systems/Layers (Quarterstick)
Despite - on paper - inhabiting a well-populated musical domain, Rachel's remain the leading lights; more stripped down and strings-based than the likes of GYBE, with their own spin on the neo-classical/post rock ethos setting them apart. In fact, closest peers would probably be Clogs or recent Godspeed/ASMZ splinter project Esmerine - perhaps the nearest anyone's come to emulating the style - both of whom have removed guitars almost entirely from the equation and instead put the emphasis on melodic percussion and cello.
Rachel's last release 'Full on Night', 2000's collaborative EP alongside Matmos, promised much on paper but ultimately failed to deliver - the combined creative spark failing to ignite, inexplicably. Of course, the release of a new album proper is very welcome on every score, and the Kentucky collective's sixth opus does not disappoint, building on the template they've established as their own to stunning effect.
The sum of field recordings, work at home and full ensemble sessions with members of the Louisville Orchestra, with added "sounds relating to modern urban lif"' - an ice cream van, a garbage truck - 'Systems/Layers' is no more instant or accessible than any of their previous work, but surely stands shoulder-to-shoulder with their finest output to date. Expansive, sprawling and ultimately somewhat disjointed, this is a thoroughly engaging and all-consuming body of work, and further cements their status.
CWAS #13 - Autumn 2003