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I am Spartacus | Forward! (Gringo Records)
"I am Spartacus!"
"No, I am..." not gonna go there.
When a press release starts off by declaring "... and 'Forward!' became legendary without even trying" there is a part of you that thinks, "ah, fuck off!" (It's not just me, surely. Is it?) Recorded over one long weekend in Nottingham some four years ago - with a cast of many that featured amongst others various members of bob tilton - 'Forward!' nearly disappeared without trace, amid setbacks and not a little bullshit. However this month it finally sees the light, thanks to Clacton's very own Gringo Records. And good thing too. For despite the vociferous claims (and my tired cynicism) this really is pretty great. It would be difficult to get through this review without somewhere along the line mentioning the likes of Mogwai, Godspeed You Black Emperor! or Dirty Three, but now that's out of the way we can move on... 'Forward!' is a slow burning, epic instrumental that gracefully drapes itself around the pivotal and tender force that is New Yorker Tianna Kennedy's lovingly caressed cello. Augmented by piano, guitar and drums, it is apparent from the start that the group fully understands the power in restraint ?? as if the calm found within the heart of a raging storm were in some way more powerful than the storm itself. Best taken as a whole, like a symphony divided into movements. For the individual tracks, like fragments isolated and scrutinised under a microscope, belie their true strength - like a single cell compared to the sheer impossibility of the human body. However, when brought together, their presence is overwhelming. As cinematic in feel as the Boxhead Ensemble's magnificent 'Dutch Harbor' - particularly on the title track with its droning strings - this is music crying out to soundtrack beautiful images. You can almost hear the projector whirring away in the background as black and white footage of birds soaring and diving, whipped around like a child's kite in a tumbling wind, flickers upon a white-washed wall. Yes, there is a sadness that winds its way through this album, at times dripping from the strings or captured in the hiss of an amp as on One Train, but it is never oppressive. Rather it is the contemplative melancholy that sometimes inexplicably arises from the beautiful. There is but one question ?? for a project of such towering glory that reaches out towards the Heavens and gets within a whiskers length, how on earth did they end up being called I am Spartacus? Jesus!

Graham Sefton
CWAS #11 - Autumn 2002