Steve Albini’s spare and atmospheric production perfectly accentuates the inherent strengths in Scout Niblett’s brand of minimalist grunge. The pairing’s continued collaboration yields the sort of close-proximity, intensely personal rock that fueled PJ Harvey’s seminal ’93 record Rid of Me (which Albini also produced).
Scalding fuzz-distorted guitar riffs surface throughout the entire album and adopt a full-on stoner metal churn on tracks like “Just Do It!” and “Strip Me Pluto.” The white-heat amplification allows for subtle manipulations to take on out-sized dynamic significance. Niblett drenches her compositions in empty space and reverb pauses. The smallest additions, a stray kick drum or a plucked bass note, manifest themselves in suspended explosions, expanding into perilously extending crescendos.
“Just Do It!” would be familiar singer-songwriter territory, if not for the Black Sabbath riffs and Niblett’s creepy-cathartic vocal delivery, her lyrics turning corporate sloganeering into a schizophrenic fever dream with opening lines, “And the voices said, ‘Just do it,’ and I think I agree / Cuz someone’s got to do it and it might as well be me.” It’s like Travis Bickle interpreting Nike advertisements as a personal call to action and the way in which Niblett doesn’t shy away from muted powerchords standing alone in the mix builds a world of quiet solitude. The lack of instrumentation results in a fixation on the details, so when Niblett’s thick guitar muck rings out with a subtle dissonance, the entire world feels like its gone out of tune.
Elsewhere, small flourishes add luster and energy to Niblett’s formula. Airy drum kits and shattered crash cymbals turn “The Calcination of Scout Niblett” and “Cherry Cheek Bomb” into thundering electric dirges. “Lucy Lucifer” is a playful and engaging acapella word game hung over a toppling skeleton of solo drums. And moments of beauty arise from the soft guitars and choked vocals of “I.B.D.” and the dangling eBow hum of “Ripe With Life.”
The album’s closing track, “Meet and Greet,” ends with a one-and-a-half-minute guitar solo engineered to capitalize upon an extremely limited range of six notes repeated and stretched and sounding exactly like a someone picking up their first guitar and really digging into a practice amp after school, discovering how to be in love with making joyous noise.
Favorite Track: “I.B.D.”
Reviewer Bio - Christopher j Ewing is a writer and filmmaker living in Los Angeles with a girl and a designer dog. He is in a band by himself, has a myspace account at www.myspace.com/wastedpotentialproduction and a production company at (www.wastedpotentialproductions.com) for freelance film, video and journalism work.