Personnel: John Coxon (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, violin, glockenspiel, bass guitar, sampler); J. Spaceman (electric guitar); John Tchicai (bass clarinet, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone); Orphy Robinson (vibraphone); John Edwards (double bass); Rupert Clervaux, Tony Marsh, Mark Sanders (drums); Ashley Wales (sampler).
Audio Mixers: Rupert Clervaux; John Coxon; Ashley Wales.
Recording information: EMI Abbey Road Studios, London, England (2007); Grays Inn Road (2007).
Few groups have undergone as dramatic a stylistic overhaul as the British duo of John Coxon and Ashley Wales--better known as Spring Heel Jack. Initially operating at the vanguard of the drum-&-bass scene, by the turn of the millennium they began to collaborate with jazz musicians and free improvisers on numerous cross-genre efforts. SONGS & THEMES continues in this vein, adding a decidedly cinematic flair, creating expansive soundscapes that--as suggested by the album's title--explore the same subtleties of tone color and lyric phrasing found in classic film soundtracks. The titles mostly refer to the themes at play, such as the solemn requiem of the opening track "Church Music." But the balance of the album focuses on the interplay of electronic and sample-based elements, alongside improvised passages (aided by veteran out jazz pioneers John Tchicai and Roy Campbell). On the glorious skronk-fest "1,000 Yards," pile-driving sheets of guitar distortion fight it out against distended layers of electronic drone, creating a modern-day take on the collective jazz explorations of the late 1960s.