Wednesday, October 14, 1998

Dull-O-Matic

Posted By on Wed, Oct 14, 1998 at 12:00 AM

Beth Custer is a talented multi-instrumentalist whose work can be heard on such hypnotic, ethnic-inspired recordings as Head Light by Trance Mission (City of Tribes, 1996). In that context, her playing fit right in with the trance-inducing rhythms of the group which included Stephen Kent, John Loose and Kenneth Newby. For Eighty Mile Beach, Custer is teamed up with Christian Jones. On this recording, Custer plays keyboards, clarinet, trumpet and glass harmonica, while Jones programs a drum machine, plays bass and guitar, as well as manipulating turntables and samples.

The first track, "There are No Right Angles Found in Nature," shows a hint of promise, with its laid-back rhythm, soulful vocals and bass clarinet line which floats in and out of the picture. This momentum seems to get lost almost immediately, as the title track reveals itself to be quite disposable pop music.

"What We Did Last Summer" begins with a swirling atmosphere of echoing percussion samples and guitar, but is quickly weighed down by the dull thud of a drum machine. And things get to their lowest point with "5 Loop," which is some odd hybrid of pseudo hip-hop, rip-off clatter, with vocal blathering on the top. The next track, "Hempen Homespun," is purely throw-away soul which seems designed to get the listener to check the CD player window to see just how much further there is to go.

I gave this recording a number of listens, but, based on Custer's promising work with Trance Mission, this is a momentous step backward. Hopefully, she will see her way clear to dump the dull thumps of the beat-box, as well as the turntables and samples, and get back to music with some life in it. What a disappointment ...

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