Spacek: Vintage Hi-Tech (2003)


Shake your funky exoskeleton.

Purchase this album: Amazon

THE SCENE: In 2001 the London-based electronica group Spacek released their first album of restrained and futurist R&B called Curvatia. Championed by a small but feverish lot they returned in 2003 with an even more subtle and skeletal recording, the click’n’blissed Vintage Hi-Tech.

Ever see shapes in the clouds and wonder how long before the wind dismantles them? That’s the fragile sound of Spacek. Using clicks for snares and clacks for kick drums, Spacek’s production technique is to record as few instruments as possible while using almost no sounds that one would associate with music.

Hums from escalators, taps from a cell phone, the modern sounds of a highly wired urban society invade the tones, much as a wooden flute reinterpreted the sounds of a singing bird way back in the day of the hunter-gatherers.

Offsetting this foundation of quiet inorganicness is the burgundy smooth voice of leader Steve Spacek. Barely singing above the volume of a golf commentator, his delicate soul crooning is the anchor that gives the songs their barest wisp of shape.

The tunes don’t ebb and flow as much as they fade in and out. The syncopated swing beats of “Motion Control” bob and weave like a street baller, with barely audible woodpecker percussion. It’s clinical and sexy, like a forensics lab with a singles bar.

“Time” flows smoothly like the weightless movement of a glass elevator, every floor revealing new gorgeous vocal layers and funky deep ends. On the jagged side, “Amazing” sounds like monkeys firing zap guns during a tango in a Chinatown dry goods shop.

The shuffling “Light Up My Life” orbits around mirrored sound puddles of electric piano. Bass shows its face now and again like a hot air balloon that occasionally hits the ground, bouncing off doo-wop vocals and synthetic chicken clucks.

Over an accompaniment of toy piano and thump, “123 Magic” distills the childhood glow of awareness into a wafer-thin mint of perception:

I’m gonna disappear
right before your eyes
Then I’m gonna reappear
make you feel surprised
123 I’m gone
you know I won’t be long
Gone to another place
spend a little time in space
All in a zone
you wanna come with me
I can take you there
you can fake it there
I’ll find ways for you
Cause I can see right through

A song about being barely there, performed as if it was barely there. Clever.

THE FALLOUT: Turns out the sales were barely there as well. Vintage Hi-Tech was well-received in dance circles but pretty much ignored everywhere else. They have yet to record a follow-up, but Steve Spacek released a solo album in 2005.

Vintage Hi-Tech is available from Amazon and you can sample tracks here:

Romantic dance tunes for pumping out of your hovercraft, Vintage Hi-Tech gently dropkicks soul music into the next century.

See you next Wednesday.

NEXT WEEK: Muddy Waters’ sells out to the young’uns.

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