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Sand Still Born Alive Review

Album. Released 4 March 2002.  

BBC Review

Dubcore heavymetal jazz in this second album from British quintet.

Peter Marsh 2002

Not to be confused with the 70s German electronic outfit of the same name, UK quintet Sand offer up a new genre; hardcore jazz metal electronica. Or something like that. Originally an offshoot of programmer Tim Wright's Germ project with trombonist Hilary Jeffrey, Sand's diverse influences and activities (members of the band are involved in noisy dubcore outfit Scorn, jazz and electroacoustic composition) are greater than the sum of their parts.

Still Born Alive is a dense and occasionally pretty scary brew of bass heavy grooves, noise and jazz improv; imagine Dark Magus era Miles Davis played by Black Sabbath and mixed by Conny Plank. Like Can, Sand strip funk of its booty shaking joy and reduce it to pure pulse, an unstoppable journey to nowhere in particular.

Rowan Oliver's drums suggest a meeting of Al Foster and Jaki Liebezeit while John Richards' electric bass is a malevolent, fuzzed monster. Occasionally (as on the superbly intense "Airlock"), his melodic springy double bass adds extra texture, while fretless bass whoops punctuate the downtempo throb of "Body in the River". Throughout Jeffrey's fluid, treated trombone is the ghost in the machine, carving out forlorn melodics, angry blurtings or fogbanks of long delayed tones. His solo on the last part of "Bromide Fist" is a bit of a peach and makes Sand's connection with the more adventurous end of electric jazz (Miles, Mwandishi et al) explicit.

Wright's electronics are subtle yet crucial; gassy hisses, distended synth bass, jet engine howl and metallic bursts drift in and out, while his screamed distorted vocal on the closing hardcore blast of "Rubber Eye" is suitably deranged. Guitarist Neil Griffiths provides a raw, scabrous energy; vicious wah'ed chords or anguished feedback swoops. Intense, brutish and short (would that more cds were less than 40 minutes long), Still Born Alive leaves you exhausted yet wanting more. Play loud and often.

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