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9 July 2012

Dif Juz - 'Extractions' (4AD)

This was it, really - the only proper Dif Juz record -- but a confident step forward it is, especially when compared to the EPs, which are more like sketches. The opening cut, 'Crosswinds', is built from saxophone drenched in wet reverb. It looks towards New Age music as well, but also is an early beacon towards the pop side of British electroacoustic music from later in the decade (I'm thinking O.Rang for example). 'Crosswinds' is lovely - the timbre of the saxes makes waves, a beautiful blanket of wet ear candy. This atmosphere is but a tease - the rest of Extractions is significantly more upbeat, driven by live drumming which is mostly free from the studio effects and processing which seem to affect every instrument. Yet Extractions is not an artificial chunk of computer love - it's welcoming and tries out musical ideas within the framework of this genre. 'A Starting Point' has quick-moving counterpoint; 'Silver Passage' is a quest.'Echo Wreck' feels like the major statement, with it's quick tapping drumming, soaring keyboards, and crafty melodic structure. The Cocteau Twins' vocalist makes an appearance on 'Love Insane', and her voice is a beauty; the vocal treatment sits much better with Dif Juz's music than the vocals on Vibrating Air, but it's good that most of the record stays instrumental. The tempo is somewhat uniform, and the sound is a pretty major step away from not just punk but from new wave at all. But while a lot of music like this - which later gets labeled as post-rock - becomes a bit too mellow, Dif Juz somehow stay energetic throughout. A whole lot of what I think of as the '4AD Sound' comes from music like this - this strain of (mostly British) 1980s musicians looking at texture, tension, ad soundscape instead of vitriol. The path leads though the Durutti Column and all the way to Talk Talk before the Americans started paying attention.

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