Them Use Them, a one man project of Ben Sadler out of Birmingham (UK), have a record I got interested in through the strength of their lead off track "Able" from the album 'Gravity You Lucky Lucky Boy', an album whose music was supposedly "conceived as tributes to animal astronauts of the 1950’s and 60’s". I managed to get a CD shipped to me from First Fold Records, which looks to be basically a couple friends and associates putting out variously downtempo, shoegazey, or post dancey electronica. In Them Use Them's case, in the spirit of his artistic statement above, he seems to be using a bunch of found sound from spaceships, satellites, and other types of mechanical detritus. He's most often running these samples through a kind of granular synthesis, whereby a sampled sound is splintered into microscopic iterations called 'grains', the layering process of various grains produces a type of sonic cloud, a wall, which results in the type of fuzzy, polluted texture you'll hear throughout 'Gravity You Lucky Lucky Boy'. At the end of this process Them Use Them usually straps on a listless breakbeat and lets the sketch kind of peter out. I have no issue with sketches, nor do I take issue with his process, but I do have a problem with the way in which a totally evocative post apocalyptic space age texture will be painfully grounded in sleezed out jazzy 90's downtempo. Here we are, listening to the end of the world through deteriorated satellite transmissions a then suddenly we're listening to Portishead circa '93 (which is a great time to get into Portishead, don't get me wrong, but this is '09). Part of the problem is the production on the drums, he gets it right by over-compressing and bitcrunching on "Able", but too many times throughout the album the beats are shoved in the back of the mix sounding like he stuck a mic right in front of the kit and put that shit straight on the track without producing it at all. There's nothing more sobering when you've got your head in outer space than the thought of some schlubby british dude in a drum tracking room. Some of my favorite tracks on the album have no drums at all. Check out the gorgeous "Laika", the claustrophic "Baker", or even the stutter stop of "Enos" which intimidates as it seduces, even though it has a faint chordal allegiance to downtempo. I'd like to hear "Enos" at twice the speed, or if not "Enos" than just something! on the record that boasts a BPM faster than 100. Space monkeys are just as spastic are real monkeys, just cause they're zero gravity doesn't mean they're comatose. Of the rest of the tracks that have beats, "Chernushka" and "Sam" are stand outs. "Chernushka" takes a while to get going, putting you through a minute of chipmunked space chatter before coalescing into an brassy, detuned anthem. But the denouement of the sketch drifts back into digijazz and I'm left with a bad taste in my mouth. "Sam" is the most effervescent of the tracks with beats. Here's a helicopter blade on top of electrical storm accompanied by just a snare hit (still underproduced). The record shows a ton of promise, but it's too unambitious even for a guy who trying to make sketches. It makes the whole enterprise of trying to make a record about space animals sound just silly when you've made a record that's only half serious. Either make it really kitschy and hilarious, or take the highest road possible. The record seems to hover in between the two, but even in space, languorous space, bodies of mass are in motion and travel with directionality.







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