Rhythm & Views

Built to Spill

The word "sprawl" has taken on all kinds of negative associations, but sprawling music is far from an exploitation of the natural landscape--it's actually the reverse. Sprawling music stretches into and reinvigorates lackluster neural regions, creating lively aural textures and landscapes--the metaphoric equivalent of eating a lot of protein. Built to Spill build evocative sprawl with their guitars, and You in Reverse, coming nearly 10 years after the amazing Perfect From Now On, is Built to Spill at their sprawling best.

Built to Spill's "sound" is in sustained, reverbed single notes on the guitar--and there's plenty of that here--but You in Reverse hinges on hypnotic drum rhythms that the guitars lock into and then dance away from. The brilliance of the record is in these moments where the instruments congeal, and then differentiate. The first song, "Goin' Against Your Mind," serves as an eight-minute-long abstract of the record: The drums maintain a steady rhythm, and things are moving pretty much in synch as the guitars build up a wall of wail and melody. Two minutes go by before Doug Martsch's vocals come in. After the chorus, the drums gradually drop out; the bass keeps the rhythm; and the guitars go psychedelic. It's been four minutes, but the song's just getting started, and by the end of "Goin' Against Your Mind," it's clear that Built to Spill's true legacy is the reinvention of '60s psychedelia into an entirely contemporary sound. And the rest of the album hasn't even begun.

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