Cederick Knox - Spack in the Box Allstars Volume 1 (Ceremonial LaptopActivia Benz)

Cederick Knox – Spack in the Box Allstars Volume 1 (Ceremonial Laptop\Activia Benz)

There is something wonder that happens throughout Cederick Knox’s Spack in the Box Allstars Volume 1 EP.  Let me explain what happened during the first time I played it.  As usually happens I found myself looking for new music online. First of all, I check all the regular places. I check to see if any labels and musicians I like have released anything I might have missed. The I go on to Bandcamp and look through the new releases in the genres that interest me. Usually it’s experimental, jazz, spoken word classical and lastly alternative/rock. Then I check the various groups I’m in to see what people have been posting about and lastly, I check my emails to see what new music I’ve been sent. Somewhere in all this I found the debut EP from Knox. It was being released through Ceremonial Laptop and Activia Benz. Always a good sign. Even if it isn’t 100% what I’m looking for I know it will be interesting.

So, I pressed play.

At first, I was listening to ‘Tinker’s Horn’ it while I did something else on my laptop. Half-way through the opening track I started to realise that I was paying less and less attention to what I was doing, and I was just staring at the screen. By the time it finished, I was reading the bio and looking at the screen not really moving much. Then ‘Willy Hitler Escapes the Airship’ kicked in. It opens with this nice drone before stutter drums kick in. On top of this flood horns, piano, a bassline, and layered audio detritus. Together it creates a pleasantly unsettling feeling. The room starts spinning like a paper fudge. As it spins at different speeds the colours all start to blend into one another. And then it dawns on you that this is fantastic. It borrows from so many genres but somehow manages to make it feel fresh, new, and exciting rather than a group of people showing off how clever, and knowledgeable, they are. Downtempo electronica motifs are interspersed with narcotic muzak and 70s jazz, think a less frenetic and paranoid Dark Magus by Miles Davis, and you’re on the right lines. Instead, we have a collection of songs that don’t really sound like much else but also immediately feel familiar due to how they lean into existing combinations of sound.

All of this is down to Knox, and the players involved. As the title of the EP hints, Spank in the Box is involved. The songs were originally created out of his drum takes. These were then used as the foundations for the different players to improvise over. Again, as the title suggests, the other players are a supergroup of sorts whose day jobs includes playing in Squid, I am the Morning, Rochelle Rochelle, and Pelican Man, along with John Sands on saxophone.

‘Autumn Leaf’ feels like the most serene, and conventional, track on the EP. The song is built around a cyclical spiral loop that evokes jazz standards but is off kilter enough to keep it interesting. Over this Raphaela Hazael’s gloriously lilting vocals drift and glide. As with Hazael’s work on the EP they are just inaudible, but you get the idea of their emotional meaning. The EP ends with lead single ‘Back in the Box’. The structure is tight, but not constrictive. This gives the players a real chance to have some fun and play for the sheer love of it. There are two pianos on the track. One is lightly lethargic, and is the backbone of the track, while the other is more ominous. Instead of playing delicate runs huge clunking chords are the order of the day. Hazael sounds like a siren calling sailors to their doom while Spank in the Box’s idiosyncratic drums keep everyone on their toes.

At its heart this is an album that tries to evoke the mood of a time that never really existed. Only in the player’s mind. It’s a place not created out of nostalgia for a time when musicians took more risks, or when jazz musicians could noodle for an entire side of vinyl before realising what their point was. It  evokes a time where music felt brave and wasn’t afraid to fail. A time where the players just wanted to play and see what happened out of their experiments. And ‘Spank in the Box Allstars Volume 1’ does this. It makes you want to take risks. Send that email about a new opportunity that you’ve been putting off due to fear of them saying yes. The most exciting thing about the EP is in the title. That Volume 1 stands out a mine. It feels like a statement of intent. But it also lays down a gauntlet. If Knox is thinking of a second volume, he has to make sure it’s as engaging, powerful and fun as this. And that is the most exciting thing about this EP.  The possibilities for the future.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.