The Austin Chronicle

Record Reviews

Reviewed by Michael Chamy, November 24, 2000, Music

Rhythm of Black Lines

Set a Summery Table (Sixgunlover)

At some point along the way, greater weight in independent music circles was given to "musicianship" -- to actual instrumental prowess. As Tortoise and the rest of the Chicago crowd showed, there may be a correlation between skill and true musical innovation. There comes a point, though, when the Joe Satriani factor becomes an issue, when skill withers under the heat lamp display and leaves innovation smoldering on the back burner. Although Austin's Rhythm of Black Lines doesn't make music with such flamboyant individual displays, the end product still rings hollow. Featuring holdovers from Hades Kick and (on two cuts) since-departed guitarist Paul Newman of the eponymous band, Rhythm of Black Lines produces a brand of quasi-fusionary math rock that fits their name to a T. Summery Table's mostly instrumental formula involves an interlocking pair of slinky bass and guitar lines, both with reverb jacked up past comfortable levels, and a tempo-shifting drummer, Tim O'Neill, who breaks off captivating fills at every turn. Unfortunately, a certain plastic feeling is there throughout the album, especially on "Jeep Jackson," with its dim Eighties bass line and cheesy handclap sounds. The only song that rises above the monochromatic sameness of the guitar sound is the title track, propelled by a taut beat and shaded by Clint Newsom's whispery vocals. The tight lockjaw groove stands as evidence that Rhythm of Black Lines can be a potentially stirring band, but a little more ingenuity would be essential.


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