Knife in the Water

Texas Platters

Phases and Stages

Knife in the Water

Plays One Sound and Others (Aspyr)

Knife in the Water

Red River (Aspyr)

Knife in the Water

Cut the Cord (Aspyr) To celebrate their nabbing of steely popsters Knife in the Water, Austin's Aspyr label has re-released the band's first two albums, Plays One Sound and Others (1998) and Red River (2000) in conjunction with the group's latest collection, Cut the Cord. Listen to the trio of LPs in chronological order and you'll get a muddled sense of the local quintet's musical evolution. Mix it up, though, and the picture becomes clearer. Plays One Sound finds the band getting its sea legs, growing in confidence, still reliant on pedal steel for an authentic Texas vibe. Follow this with the tantalizingly eclectic Cut the Cord, and it almost becomes a game to tease out the various echoes of influences that infuse the group's aesthetic. There's a whiff of Dirty Three on the spare "Village Fireworks," even as Laura Krause seems to be channeling Nico on "Kill a Tiger," and so on. The band is consistent in its inconsistency, choosing to let the mood dictate the music, rather than forcing it into any specific genre. The result is surprisingly unschizophrenic, thanks to Aaron Blount's laconic vocal delivery and enigmatic lyrics; Krause's moody, psychedelic organ; and Bill McCullough's pedal steel, which takes the music from urbane, cigarette-smoking New York melancholia to pure Texas twang in a heartbeat. Cut the Cord drags in parts, weighed down by the gravity of its own navel-gazing, but on the whole, it's an entertaining, yet sleepy collection of make-out songs. Red River, the group's second album, remains its strongest, as it shimmers and burns with the kind of intensity and passion, of which "Rene" and "Party" are darkly perfect examples. Sharp stuff -- all of it.

(Plays One Sound; Cut the Cord) **.5

(Red River) ***

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