• cathode Sparkle Plenty (CD, £10.75)

    label: expanding

    'Sparkle Plenty’ is the second album from Cathode, aka Steve Jefferis from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. Cathode’s debut album ‘Special Measures’ was released on Expanding in 2004 following earlier output on Static Caravan and 555. ‘Special Measures’ was acclaimed for its winning combination of precision-glitch electronics and a warm melodic sensibility, gaining the judgement of “first class” from John Peel and neatly summed up by the London Metro paper as “a moody, melodic soundscape of carefully controlled clicks, beats and bleeps, producing a crescendo of beautifully blended electronic rhythms... a sound as emotive as it is creative”. ‘Sparkle Plenty’ finds Cathode coupling the precision and warmth of the debut with a richer sonic palette – for instance, the skittering improv percussion of ‘Dream Feeder’, the strings, flutes and piano of ‘Without Memory Or Desire’, or the battered acoustic guitar and ticking clocks of ‘Nightly Builds’. Album centrepiece ‘Structure Hunger’ is a juddering serialist-krautrock wonder, which has its origins in a collaborative project with film-maker Adam Finlay at Newcastle’s Tyneside Cinema to provide new soundtracks to a batch of vintage colour-saturated summertime movies. Along with remixing Bauri and d_rradio, and recording a 7-inch for Newcastle’s Distraction label, Steve has been spending his time since the release of ‘Special Measures’ working on other music and film projects. These include membership of The Matinee Orchestra (Tyneside’s pastoral-acoustic ensemble who released an acclaimed debut album on Isan’s Arable label), and the Warm Digits, a guitar-noise/electronics/free-improvisation collaboration with the Matinee Orchestra’s Andrew Hodson. Steve’s day job as a clinical psychologist has some oblique influences on the new record. “Sparkle Plenty” is a phrase used in infant development to describe the behaviour of children who use activity and excitement to masks a lonelier emotional state. As such, it’s an apposite title for the record; Cathode’s music has always been unashamedly about creating something beautiful, which acts to sweeten something that’s much more melancholy underneath.

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