Spark en Masse
Reviewed by Kent Manthie
This follow-up to Jacob Sackett’s musical side project, Partner Artifact’s, previous work, A Form Constant and their the third PA album altogether,Spark en Masse evokes film-noir visuals, brings up violent thoughts with a mellow mood and all with intellectual words to give it life.
Partner Artifact, as opposed to Sackett’s other outfit, The Finer Points of Sadism, a noise-drone-experimental working group of intellectual artisans, is one where they use acoustic guitars mixed in with some of the noise and electronics that dominate Finer Points’ work, but with vocals added, for one thing. The singing here has a baritone that reminds one of Nick Cave, with that deep, dark cagey one who’s just on the edge of psychosis. This is all good, of course.
Spark en Masse is a five-track EP that shows the versatility of Jacob and his wife, Ashley, who, can be noisy experimenters, bristling with grist for the mill. The Finer Points of Sadism has a good amount of albums itself that show off the bristling, noise/drone/advance guard of the neo-industrial sound. But here, where we’re talking about Partner Artifact, let me get back to that. The album begins with the title track. The first thing one notices is that it features singing as well as what may be termed “typical” instruments as well as electronic devices for emphasis and atmosphere. What jumped at me at first, when I heard the singing (Jacob’s singing) was “Nick Cave”. Sackett also has a deep baritone, a distinctive booming voice that sounds like Cave’s. What is so great about that is the thunderous, almost preacher-esque quality of the projecting of that boom, so that, of course he’d need a microphone at any gig he played live, but if he were to sing a solo at a small place, such as an “in-store” appearance at some indie record store, he could forego the microphone and just pick up his guitar and project to the audience in the room with great ability.
On “Predictive Programming”, for instance, the refrain chant is “ESP, ESP, ESP, ESP…” which then goes, seamlessly into the next one, “(Mental) Blocks”, the third track (the album starts out with the title track, which is a dissonant, but somewhat tuneful ditty). On “(Mental) Blocks” he (Sackett), belts out stuff about sutures and surgical things – fixing the broken body, the broken mind (?) and he keeps coming to the refrain “Blocks/Blocks/Blocks/Blocks/Blocks” and goes back to some more helter-skelter preaching, if you will. When we get to “Could Be”, what is the most mellow tune yet, a slow, dreamy, acoustic guitar-based ballad, with some atmospheric sounds floating around in the background, it’s a song about the possibilities of what “Could Be”; things that might’ve been or should’ve been, but have taken on the form of the new, dystopian world that we all inhabit at the moment.
This record could be the perfect soundtrack for that exact dysphoric feeling: the idea that the world’s a cold, steely cruel, uncaring automatonic thing run by machines in this cyber-atomic age. A sort of love song for what is gone for good and a protest of hate for the dark shadows at every curve. This kind of slowed down, acoustic meandering continues on into the final cut, “These Moments Are Ending” a 10 minute song that also seamlessly comes right out of “Could Be”, from one note to the next and you’re there.
Anyway, whichever of Sackett’s projects you like better, they both stand head and shoulders above their peers. The dark nihilism of Finer Points… is not totally lost on Partner Artifact, it’s only articulated in a different way. So, to be able to understand both halves of this duo, I’d recommend getting a hold of as many of both Partner Artifact albums as well as the ones by The Finer Points of Sadism. That way one can compare, contrast and see the similarities between them. Not for the faint of heart, but definitely for the brave and angst-ridden among us, looking for an outlet, a catharsis with which to write that manifesto, to think up that artwork, etc. So, onward and upward for Spark en Masse! -KM.