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Sound Tribe Sector 9

After essentially establishing its own future-forward genre through years of relentless touring, Sound Tribe Sector 9 finally drops an album that reflects its innovative, enigmatic musical approach. The Santa Cruz-via-Atlanta quintet's live shows seamlessly dissolve instrumental musings into fine-tuned sonic sculpture, veering from lengthy, jazz-driven improvisations to laptop-enhanced downtempo suites. Artifact, its first studio album since 2000, combines the best of both sides of the band, charging warm and fuzzy acoustic guitar and elegant piano with sinister breakbeats and deep-space atmospherics. Occasional appearances from drum 'n' bass diva Audio Angel add instant soul to an album of chilled-out head food, smearing hip-hop and late-night jazz onto STS9's diverse palette. Seventy-some minutes alternate between dense and spacious, bubbly and sharp, vintage and cutting-edge, sometimes in the same song (check "Tokyo," the monumental single). Bringing to mind the masters of moody electronica (LTJ Bukem, Wagon Christ, K&D), the self-produced Artifact is aptly titled, providing a brilliant snapshot of a band in constant evolution.
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Jonathan Zwickel

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