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Still Between the Battle and the Sheet

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Packaging aspects of this release are inevitably more entertaining than the music itself, but this is not to suggest that the Brussels co-operative ensemble called The Syncopated Elevators Legacy belongs in the musical basement. Breaking a wax seal is required to get at the CD, and not just any wax seal. This is customized, with the "S.E.L." imprint, a pretty classy thing no matter what turns out to be on the CD. Handmade material inside provides credits and information that border on the incomprehensible due to a combination of penmanship, small print, and full-out weirdness.

Musicians are identified with either a goofy stage name, simply their first name, or some combination of both. Electronics of one kind or another -- digital, analog, samplers, keyboards -- dominate the proceedings, but there are also credits for instruments such as guitar and trumpet. In addition, it is vital to point out that there is more than one performer attributed with making music with "dirty dishes." There might be more dirty dishes on this recording than on the counter at the Hungry Farmer restaurant on the night the football team stopped by for barbecued ribs.

"La Cabesa Rellana" is a precious sonic jewel, an almost overwhelming pile-up of noise that could certainly be used to turf out wimps. More tuneful material follows, electronic keyboards taking the lead but not revealing the presence in the group of anyone with a particularly inventive melodic sense. But it is group music, after all, a result that is often about individual timidity as much as anything else.

There is something anonymous about these pieces, from the credits which fudge the real identities of the musicians, to the use of sounds that lack any real personality, be they electronic or culinary in nature. The reference to elevators in the band's name is actually potent, whether intended or not. An elevator might be considered a necessary way to get somewhere, but nobody is going to want to go anywhere, syncopated rhythms or not. Maybe involvement in this group will turn out to be a necessary way for the players involved to get somewhere else, hopefully by landing on a more unique musical floor in the process.