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The String Cheese Incident - Untying the Not Print E-mail
Tuesday, 23 September 2003

The String Cheese Incident

Untying The Not
format: CD
label: Sci Fidelity Records
release year: 2003
performance: 8
sound 8
reviewed by: Dan MacIntosh

The String Cheese Incident retains established bluegrass roots, and has a strong jam band following. But since it’s sometimes easy for such acts to fall into jam band musical clichés, such as long and boring instrumental sections, the group turned to Youth (who has worked with Crowded House, and was once a member of Killing Joke) to give the group a little kick in the pants for variety’s sake. And while “Untying The Not” is by no means a severe stylistic departure for the act, the group has nevertheless peeled off a few new layers here.

The most striking alteration is called “Valley Of The Jig.” It is just what its title suggests, an Irish-sounding traditional, with more than ample amounts of bass to pump up the volume. It also features fiddle, mandolin and what sounds like a girl laughing throughout. The percussion carries with it an Eastern tabla feel. It sounds like the kind of dance music you would hear if, say, “Saturday Night Fever” were made in Ireland, rather than the East Coast of the United States. Almost as equally out of the ordinary is “Mountain Girl,” which was written by the whole group, along with its producer. It’s a spoken word piece, laid over a swirling mass of sounds. It’s creepy, for lack of a better term. It also has a jazzy sax part.

There is a very definite lyrical theme running through this work, featuring the kind of talk you might hear going on at a funeral, where people are sharing about the areas of life that matter most of all. “Wake Up,” with it slight Southern rock feel, is an admonition to take stock of where we are, and where we’re going as humans. “Sirens” is harmonica-colored blues, primarily bass-driven, that slips into a reggae chorus. It includes the line, “Grace has brought us another day.” The song picks up where “Wake Up” leaves off, by reminding the listener to live life to its absolute fullest. Then there’s “Just Passin’ Through,” which is mainly backed by acoustic guitar and organ. It’s slow and thoughtful, yet another meditation on the shortness of life and the inevitability of death. “Elijah” is a slow and mournful instrumental, featuring acoustic piano and what sounds like synthesizer orchestration. But even without vocals or lyrics, it still subliminally sends the same sobering messages found throughout this album.

With “Untying The Not,” this band with the silly name has come up with a fairly serious offering of jam band music.

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