STS9 - "Artifact"
STS9 - "Seasons 01"

[1320 Records,]

California band STS9 [or Sound Tribe Sector 9] is really a collective of individuals obsessed with producing organic music. These are sounds that are groove oriented, with beats that go on and off at will. As much as I hate to say this, essentially this is music with a soul. The funny thing is if you're into pigeonholing music, maybe STS9 is not for you. The collective is full of dub elements that are squeezed somewhere between drum'n'bass and jazz sensibilities with a strong funk feel and a generous helping from ambient electronica field. All of this means, they're outsiders to any preconceived musical niche that is currently running out there. When I first listened to "Artifact", the notion I had was a softer, milder Incognito and the whole acid jazz scene from late 80's came rushing back to my mind. As I dug deeper into their new release, I discovered other elements that dismissed my original perception. The deep [heavily processed] bass grooves that stop and go, female vocals that appear infrequently, keyboards that spew out brief melodies, various percussive instruments, along with sampled effects galore create an atmosphere that is really unique. This music can be enjoyed on the dance-floor as well as the morning after the big party. The only thing that disturbed me about "Artifact" was the lack of development of certain ideas. Some of the tracks are too brief and get cut-off without particular threads being explored further. Otherwise, "Artifact" is an enjoyable and easy listening for a humid summer day.

For a band that tours as heavily as STS9, a live album is a must. "Seasons 01" showcases snippets of ten live gigs played around the US a few years back. Compared to "Artifact", here the band's ideas and concepts are fully realized. This is where the fruits of their labour [in the studio and on stage] come to pass. Equally as organic, this double CD opus showcases an atmosphere that is even more ethereal than the previous record. Grooves are smooth. Percussion is light. Guitar plucking is nonchalant and the bass playing though groove oriented is mild and pleasing. "Seasons 01" prove that STS9 is a band to see live as their live repertoire shine miles above their studio session. Whether you use this as background music or a cure for a disastrous hangover, STS9 provide perfect music to chill to.

Tom Sekowski

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