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This is definitely Shearwater’s biggest and loudest record—it’s easy to imagine these songs roaring from the stage—but it’s also their most detailed and intricate one. Front man Jonathan Meiburg and producer/engineer Reisch (who also recorded 2012’s Animal Joy and the off-the-cuff collaborations of 2014’s Fellow Travelers) spent two years crafting Jet Plane and Oxbow with help from drummer Cully Symington, longtime Shearwater associates Howard Draper and Lucas Oswald, and tourmates Jesca Hoop, Abram Shook, and Jenn Wasner.
But their secret weapon this time is film composer and percussionist Brian Reitzell, whose soundtracks include The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation, The Bling Ring, and 30 Days of Night. Reitzell’s arsenal of strange instruments emphasizes Jet Plane and Oxbow’s cinematic depth and scope, and reflects the band’s choice to anchor the record in the era when digital technology was just beginning to transform the world of recorded music. In Shearwater’s hands this doesn’t feel like nostalgia; the racing synths and hammered dulcimers of heart-pounding opener “Prime” or the addled motorik of “Radio Silence” sound more like a metaphor for our own bewildering moment.