So, anyway, then there's "Water From the Same Source," which seems appropriately named, with its cymbal-splashing drums and clipper'd strings sailing the same seas as those which the Rachel's that you remember did. Rachel Grimes' piano is peerlessly beautiful as this chamber-music big-band seems to glide as its bow breaks through crashing waves without ever breaking its beautiful gait, its glide a promenade punctuated with the gentlest pirouettes, this here Rachel's number stately and graceful and grand and humble and classical and rock 'n' roll all at once. It's only one moment, though, in which this watery wonder flows from the same well of inspiration that inspired their all-in-two-years trilogy 1995's Handwriting, 1996's Music for Egon Schiele, and 1996's The Sea and the Bells, all of which actually sound even better, now, now that you know what b'came of that promising indie predilection of instrumentalist faux-soundtracks that ultimately ended in disaster. In the seven years since that purplest patch, Rachel's have only bridged the gap with one proper longplayer, 1999's Selenography, an album that seem'd less like an album and more like an assemblage of gathered-up bits they'd buttered up in preceding seasons. There was an avant-gardist "remix" disc a year later, in which Rachel's and San Franciscan sample-science love-in Matmos tried to out-fuck the other in foxy fashion, but that was less a record, more an exercise sketched into an exercise book. Systems/Layers, their fifth full-length, manages to sound unlike a coherent collation of audio, but entirely like an exercise in synchronized spirit. A disparate collection of pieces recorded in collaboration with a theatre-group of some abstrackt descript, the disc oft ships through storms the Rachel's band've sailed through and ports they've called in on before; yet, as whole, it seems distinct from the discography that came before it (in both a good and a bad way), with intermittent moments definitely treading foreign waters, for both the band and its devoted followers. The collaborative nature of Systems/Layers, as alluded to by its title, is paramount: from the fact these are pieces to be played with a theatre performance, to the fact that many longtime itinerant acquaintances amazing rock-related filmmaker Jem Cohen (do see "Amber City" before you die), increasingly intriguing songsmith-at-wail Shannon Wright, conceptual/architectural icon Toyo Ito have joined in on proceedings, to the fact that this disc is littered with samples submitted in response to an open call from Jason Noble for friends/fans of the band to become part of this project's tapestry. The disc comes with a list of all those whose sound is found making up the intricate layers of the album. In the midst of all this shape and shift, it's not always easy to go with the flow, y'know; but for those who're not too uptight, it is largely a voyage rewarding.