CHRIS WALLA; "Field Manual" (Barsuk) ***

Chris Walla's new album "Field Manual" is a multidimensional snapshot of what the Death Cab for Cutie guitarist is all about.

Each of the 12 tracks on "Field Manual" is Walla's declaration of independence from his band; however, fans will find similarities in some styles. And others will write this off as more or less a B-sides compilation.

In taking a closer listen, however, fans will find some comfort in that Walla does find his stride with "Our Plans, Collapsing," "Everybody On" and "A Bird Is a Song."

From chill-like programming on the opening track, "Two Fifty," and a quick shift in friction-chord guitars on the second track, "The Score," it is evident that Walla has stockpiled some of these songs.

Although it is refreshing to hear different approaches to music, there are times when the style switch is a bit too jarring.

However, taken as a whole, "Field Manual" is like reading Walla's journal. One day he's happy. The next day he's sad. And the next he's frustrated. Furthermore, the emotions don't just come through in the lyrics but also in the arrangements.

While Walla is a great producer himself, he did recruit the help of Midnight Oil producer Warne Livesay to reel in the songs from spinning out of control.

If this album had been recorded and released by some one on the big labels, it would have been a marketing nightmare. But since Walla can ride a bit on the Death Cab for Cutie independent image, this album works.

E-mail: [email protected]