Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Durutti Column - LC (1981)


For fans of: Bark Psychosis, Young Marble Giants, Harold Budd

The Durutti Column takes an electric guitar made for punk rock and turns it into something almost otherworldly. The attitude and filth are replaced with tranquility and precision. Along with the guitar to create these musical sketches are piano, drums, and electronics. This album is ethereal and simply beautiful, while it still has prominent drums and a rock kind of structure, it acts like an ambient album. I think it is really ahead of its time, foreshadowing and likely helping to influence the shoegaze and post-rock movements of the 90s. - Matthew Foster

"After some abortive collaborations, Reilly hooked up with a regular drummer, talented fellow Mancunian Bruce Mitchell, to create LC, Durutti's second full release. Self-produced by Reilly but bearing the unmistakable hints of his earlier work with Martin Hannett, LC, named after a bit of Italian graffiti, extends Reilly's lovely talents ever further, resulting in a new set of evocative, carefully played and performed excursions on electric guitar. Mitchell's crisp but never overly dominant drumming actually starts the record off via "Sketch for Dawn I," added to by a simply captivating low series of notes from Reilly that builds into a softly triumphant melodic surge, repeating a core motif again and again. His piano playing adds a perfect counterpart, while the final touch are his vocals -- low speak-singing that sounds utterly appropriate in context, mixed low and capturing the emotional flavor at play via delivery rather than lyrical content. As great as Return is, this is perhaps even better, signaling a full flowering of Reilly's talents throughout the album. Mitchell proves him time and again to be in perfect sync with Reilly, adding gentle brio and understated variation to the latter's compositions. Nowhere is this more apparent than on "The Missing Boy," the album's unquestioned highlight. Written in memory of Ian Curtis of Joy Division, on it Mitchell adds quick, sudden hits contrasting against the low, tense atmosphere of the song, while fragile piano notes and Reilly's own regret-tinged, yearning vocals complete the picture. For all the implicit melancholy in Durutti's work, there's a surprising amount of life and energy throughout -- "Jaqueline" is perhaps the standout, with a great central melody surrounded by the expected Reilly elaborations and additions in the breaks. As with the rest of Durutti's mid-'90s reissues, the expanded version of LC appears full to the brim with intriguing bonus tracks galore. The first three capture an abortive collaboration with another Manc drummer, funk performer Donald Johnson. A contribution to a holiday album, "One Christmas for Your Thoughts," finds Reilly back with drum machines, while the very first Reilly/Mitchell collaborations, "Danny" and "Enigma," round out this excellent release." - AMG

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Simon Finn - Pass the Distance (1970)


For fans of: Pearls Before Swine, Linda Perhacs, Current 93

This album is dark and psychedelic, with a progressiveness a bit akin to if Can were to try their hand with an acid folk album. It's all barely being held together with a great voice and melodies that wander left and right. Several of these songs show a great power that's somewhat unusual for music of this type, "Jerusalem" being the most notable. It's not the most cohesive album, but it's got some great highs and nicely combines the psychedelia of the decade before this with the progressiveness that was just becoming popular. It also seems to capture an existential longing that few artists are able to match. - Matthew Foster

"Simon Finn's Pass the Distance is a legendary acid folk recording from the psychedelic era. Originally issued on the Mushroom label in 1970, the LP was embroiled in legal hassles and withdrawn from circulation. David Tibet of Current 93 became obsessed with it upon hearing a bootleg copy in 1995, and along with Simon and the Canadian Jnana imprint, has reissued it on Durtro as a CD. Finn, a Canadian native, made the record in 1969 in Vic Keary's Chalk Farm Studios with some new jamming mates including David Toop and Paul Burwell!

Pass the Distance is not a drippy peace and love record. It is a nocturnal, nightmarish album full of extremes as well as aesthetically beautiful textures and subtleties. Finn was obsessed with Christian themes (both redemptive and apocalyptic), history, the environment, and strange, oblique love songs. The centerpiece is the epic "Jerusalem." With maniacally strummed acoustic guitars, a swirling church organ, hand drums, and a muddy bassline, Finn iterates the vision of Christ as he walked through the city and was crucified by the very people who praised his name, and he equates Christ with the 1960s counterculture ideals. The crux of the song is the terror and rage that Christ would feel were he to return and be crucified in the current millennium by those who profess his name. Finn begins softly, sadly, and soon begins ranting and screaming as the music gathers in intensity and menace until it becomes utterly frightening. It is followed by "Where's Your Master Gone," a song about Satan, articulated with Toop's electric guitar lilting in the backdrop with Burwell popping the accents with his tables. Finn croons sweetly and confusingly about the transformation and redemption of Satan. And so it goes -- whether Finn is singing about love found and lost, sex, new age revelation, or Gnostic Christianity; there is in his gentleness, a darker, more sinister edge, one that can set one's teeth to grinding or make one see things in the dark. But there is also great tenderness and vulnerability as well, as evidenced by "Patrice," or "What a Day." Taken as a whole, it is creepy and beautiful and poetic and crazy and utterly wonderful. It is a maverick recording from a time far wilder and more imaginative than our own. The CD contains the ten-track original album, an unreleased single, and two completely unreleased studio tracks -- one of which is a recording of the first song Finn ever wrote. It has extensive liner notes by Finn, Toop, Tibet, and Keary. Pass the Distance is available from either Finn's or the Durtro web sites. While Pass the Distance may not be for everyone, those who dare to step out on to this ledge will be immeasurably rewarded." - AMG