(Emerald and Doreen)
It’s amazing sometimes things just don’t connect in my head. Back in 1999, I purchased the first Skywave CD (Echodrone) from Parasol Records mail order based purely on their description of the music. I loved it! It was a lot of dark noise that hinted at early Jesus and Mary Chain, but was somehow even more jagged without losing their strong sense of song structure and melody. My love of pure noise was waning a touch by this age (there was a time in my late teens and twenties when feedback and dissonance were a massive part of my lexicon), but I still appreciated their music. When another collection showed up via Parasol a few years later, I zapped that CD up as well (2004’s Synthstatic). To be honest, it’s been quite some time since I’ve listened to either offering. Several years later, when my pal Ox and I were running our own music mail order website (Entangled Records – see here), we discovered the noise band A Place to Bury Strangers, which reminded both of us of Skywave and then via various labels and distributors found ourselves listening to and stocking records and CDs by Alcian Blue, Screen Vinyl Image and Ceremony, among others mining this kind of sound. I like all of them (especially the split 12” I have of Ceremony and Screen Vinyl Image and, of course, all three of the APTBS albums), but for some reason never really sought out all of these bands with the same fervor that I often do when encountering new music I love. Maybe it’s simply because of my age and the dwindling number of hours in a day when I enjoy LOUD and harsh sounding music. But what I find so mysterious is that I never realized or fully put together that the old band Skywave, who have become mythic In certain circles, went on to become A Place to Bury Strangers (Oliver Ackermann) and Ceremony (John Fedowitz and at some point Paul Baker). How did I not realize this? At any rate, I know it now, and must pay more attention, because Ceremony’s latest digital EP, Birds, is excellent!
This new collection from Fedowitz (hot on the heels of 2013’s Distance), who seems to create all of this racket on his own, begins with the title track “Birds,” which is a basic pop song wrapped in his trademark on the verge of madness guitar noise. The beat and flow of the song mildly hint at Ride’s excellent 1992 “Twisterella,” but the low fidelity swirling guitar feedback instead sounds like sparks and broken glass. When done with this kind of skill and deft touch, this kind of music is hard to beat. The song satisfies all needs for volume, excitement and a hummable melody. I hate to pull at another Ride reference, but the astounding “Until Forever” has the same kind of overdriven, breathtaking energy, and opening as their early “Like A Daydream” single. Fedowitz’s melancholy vocals give the onrushing wall of guitars an added tension. Definitely one of the songs of the year! Another standout is the blistering “Let Me In,” which threatens to break apart after he quietly intones the repeated chorus (“just let me in”), but check out that tuneful mid range bass-line roaming underneath all of the feedback that reminds a little of Will Sargeant’s (Echo and the Bunnymen) guitar lick for “Lips Like Sugar.” The remaining two songs, the echo laden and defeated sounding “It’s Not You,” and the scratchy closing “Deep Breath,” are also excellent songs not to be missed.
It could be that the EP format is the perfect setting for this kind of music. A full album might be too much for an old guy like me. Whatever the case, I need to pull out and listen to that split 12” LP, those old Skywave CDs, and track down all three Ceremony albums, because I’ve been missing out. This is the shit.