Monday, December 17, 2007

Bark Psychosis, HEX

Caroline, 1994; available

7 tracks, 51:20

Listening to HEX, it's still hard to believe Bark Psychosis started out as a Napalm Death cover band. Heavily indebted to late-period Talk Talk (whose excellent SPIRIT OF EDEN and LAUGHING STOCK LPs will be reviewed here in a special twofer), yet still sounding completely unique, HEX is a million miles away from their grindcore roots. The band at this point consisted of mastermind/vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Graham Sutton, multi-keyboardist Daniel Gish (formerly of Disco Inferno), percussionist Mark Simnett, and multi-instrumentalist John Ling. The cover sticker says "Shh... definitely laidback and beautiful", which is pretty accurate. After all, this is the band that the term "post-rock" was coined to describe. HEX would be almost impossible to perform live with a four-person lineup, but that's a major selling point. Everything on here sounds amazing, from the just-on-the-verge-of-noisy-but-in-a-pretty-way guitars to the dreamy synth/organ textures to the surprisingly funky drumming. It is definitely best when listened to the whole way through in one sitting, but there are highlights. For example, "A Street Scene", the album's logical single, features a suitably swinging drum pattern and a dreamy ambient mix of chiming synth and lush guitar; the noisier chorus only makes the song more appealing. "Fingerspit" is another winner, with its gorgeously morose sound and what sounds like brushes used on the drums. The lyrics on "Fingerspit", while undeniably the bleakest on the album, are absolutely compelling and beautifully sung by Sutton. The absolute highlight, however, is reserved for last, and comes in the form of the stunning almost-ten minute "Pendulum Man". Beginning with an appropriately metronomic guitar pattern, the song evolves into a dreamy ambient swell, conjuring that feeling when you find yourself sitting on the beach watching the sun rise after being up all night. It doesn't get tedious, due to its constantly shifting structure and the sheer beauty that radiates from every element. Despite the calming effect of HEX, recording it took a toll on the band, who effectively split up during its recording. Ten years later, Sutton returned with a new Bark Psychosis (featuring two ex-members of Talk Talk) and a surprisingly great album, CODENAME:DUSTSUCKER. Still, HEX is the masterpiece which Bark Psychosis will be remembered for, and it stands the test of time as a fresh and engaging listen.

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