Posts Tagged ‘Demos’

Demo Records / Crossness Records – 30th April 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

While I’m no fan of remix albums as a rule, the last year or so has clearly made it difficult for artists to create new material, and since touring’s been off the table, options for maintaining profiles – or making sales – have be limited to say the least. And with time to reflect and review, revisiting and revising previous output through fresh eyes seems more than reasonable.

It’s also refreshing to see ‘Could Divine, Remembered’, the release from anrimeal (the recording project of Ana Rita de Melo Alves), described not as a remix album, but a ‘meditative companion piece to her debut album ‘Could Divine’’. As the blurbage explains, ‘‘Could Divine, Remembered’ refuses the limits of the traditional ‘remix album’ – sure, there are remixes here, but amongst them you’ll find demos, reflections, confessions, rituals, and the artist’s own heartbeat. The sum of these parts is an immersive audio documentary about the making of Ana’s debut. For those familiar with ‘Could Divine’, this is a chance to look behind the scenes and magnify its meticulous detail; for those unfamiliar, it allows a first visit to an abundant internal world.’

I fall into the latter camp, although drawing lines across between the tracks on this new reworking and the original proves an informative exercise, and the reworked titles provide some insight into the inspirations or ideas behind these alternative renditions of each song (notably ‘Encaustic Witches’ returns here as ‘Encaustic Witches as an Ambient Track to Help Me Sleep’ and ‘Headrest’ appears as ‘Headrest, A Story About Feeling’. Elsewhere, explanatory or embellishing details appear, as ‘Death’ becomes ‘Death is a Burning Ritual’.

“When I think of nature, nothing happens,” she says at the very start of the album on ‘Hello and a Half’: it’s quite a contrast to the twitter of birdsong and lo-fi acoustic guitar that heralds the arrival of ‘Marching Parades’, the opener on ‘Could Divine’, and immediately we’re parachuted into the documentary aspect of this fascinatingly multi-fascinated work, which lays Ana’s workings out bare. Cars pass as the speech takes on an almost spoken word narrative form – but even that’s not straightforward as delays double-up her voice and as she explains how the album is about her ‘going into the wild’, it seems that some of that wild is more psychological than literal, an exploration of internal territories hitherto uncharted. At times, it ventures into the kind of disorientating cut-up tape works of William Burroughs and Brion Gysin in the late 50s and early 60s, and elsewhere, her monotone voice, against a sift, dappled backdrop is soporific and sedative.

This is an album of ideas and of origins, of snippets and sketches, as well as of reworkings and revisions. It’s bitty, but somehow hangs together remarkably well as an insight into Ana’s creative process. At the same time, in straddling the before and after that sit either side of Could Divine, it questions the notion of the ‘end product’, the idea that there is ever a ‘finished article’.

The demo of ‘Could Flower’ reveals the early shoots of the idea that would become the album’s title track. It’s a haunting acoustic folk piece, which would subsequently metamorphosise into a fragmentary, multi-segmented work that transitions as if through a dream sequence. There’s an ethereal, evasive quality to Could Divine, Remembered, and it places the album in a realm all of its own.

As an aside, all profits from the release will be donated to Plataforma de Apoio aos Refugiados, a Portuguese refugee support organisation. In bleak times, we once again see art being used as a conduit for good – and this, it has to be said, is good art.

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Cleopatra Records – 9th December 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Why? Why, Al, Why? I ask as a huge ministry fan, and also as someone who has a lot of respect and admiration for what Cleopatra Records do. I practically wore the magnetism off my copy of Christian Death’s Decomposition of Violets album in my teens. I’m not averse to dredging through the archives and giving long hours to the appreciation of murky live recordings from the early 80s, either: my copy of The Cure’s Concert and Curiosity was played until it stretched, and the number of Sisters of Mercy bootlegs, many of quite dubious quality, that I played to death and still own is testament to my obsessive bent and borderline insanity.

This release is undoubtedly of historical interest. But given Al Jourgensen’s (rightful) disavowal of the early Ministry releases, this feels like a shameful barrel-scraping exercise. It’s pretty much unanimously accepted as fact that Ministry only started to become worthwhile with Twitch.

The first four tracks which occupy side one of the double album were recorded live in Detroit in 1982. With some reedy lead synths, dry bass synths and chorused guitars, they sound like A Flock of Seagulls. Only not as polished. With a shouty, punk vocal and drum style, it’s a pretty ragged affair, the sneering, snarling Johnny Rotten style vocals echo into the abyss while the synths are almost buried at times. Even overlooking the mix – the recording quality isn’t that bad – it still all sounds pretty naff – although the material is, on balance, better than anything on With Sympathy. In context, it makes sense: Jourgensen penned much of the material which went onto Twitch and was already working on edgier sounding material before the release of With Sympathy in 1983, but the record label weren’t interested. Still, ‘Love Change’ sounds like The Human League covering ‘Funky Down’. Edgy it isn’t.

The ’82 and ’83 demos are unadulterated synthpop tunes and are very much of their era. ‘Game is Over’ casts some shades of grey with hints of Killing Joke and The Cure, but then, it’s perhaps easy to forget that the tone of much commercial rock and pop was darker than we’re accustomed to now: even acts like Howard Jones and Mr Mister had a certain dark streak to their music and lyrics. Ah, different times. ‘Let’s Be Happy’ is a bouncy goth disco track. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with it, but it’s still difficult to reconcile with the band Ministry would subsequently become, and the less said about ‘Wait’ the better.

‘I See Red’ sounds more like Twitch: built around a thumping EBM groove, heavy electro percussion and processed vocals. Likewise, the heavily percussive, bass-driven ‘Self-Annoyed’ represents the sound of Wax Trax! in the mid to late 80s, and is immediately more recognisable as Ministry/related.

And while this is billed as a Ministry release, the myriad offshoots and side projects have produced some corking tunes through the years, so to find some of them represented here is actually a cause for celebration. That said, it’s not hard to appreciate why the unreleased Revolting Cocks cut, ‘Fish in Cold Water, failed to see the light of day before now. It may pack the sleazy disco grind of their Bigsexyland era material, but comes on like a mad mash-up of Talking Heads, U2, Bowie, and Harold Faltermeyer. ‘Drums Along the Carbide’ is way better. But then, you already know it, as a different version featured on the debut album under the title ‘Union Carbide’. Still calling to mind the attack of ‘Beers, Steers and Queers’, the battering-ram drums and scraping feedback providing a welcome cranial cleanse.

Dub versions of ‘Supernaut’ (released as 1,000 Homo DJs) and the Pailhead track ‘Don’t Stand in Line’ feel like too much filler however awesomely full-on the drum sound is, and the ‘banned version’ of ‘(Let’s Get) Physical’ doesn’t sound any different, and it would take a fair bit of time with an ear twisted to the vocals to determine any differences or the reason why it was banned.

The PTP track, ‘Show Me Your Spine’ is disappointing: it’s got a good beat, but isn’t a patch on the monotone psychopathic technoid groove of ‘Rubber Glove Seduction’, and again, it’s apparent as to why it failed to make an official release at the time.

In all, it’s rather a mixed bag. The majority of the material has curiosity value, but this is very much one for the fans. Even then, I’d recommend sticking to the albums released during the band’s lifetime, including those of the various side-projects.

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