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This Heat - Made Available - John Peel Sessions CD (album) cover


This Heat



4.04 | 32 ratings

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5 stars The John Peel sessions on this album were actually recorded In 1977, but only released 19 years later. In 1977, punk became big as a move against the establishment, whereas progressive rock was an established force showing signs of complacency, with some bands already moving themselves toward the commercial mainstream. Early progressive rock (for example, Zappa, Pink Floyd, the early Krauts, King Crimson, and even ELP, in some sense) itself had some punky edge to it that became gradually weaker over time and with larger commercial success. By 1977 truly some refreshment was needed.

What This Heat do on these sessions is properly punk (if you take the spirit not the execution) and properly progressive and experimental. "Rock" it is... at times. 1977 is in fact astonishingly early for a more edgy rebirth of music in the progressive/experimental/psychedelic tradition, and truly astonishing this album is.

What you don't find in punk and even rarely in progressive rock (to some extent it's in the more outlandish recordings of Can, Faust, or Pink Floyd) is the key role of experimental sound exploration with a nod to contemporary avantgarde music, but much rougher and grittier than what came out of the academic music context at the time; still regarding inventiveness it's up with the best. This is contrasted with some sharp rhythmic parts and even the odd song-like structure (you could call it pre-post-punk, predating other sophisticated musicians developing away from punk but in a punk spirit by several years), always at danger to be swallowed by chaos. Rock music survives, with a good number of interruptions, until the end of track 5, and for the last three (shorter) tracks we go to somewhere altogether unstructured and more adventurous, where the band uses a remarkable range of sounds - surely this is the opposite from an album that sounds the same from beginning to end (some more of Charles Hayward's work takes the same direction, starting off in a somewhat more civilised and familiar place and then ultimately going completely off rails).

Personally I'm fine with both their avantgarde rock and their more sound experimentation based side (be warned by the way about how outlandish even their "rock" side is), and both are presented here on a very high level. In fact these are two sessions, the first one featuring three tracks that are also on their debut album, the second one having one track overlap with "Deceit" but otherwise material that hasn't appeared anywhere else. I like those albums, too, but I find the recordings here more fresh and lively, with a healthy dose of improvisation. Nothing against the probably more elaborated studio versions, but there's more chemistry going on here. The generally fine recording quality surely helps. Some more words about the "chemistry"... this is not random noise and you hear clearly how the musicians know what there are doing and how they "click" together. Charles Hayward is a drummer in the first place. He has some virtuosity but also can do straight hypnotic stuff; actually for a drummer he is surprisingly often happy not to drum, which is because he apparently loves bringing in tapes and sound alchemy just as much. He has a quite unique voice that evokes the idea of a meditative distant commenter, if rather rarely used. Charles Bullen's guitar can be quite abrasive, and Gareth Williams can play mind boggling bass parts, but more often all three of them work together creating their sound jungles from tape loops and things that should probably not be called musical instruments (or instruments played in a way they were not meant to be played), sometimes supported by drone-like keyboards.

Over their lifetime This Heat were a critics' favourite but didn't sell much, and it is clear why. This is not music for everyone, if you have too strong preconceptions about how music should sound, you better beware. But to fans of experimental music with an edge, this is a timeless and groundbreaking document. Truly excellent, challenging stuff worth 5 stars without reservation. I also recommend this as entry point to the work of This Heat and later work particularly by Hayward (Camberwell Now and solo work).

Lewian | 5/5 |


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