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The Church - El Momento Descuidado CD (album) cover


The Church


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2.62 | 15 ratings

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2 stars "el momento descuidado" is Spanish for "The Unguarded Moment," the opening track of this "unplugged" album containing both already released material and new songs (all in English.). In this case, "unguarded" is a particularly appropriate term, given that The Church is known for its heavily textured, sound effects-laden, studio-driven arrangements. Here, the band strips its material down to the very barest essentials: two gorgeously recorded, masterfully played acoustic guitars, a subtle bass, and minimalist drums. The effect is both unnerving and revelatory. "Unnerving" because those who are familiar with the band's more recent material are used to the jangly, Byrds-like complementary electric guitars of Marty Willson-Piper and Peter Koppes, the heavy, often McCartney-esque bass figures of Steve Kilbey, and the subtle powerhouse drumming of Tim Powles (as well as the occasional heavily textured, sometimes "symphonic" keyboards of Koppes). "Revelatory" because, without all of the quasi-orchestral "layering," the songs literally "reveal" themselves in their purest, most "direct" forms.

Indeed, anyone who can listen to the equally minimalist versions of "The Unguarded Moment" (from the band's debut album, "Of Skins and Heart") and "Sealine" (from "Forget Yourself," their most recent album, over 20 years later) and not get goose bumps is probably over-medicated. Stopping along the timeline to re-interpret songs from both their pre-progressive and progressive periods, one hears the almost childish simplicity of "The Unguarded Moment" and "Almost With You" (from their second album, "The Blurred Crusade") juxtaposed against the nuanced complexity of "Chromium" (from "After Everything Now This") and "Sealine," and cannot help coming away with a profound understanding of the internal progression of the band's music. Even their hit, "Under the Milky Way," done at almost half-speed, is transformed into something ultra-simple yet unexpectedly compelling.

Most of the new material is quite good and, if they decide to use some of this material on future albums, it will be interesting to see how the process works in reverse: i.e., taking the most basic, "nude" version of the song and adding the various layers of instrumentation, texture and effects. Of particular interest would be "November," a quasi-dissonant, almost paranoiac ballad; the fabulous, absolutely pregnant-with- possibility "All I Know," and even the tongue-in-cheek country/Dylan-esque "Till the Cows Come Home."

One of the most wonderful aspects of the album is that, in stripping away all the layers and effects, one can hear Kilbey's lyrics more clearly, and (for those who do not already know it) come to realize just how brilliant a "rock poet" Kilbey is. Indeed, for my money, only Dylan, Morrison, Mitchell and maybe one or two others are as good or better.

The album is also recorded beautifully, with everything in perfect sonic proportion, and as "clean" as it is possible to be in a recording studio.

Although I have rated this album only two stars, I do so only because it "fits" best in that category (for collectors). However, if you are already familiar with The Church's music, and perhaps even a fan, this is a remarkable album, and well worth having.

maani | 2/5 |


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