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


This Heat



4.07 | 30 ratings

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4 stars Like many an aspiring unknown band before them, This Heat recorded sessions for the John Peel show some time before their first record release. The sessions did not run completely smoothly - their use of tapes, especially snippets of short wave radio, raised a few eyebrows - but the results were excellent. Just over half of the disc contains versions of tracks that would subsequently be released on studio albums, and the remainder is (officially) unavailable in any form anywhere else.

The first session consisted of tracks that would appear on their debut album, parts of which had already been recorded. All of them are longer than the album versions, although otherwise they're pretty much fully formed, and it's gripping, intense stuff. It begins (like the debut album) with the mighty Horizontal Hold. A brief electronic drone is followed by a thunderous riff and then the piece unfolds much as it does on the debut, only here it has more of a raw, urgent quality. Charles Bullen in particular plays an extended solo that has a tense interplay with Hayward's drumming, while Gareth Williams wrenches a truly bizarre random solo from his keyboard. Not Waving slows the pace down somewhat, with Bullen's clarinet part rather more prominent than on the album version and Hayward's vocal recalling Robert Wyatt. The Fall of Saigon closes session #1, and it's another piledriver of a song underpinned by Hayward's muscular but precise drumming. Bullen turns in another fret melting solo and the group's massed voices make it sound like Canterbury vocalists backed by a tight Krautrock rhythm section.

The second session, recorded just over 6 months later, is something of a contrast with the first. Rather than play established parts of their live set and the album they were recording, This Heat presented a selection of improvisations and work in progress. If anything it's the better of the two sessions in that it showed another side of This Heat. The albums were the result of months or years of painstaking work in their own studio, and the attention to detail shows. This session gives an insight into their working processes and showcases their almost telepathic interplay, something which few other rock bands achieved. Rimp Romp Ramp starts as a guitar/bass/drums trio, and it sounds like parts of it later found their way into Health and Efficiency. Elsewhere there are a few bars of 3 chord thrash and even what sounds like a small quote from King Crimson's Fracture, before it all fades into a low key sound collage. This segues almost imperceptibly into the next track, which opens with some proto industrial noise before, at about 1:30, an early version of Makeshift Swahili emerges. The lyrics and main riff are already in place, but the arrangement would have evolved considerably by the time it was released on Deceit. The final 3 tracks are all just over 2 minutes long and continue with the improvised (or semi improvised) feel of Rimp Romp Ramp. As well as the Faust influence that is present throughout their work, there is something of Henry Cow's studio improvisations in these pieces, particularly side 2 of Unrest.

Made Available is an equally good album for established fans and newcomers. The versions of material released elsewhere are sufficiently different to be worth owning in their own right, while the otherwise unreleased pieces are well up to This Heat's abnormally high standards. Newcomers get a good introduction to the band which doesn't contain any superfluous material. Obviously it's not as coherent as the main studio albums, but it's still a remarkably powerful offering from one of the most important bands of the last 30 years. Recommended.

Syzygy | 4/5 |


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