This Heat

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Made Available , 6/10
This Heat , 8/10
Deceit , 7/10
Repeat , 6/10
Camberwell Now: The Ghost Trade , 6.5/10
Charles Hayward: Survive The Gesture , 4/10
Charles Hayward: Skew Whiff , 5/10
Charles Hayward: Switch On War , 5/10
Charles Hayward: My Secret Alphabet , 4/10
Charles Hayward: Meridiem , 6/10
Circadian Rhythms: Internal Clock , 5/10
Hat Shoes: Differently Desperate (1991), 6/10

(Clicka qua per la versione Italiana)

This Heat, a keyboards-bass-guitar trio, coined a unique style that borrowed from progressive-rock, jazz-rock, electronic music, industrial music and, last but not least, German avant-rock of Can, Neu and Faust. Tape loops, overdubs, sound effects and noise abound on their first album and masterpiece, This Heat (1979). The austere and erudite approach to composition, and an impressive repertory of musical tricks, amounted to little less than a manual of new harmony. Abandoning the difficult rhythms and returning to the song format, Deceit (1981) popularized the idea in the era of synth-pop.

This Heat were formed in 1975 by percussionist Charles Hayward, a veteran of the Canterbury school of progressive-rock who had already played on Quiet Sun's Mainstream (1975), guitarist Charles Bullen and keyboardist Gareth Williams (tastiere, basso, chitarra). The trio diverged from the ruling rock and jazz aesthetic in that it focused on studio sound, not live sound. Tapes, sound effects and production tricks were part of the arsenal of instruments. The cerebral way in which songs were deconstructed evoked German bands such as Can, Faust and Neu. This Heat were technically members of the "new wave" generation, but morally they represented the liaison between Canterbury and industrial music.

Hayward and Bullen had already started in 1974 the project Dolphin Logic. This Heat was born when Williams joined them. Wiliams brought a cosmopolitan sensibility to Hayward's passion for electronic music and Bullen's almost classical composure. Made Available (These Records, 1997 - ReR, 2007) is the 1977 John Peel sessions. During 1978 and 1979 the trio performed at several venues, generally supporting political causes or accompanying multimedia events.

The trio's first official album, This Heat (Piano, 1979), recorded between february 1976 and august 1978, was the manifesto of an austere art of making music out of electronic, looped, overdubbed and atonal sounds. The eleven pieces toyed with an innovative mixture of progressive-rock, free jazz, musique concrete, aleatory music and industrial music. Horizontal Hold is a disjointed, irrational collage: first it erupts with syncopated drumming, then the focus shifts to an intense strumming in the style of Glenn Branca's guitar symphonies, then suddenly it turns into jazzy group jamming and finally it plunges into an orgy of organ noises. The human voice (and not a pleasant one) surfaces in Not Waving, which is basically a slow-motion version of Art Bears' chamber lied, accompanied by loud trombone-like and organ-like drones. Unlike the previous one, this piece maintains a strong degree of unity and identity. Twilight Furniture, sung in the same highbrow tone, is even less musical, being accompanied merely by aggressive percussion and sparse guitar notes.
Exotic percussion and distorted instruments duet in Water.
The trio enters the realm of pure electronic music with 24 Track Loop, a tense volley of abrasive android sounds, organized in geometric, metronomic patterns, and with Diet Of Worms, the equivalent in dissonant drones of a Bach sonata. The latter extends into the nightmare of Music Like Escaping Gas, where voices are mixed to decompose with whirling electronic noise. After the three-minute percussive orgy of Rain Forest, the album reaches its zenith with Fall Of Saigon, suspenseful, martial and hypnotic mantra for Tibetan-like chanting and percussion, devastated by mad glissandoes. Finally, the music reveals a soul, despite maintaining its enigmatic quality.
The whole experiment was conducted in a ghastly atmosphere, one that wed Cage's dadaism and the darkest elements of expressionism.

The gothic approach of the band's debut is nowhere to be found on their EP Health and Efficiency (1981), a supersonic assembly-line dance, or on their second album, Deceit (Rough Trade, 1981), in which angular rhythms, "found" sounds, and austere melodies are stuck together in the style of synth-pop. From the melodic tribalism of Sleep and Shrink Wrap to the chaotic hymnody of Triumph, from the choral elegy of SPQR to the lengthy A New Kind Of Water, the same chanting tone persists throughout the album, proceeding in the manner of a Hare Krishna spiritual with militant lyrics.

Williams left for India (where he would become a writer) and Bullen devoted himself to electronic music.

Hayward formed another trio, Camberwell Now, that released two EPs, Meridian (Duplicate, 1983) and Greenfingers (1986) and an album, The Ghost Trade (1985), all of them later compiled on All's Well (Rec Rec, 1992 - ReR, 2007). Meridian was a rather heterogeneous collection ranging from Cutty Sark, a lunatic folk tune reminiscent of Kevin Ayers, to the dreamy vocals floating in an electronic nebula of Pearl Divers to the festive jazzy singalong Spirit Of Dunkirk. The CD reissue includes an eight-minute reminx of Splash titled Resplash (1984).
The Ghost Trade is not a cohesive album as much as a collection of experiments. The robotik instrumental passages of the eight-minute pseudo-lied Working Nights, embued with punk fervor and industrial anxiety, betrayed the German influence. The mutating rhythm of Sitcom supports a melody that migrates from a mediocre male voice to an angelic female voice, both trapped into an electronic maze. The Tibetan-inspired chanting of Wheat Futures is surrounded and eventually overrun by bagpipe-like electronic drones and gentle guitar strumming. Speculative Fiction is Hayward's idea of synth-pop: a male-female dialogue set to a polirhythmic disco beat. The eleven-minute The Ghost Trade is a hypnotic charade of vocal harmonies, sloppy crooning, steady drumming and Robert Wyatt-esque arrangements, with a lengthy coda of electro-acoustic chamber music for percussion and electronics.
Greenfingers presented more streamlined and better structured material, and even a tender pop ballad (Know How). Greenfingers layered Canterbury-style vocals, exotic instruments robotik drumming and ominous electronic drone.

Then Hayward embarked on a long musical journey through the tragic songs and atmospheric instrumentals of Survive The Gesture (Ink, 1987), the avantgarde music of Thames Water Authority, published on Skew Whiff (SubRosa, 1989), the wildly noisy live electronic music of Switch On War (SubRosa, 1991), and the timid ballads of My Secret Alphabet (SubRosa, 1993).

Meanwhile, Hayward had founded the Hat Shoes, a quartet with guitarist Bill Gilonis and vocalist Catherine Jauniaux of Work and cellist Tom Cora that debuted with Differently Desperate (1991). The expressionist bent is visible in Dolores, that pits a drunk Eastern European accompaniment against the frantic theatrical recitation of the female singer. Jauniaux's acrobatic and multilinguistic vocals also dominate The Woman of Chemovitzy, that sounds like a church requiem exploding into hard-rock, the surreal Love Conversation for voice and noises (no rhythm and no instruments), the childish rigmarole Tom-ta-kati-e-ta-cote, bordering on Meredith Monk's art, the syncopated gypsy dance Differently Desperate, and Skinny Moon, a comic deconstruction of Sixties ye-ye girl music. It is unfortunate that the music is so fragmented. So many great ideas remain in what appears to be an unfinished form. But then maybe that was precisely the point. The group is vastly less successful when it tried its hand at conventional rock music, although a joyful rhythm propels Birdless and a pompous melody lifts the one rocking song, Battre des Paupieres. Ten years later they released a follow up, Home (2001).

Finally, Hayward emerged as a solo and group improviser with the live trilogy Escape From Europa (Locus Solus, 1996), Double Agent (Locus Solus, 1996), Near + Far (Locus Solus, 1997). Hayward's collaborations with avantgarde musicians paid off with Meridiem (MaSo, 1998), co-authored with vocalist Percy Howard, guitarist Fred Frith and bassist Bill Laswell.

This Heat rarities surfaced on Repeat (These Records, 1993), especially the 20-minute abstract soundscape Repeat and the concrete symphony Metal.

Upon returning from India, Gareth Williams recorded the cassette Flaming Tunes (ReR, 1985) with Mary Currie that contains odd experiments ranging from the music-box loop of Another Flaming Tune to the Kevin Ayers-esque psychewdelic vaudeville skit of Beguiling the Hours, from the exotic instrumental dance of A To B to the pop-dub ballad of Breast Stroke, from the field recordings of Raindrops from Heaven to the grotesque hare-krishna lullaby of Golden Age, from the eerie electroacoustic vignette of It's Madness to the gentle meditation of Generous Moon.

Charles Bullen, the most studio prone of the three, languished away from the studio for most of the 1980s. Fourteen years elapsed between his first non-This Heat recording, Lifetones' For A Reason (Tone Of Life, 1983), and Internal Clock (Language, 1997), the debut album of his live electonica ensemble, Circadian Rhythms. For A Reason (Tone Of Life, 1983) is an album of world-music with political overtones. The robotic chant of For A Reason swings between dub, disco and pop. The instrumental Decide is a cute novelty of repetitive minimalism and summery reggae. Travelling is an instrumental Middle-eastern dance with woodwinds and percussion. Distance No Object is another exotica novelty, propelled by a melodica melody over a clownish marching Indian-reggae beat. All of these works are mediocre at best.

In the meantime, This Heat went from being the most underrated band of the new wave to being one of the most quoted bands of the 1990s.

Out Of Cold Storage (ReR, 2006) is a six-cd box-set.

Gareth Williams died in 2001.

The live Mathilde 253 (Slam, 2011) documents a quartet with drummer Charles Hayward, guitarist Han-Earl Park, trumpetist Ian Smith and Lol Coxhill.

In 2009 Hot Chip's Alexis Taylor (on vocals, electric piano, bass, synthesizer and electric guitar), This Heat's drummer Charles Hayward, Spring Heel Jack's John Coxon and keyboardist Pat Thomas formed About Group and recorded the improvised About (july 2009) and Start And Complete (2011), entirely composed by Taylor.

Charles Hayward sang and played a lot of instruments on his solo album One Big Atom (2011).

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