Disco Inferno – In Debt

by Freq | 2017-05-11T14:02:23+00:000000002331201705 14:02

Rocket Girl
Disco InfernoOriginally released as a 7″, a 12″ and an LP, these tracks were then compiled as a CD back in 1992 and have since been out of print for a long long time. Is this a 25-year anniversary re-issue? If so, it is one of the most worthwhile that I have seen in an age. I am pretty sure that Vinita, head honcho of Rocket Girl Records, originally set up the gloriously hands-on independent label Ché Trading back in the early Nineties for the sole purpose of releasing these recordings by east London’s finest, Disco Inferno. This goes to show the kind of regard in which they were held, not just by the gang at Ché, but by a handful of folk who understood that what they were hearing was tantamount to a re-writing of the rules of independent

Disco Inferno came from East London in the late Eighties and formed a little later than fellow forward-thinking sonic mavericks Bark Psychosis. In fact, I seem to recall that at one point one of the members dipped from one band to the other — but whereas Bark Psychosis’ early work was more sprawling and atmospheric, there was a concision in Disco Inferno’s sound that was their own. Mention was made of Joy Division being an influence, but to be honest I struggle to hear that through the ripples of reverb that seem to pervade their sound. If anything, they are more in keeping and following a line of sonic mavericks that goes back to Eyeless In Gaza or the Wolfgang Press; bands that only sound like themselves. The sound can be dark and claustrophobic at times, but it is always alleviated by that shimmering, spectral guitar effect that sits as texture over the post-everything at the time rhythmic throb.

Although the main plaudits came for the post-In Debt sampler-based work, the material here still shows a real commitment to pushing music forward and not just accepting tropes of the day as the means by which to do it. The bass and drums tend to propel the songs; the drums are at some times fragile and at others more tribal and insistent; the bass can be murky or cavernous or rhythmic and resonant or gentle and lulling and allows for the textures that the guitar sprinkles across these rhythmic infusions.

Opener “Entertainment” finds guitar shards shimmering across the sturdy rhythm section; they glisten with echo and reverb like the constant rippling of wind on water. Forcing its way through all this are the offhand vocals, flat yet light. They don’t try too hard, yet somehow evoke a sense of frustrated ennui. “Arc In The Round”‘s guitars cling to the cavernous bass like snakes around creepers, and the continuous echo is one of their most fascinating ingredients. It is literally impossible to tell where one stroke of the strings starts and another ends. The vocals here are cracked and hoarse, and there is something slightly paranoid in the delivery — often the feelings evoked by the tracks on the compilation are frustrated intensity and at times disorientation.

The harsh reverb and blurred vocals on “Next In Line” are really unsettling. They ebb and then attack again with greater force and the listener finds themselves at a loss. As this is a collection of work from a particular period, rather than an album originally intended to be heard in this form, the styles can change quite dramatically. The pastoral gentleness of “Glancing Away”, with its warm, welcoming bass, the spindly guitar pawing and purring alongside the lovely use of space evokes a pure English tranquillity. This sits a little at odds with the paranoia of the following track “Fallen Down The Wire”, which is yearning yet paranoid; the drums shuffle and skip, the vocals are clipped and paranoid, the intensity in them rising as the song progresses and comes to an abrupt end. I think the band relish this effect though, pressing the listener to really stay alert.

The guitar echoes so much on “Emigre” that it sounds like a fairground ride, and shimmers like a heat haze on the dusty “Set Sail”, middle eight like cactus spikes, sharp and harsh.. They slash like knives on “Bleed Clean” as the offhand vocals exclaim “If your body is clean, then so is your conscience”. The words that you can make out are frustrated and angry at times. Bearing in mind  that these tracks were produced twenty-five years ago, there was a lot still to be anxious and frustrated by then, and rather like their east London brethren of ten years earlier, In Camera and Mass, the songs really exude that feeling.

That is not to say it is a gloomfest. The distorted acoustic and blurred vocals of “Hope To God” and the pastoral vibe that comes from a few of the tracks, the feeling that you are sat in a park watching a fountain playing in front of you, goes a good way to lifting the mood. In fact, the album ends with the cascading waterfall of shimmering guitar that is “Incentives” and by then the best part of an hour and a quarter has passed and you have heard a masterclass of what more people should have been producing in the shadows of grunge and Britpop.

Disco Inferno never really lived up to their promise, and sadly like Bark Psychosis were roundly ignored at the time. So, ignore them no more. Twenty-five years late is better then never, and I urge you to give this an opportunity to work its magic. Maybe the rest will be issued in due course, so over to Rocket Girl.

-Mr Olivetti-

Source URL: http://freq.org.uk/reviews/disco-inferno-in-debt/