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This Heat – This Heat / Health And Efficiency / Deceit

Light In The Attic

This Heat

This Heat - S/TThis Heat‘s self-titled 1979 début album is a document of three musicians finding their mojo in an abandoned meat locker. Although much of the LP was recorded elsewhere, it generally feels — for the most part — a very enclosed experience, as if (I like to think) you can hear the damp walls of those black’n’white promo-shots reverberating within the fibre of each track.

The brevity of “Testcard” bounces around, getting you scratching your head to whether your stereo is on the blink; then things open out spectacularly with the driven “Horizonal Hold”, one of the few tracks that feel airborne in a roulette wheel of choppy guitar-led commotions that excite and disorient. It’s all over the shop rhythmically — stop/start/loud/quiet — post-rocking its guts out until it’s led off by introverted washes of synth and things start to concertina in, hugging those four cold walls.

The shadow Ring-like shiver of “Water”, held in a tensile purse of purring tones before being released into the claustrophobic ocean of “Not Waving” (but drowning) – where a weathered Robert Wyatt-like voice clings to a persistent north-westerly. “H2O will freeze you to the marrow”, goes Charles Hayward as a sense of overwhelming bleakness prevails among the undulating waves and clinking metal, Hayward (or is it Gareth Williams?) adding, “Once in the water, it will love you… like no tomorrow…”, a fate complete with the fading last lines “There is no tomorrow”. Heavy vibes; and the chiming improvs of “Not Waving” pick up from inside an animation of maritime bells scattering in flaky rummages and honking discord.

It’s amazing how connected each track is as the tippy-tappy-ness of “Twilight Furniture” evens out the previous discord in flurry-footed percussions mixing in flinty sparks of guitar that react well with the resurfacing Kemper Norton-like vocals still more fragile and threadbare than when previously drowning out to sea. A dense, eerie atmosphere to get caught up in then, released into the austere and startlingly modern “24 Track Loop”, an excellent piece of pre-Aphex-fuckery that thrusts you forward in a blinding moment of clarity; minted at the backend of the Seventies, this is well out of sync with the times it was conceived in — and even today gleams with a viciously modern sheen.

Those walls close in for the next half of the album, the concentrated piercing tones on “Diet of Worms” that go all serial killer on “Music Like Escaping Gas”, whose close mic(ed) breathing and menacing choral canter get right under your skin, and the volatile textures of “Rainforest” that seem like a audio protest to logging. All this works up to the album’s only realised song, “Fall Of Saigon”. A magnificent precursor for the joy to be found on Deceit, its hypo-nickelling natures hooking you up on those chanting harmonics as that oily stomper of a guitar lumbers around it all like a semi-concussed boxer. That ever-present DIY gamelan ethnicity be-jangling through before the landscape is filled with vivid electrical revs. Marvellous stuff, and a dramatic sense somewhat marred by the final digital furlong of “Testcard” that succinctly tops and tails this début.

This Heat - Health And EfficiencyHealth And Efficiency

Now you might think you’d have this lot sussed by their previous endeavour; then the next release Health and Efficiency (1980) bedazzles with a hitherto unknown rockier aesthetic and you’re like – where did that come from? “Health And Efficiency” is a beautiful rosy-cheeked din about sunshine wiping away the introverted nature of This Heat with beaming optimism. A breathtaking cut which the second track “Graphic Varispeed” brushes against in complete contrast with a trippy slur of distended tonality in a minimalist pleasure of falling and climbing sinewaves that could be meditative or mediocre, depending on your mood.

Deceit

This Heat - DeceitLast but definitely not least in Light In the Attic‘s vinyl-only reissue schedule is This Heat’s 1981 LP Deceit. In opposition to its title, the album is anything but, a stunning testament to creative thought. A distinctly song-orientated experience fired in predatory leaps of critique: war and consumer blindness are all well-trodden themes, you might yawn; but penned here they buzz with a renewed vitality, paired with those gut-wrenching guitar agitations, percussive curves and a whole host of new realities mixing with an articulate shiny pin of vocals.

To think that the whole album starts on the deceptively gentle note of “Sleep”, Hayward’s singing remarkably rounded compared to the “Jesus’ blood will save me” yowl of yore, dutifully backed up by the other two band members choral(ing) away the melodics, the lyrics lifted from commercials to cleverly criticise the sleepwalking culture that embraces them.

“Paper Hats”, “Cenotaph” and “S.P.Q.R” (ooh, that Eyeless in Gaza spittle) all bleed with uniqueness — the Jenga jivers of “Triumph” the right side of tuneful, the particularly fine tribal fizz of “Shrink Wrap” bringing to mind Dome‘s Petri dish of word alchemy whilst the addictive backing makes a meal of your grey matter, and “Makeshift Swahili”‘s fierce cut-up verve – this is enormous fun even thirty-five odd years later.

Crank that dial round and give the double glazing the what for.

-Michael Rodham-Heaps-

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