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Blim: ZeroNo Frills
Doesn't it make you feel old to realise that 1993 was twenty years ago and not the twenty minutes it feels? More amazingly however is how fresh some of the music that was created back then still sounds and how so much of it never received the recognition it deserved, the two excellent Space Rock/Prog cassettes (remember them?) from the band Blim being a case in point. Zero saw the light of day in '92, with No Frills appearing a year later and while neither album moved beyond independent cassette status this beautifully packaged digi gatefold 2 CD anniversary reissue, not only looks great with both cassette covers reproduced on the front and back, but sounds fantastic, the clarity and sharpness of all the instruments being shockingly good.
But who were Blim and why do they have a name that sounds like a sink cleaner? Well the latter answer I'm really not sure on, however the band were made up of Andy Read on guitars, Ben BJ Gardiner bass, Neil Spragg drums, Phil Cook sax, Nigel Pugh flute and keys and Tony Child "wibbles" tapes, FX and samples and they made quite an impact on the live scene in the UK between 1991 and 1994. From the description Space Rock/Prog, you'd expect Zero to be a laid back album but actually the opposite is true with a surprising amount of energy infusing some beautifully realised synth melodies and fiery guitar. "Derangement" however begins things in a more languid style, intricate guitar flurries working off sax breaks and synths, as the drums sit neatly behind keeping things busy, yet controlled. However as you work your way through "Prawnwarp", "Synchromesh" and "Little One" what strikes is not only the odd song titles, but the sheer diversity within each composition on this album. Aggressioned, controlled, frenetic, introspective outlandishness tumbles out of the speakers, altering focus from one minute to the next, yet joyously managing to whisk you along on the ride as it does so. The impact is immediate, yet the effect builds over time.
Three bonus tracks accompany Zero, with "Country & Eastern" being some sort of bizarre space hoe-down, "Spanish Song" punkily living up to its name – kind of, while "The Disconcerting Riff" is a strange off kilter meander. None of the three come up to the recording standard of the main album, but they still make for interesting additions.
So twelve months down the line and No Frills appeared with a strangely similar yet dissimilar approach. Gone were the sax of Cook and flute of Pugh, as well as the bass of Gardiner, with Robert Illesh (Aquaplanage) replacing the latter while adding mandolin and keyboards. Gone also was the within song eclecticism and wildly frenetic attack of some of Zero. The range of ideas contained inside each individual offering being reined in, although from song to song the scattergun approach remained pleasingly evident. It all made for a more coherent album, albeit it with slightly more controlled fire in its belly. However good though Zero is (and it is), No Frills trumps it considerably by being a more potent and hard hitting beast. The bass sound from Illesh is immense and becomes a real feature across "The Noup", the positively thumping "Vector" and the surprisingly potent take on the "Starsky & Hutch Theme", here rearranged (hugely as the song disintegrates into a spaced out trip) into "Sparsely & Much"! However you could dip into the strangely voiced (one of the few vocal tracks on either album) swirl of "Wet Potato", the beautiful wash of "Beejayone" or hypnotic "Junk" and be equally taken by what you discover.
Again we have bonus tracks, this time four, "The Eagle", "Isis Hatstand", the wonderfully titled "Fumanchumanflu" and "The Eagle (Exit)", with all four being fine examples of what Blim were about and this time the recording standards are also top notch.
To seek comparisons isn't easy, but a less complacent Ozric Tentacles wouldn't be a million miles out of place, the spectre of Hawkwind hangs over a couple of songs, while early Porcupine Tree is reminded of during stiff upper lipped narration on certain songs referring bizarre mind bending experiments. Although considering Blim were doing this at the same time as PT were, would suggest that calling them an "influence" would be inaccurate. However one thing is for sure, Blim should have made a far, far greater impact than they did and while this excellent reissue ably demonstrates that fact, it does leave questions of what might have been.....
Lovers of instrumental Space Rock and Psychedelic Prog really should seek this out. You won't be disappointed.
3. There's A Hole In My Toe
7. Hoffman Bike Pump
8. Little One
9. Big One
12. Country & Eastern
13. Spanish Song
14. The Disconcerting Riff
2. The Noup
6. Sparsely & Much
10. Wet Potato
12. The Fly
13. The Eagle
14. Isis Hatstand
16 The Eagle (Exit)
Added: September 21st 2013
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Blim Online
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