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This Heat: Out of Cold Storage

Innovation is an often curious thing. If not instantly recognized, it is routinely passed over and then, perhaps, someday, rediscovered. Such a tremulous fate seemed to lay in wait for the music of This Heat, a trajectory set right by ReR MEGACORP, This Heat and this beautifully executed box set. The rapid expansion of This Heat's musical vocabulary is evidenced across their first two steps: from the self-titled "blue and yellow" with its closed-circle structure to the more fully realized and always forward-pointing "Deceit", anyone paying attention will witness the transformation from artists practicing music to musicians practicing art. This is not meant to be semantic nonsense. It is meant as an example of the way in which original work has a way of transforming both the audience and the artist. On page 12 of the exhaustively detailed 44-page enclosed booklet, Charles Bullen frames the question simply enough by asking "How long can you keep saying to yourself and anyone else that you are a non-musician?"

As Bullen's question implies, you might begin outside the medium, completely free of the teaching. But in short enough time the dedication to your ideas will direct you to become a new kind of musician. Not the self-taught variety so much as driven by invention to ravage the pre-existing context. And rather than artificially eschewing "Music" ( in this sense, akin to Eno's early insistence on having a "dilettante" status where Music was concerned), the opposite occurs: the artist's work, effort and understanding fundamentally and profoundly expand the musical vocabulary. The change, once realized, shifts our comprehension as listeners, fills in all those wanting gaps of perception and literally forces our ideas about what we hear and how we hear it to grow.

The ideas that in fact began to so radicalize more popular forms of music in the 1970s were ideas -- or at least attitudes -- about the creative process, including our place in culture, society and the world, that had been breaking down traditional forms for most of the twentieth century. The matter was at once one of reacting against tradition by leaving recognized techniques behind and by incorporating the equally crucial effort to subvert the expectations and perceptions of both artist and audience. The revolution took longer to reach music than other forms simply because the music of the likes of This Heat became completely entangled in a new kind of process reliant on far more than a pencil, eraser and blank manuscript -- in this case, imagine sitting down to write a violin concerto prior to the invention of the violin. It would not, as had already been done and done again, be enough to cut and paste tape. Capturing and reassessing sound and its value as music; reinventing instrument roles; setting aside musicianship in favor of accident; inviting the studio to become an active participant rather than passive witness; relieving the artist of absolute responsibility for any given piece; all these and other issues became elements of the operating principles essential to generating new work. There are few better examples of this new work to be found than within the catalog assembled by This Heat.

Theory aside, this is an instance in which remastering actually serves the music as well as serving the sound, listening to the complete catalog is no less overwhelming today or tomorrow than when this work first appeared. And in reading their running conversation as published in the accompanying booklet, it almost hurts to realize that such remarkable work could only result from almost exhausting dedication, days of conflict and the group's singular talent for the self-imposed rigors of critical evaluation, and for the use and reuse of their own material. In willing sacrifice, these guys lived and breathed this stuff. After all, beautiful sound was and is all around us. But fewer still could ingest, transform and subsume the aural surround -- here comprised of the random and the organized, the mundane occurrence as well as the circulating currents of ideas -- as did This Heat. Fused to an uncompromising social and moral perspective, their aesthetic produced this music in a way that both defines the period and remains one of the few valid perspectives on mapping the chaos we invent simply by being.

Track listing
(blue + yellow)
1) Testcard
2) Horizontal Hold
3) Not Waving
4) Water
5) Twilight Furniture
6) 24 Track Loop
7) Diet of Worms
8) Music like Escaping Gas
9) Rainforest
10) The Fall of Saigon
11) Testcard
1) Sleep
2) Paper Hats
3) Triumph
4) S.P.Q.R.
5) Cenotaph
6) Shrink Wrap
7) Radio Prague
8) Makeshift Swahili
9) Independence
10) A New Kind of Water
1) health and efficiency
2) graphic / varispeed (45rpm)
MADE AVAILABLE John Peel Sessions
1) Horizontal Hold
2) Not Waving
3) The Fall of Saigon
4) Rimp Romp Ramp
5) Makeshift
6) Sitting
7) Basement Boy
8) Blither
1) Repeat
2) Metal
3) Graphic / Varispeed
LIVE 80/81
1) Horizontal Hold
2) Paper Hats
3) S.P.Q.R.
4) Triumph
5) Aerial Photography
6) The Rough with the Smooth
7) Makeshift Swahili
8) Music like Escaping Gas
9) A New Kind of Water
10) Twilight Furniture
11) Health and Efficiency
NIVELLES (Limited Edition)
1) Nivelles

Added: July 30th 2006
Reviewer: Kerry Leimer
Related Link: ReR Megacorp
Hits: 4255
Language: english

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