Wednesday, February 02, 2005

barging into the presence of pale saints

Ethereal pop band the Pale Saints formed in Leeds, England, in 1987. Ian Masters (bass/vocals), Chris Cooper (drums), and Graeme Naysmith (guitar) were signed by Ivo Watts-Russell to his 4AD label on the strength of their first London appearance. The three-song Barging Into the Presence of God was released two years later, receiving praise for it's lead track, the melancholy "Sight of You" (which was later covered by Oxford's Ride for a radio session). In 1990, the debut LP The Comforts of Madness appeared in the bins, produced separately by Gil Norton (Echo & the Bunnymen, Pixies) and John Fryer (Cocteau Twins, Depeche Mode). Categorized within the current shoegaze scene with My Bloody Valentine and Lush, the billowy Comforts of Madness had just about all the features of the sub-genre, as well as a bizarre experimental bent. Masters' boyish vocals also stood out, not needing any production treatments to carry a wispy, levitational quality.

A handy compilation of the band's earliest EPs, Mrs. Dolphin was a Japanese-only release that swiftly became a new point of obsession among the band's fans when it first came out, leading the group themselves to ask that folks not re-buy material for only a bonus song or two. That said, the unfamiliar songs that did surface were quite enjoyable -- "Colours and Shapes," if one of the more conventional compositions from the band, still has a nicely hyperactive drum shuffle on the verses and a fine Ian Masters lead vocal. "A Deeper Sleep for Steven," an alternate take of the Comforts of Madness track, isn't radically different, but has a little less echo and still makes its attractively woozy way along. As for the rest of the contents, consisting of tracks from Barging Into the Presence of God and Half-Life Remembered, both still sound as wonderful as ever, the often-underappreciated creativity of the band in their rhythm work and sometimes off-kilter melodies still shining through. "Sight of You" remains a deserved high point of U.K. indie as well as being one of the best drone/shoegaze songs ever done, with Masters' sweet singing belying the sharp sentiments of the lyrics while his majestic guitar overdubs are both loud and heavenly. More frenetic combinations of soothing singing and feedback chaos like "She Rides the Waves" and "Baby Maker" still sound truly captivating as well (the latter's shifts between wistful verses and pile-it-on choruses are to die for). - AMG

Buy it from Amazon for *cough* Best Price $59.99!?

Pale Saints - Sight of You
Pale Saints - Half-Life, Remembered
Pale Saints - A Deeper Sleep for Steven


At 11:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice blog. Glad to see some love for the Pale Saints. I put "In Ribbons" on in the car just the other day and I was amazed at how well it holds up today. They were able to slide into such a variety of sounds and styles with ease, while always sounding like themselves.

At 3:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

aah the Pale Saints . . . saw them on a double bill with Lush in Norwich, England many years ago and they were just so so good. Thanks for the tracks looks like I'll have to dig out what I've got of theirs and have another listen . . . thanks for jogging my memory :

At 10:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow. you totally read my mind. just the other day i was thinking, "i've got to request a pale saints entry from just for a day".
as brilliant as in ribbons was, i really latched onto slow buildings. i just couldn't listen to that disk enough! do you have any info on what the girl singer from those sessions is doing these days? her voice was amazing.
yet again i have to say:
thank you!


At 10:35 AM, Blogger heath said...

shane, thanks for the kind words.

as for meriel pale saints, funny you should ask...

Masters departed in 1993, and went on to record two albums as Spoonfed Hybrid with Chris Trout (ex-A.C. Temple) and work with His Name Is Alive auteur Warren Defever. He was replaced by Canadian emigrate Colleen Browne (ex-Heart Throbs), leaving Barham in charge of lyric writing and vocals on the 1994 album "Slow Buildings".

The band officially split-up in 1996, with Browne going on to play with Rialto and Warm Jets. Barham has since begun work on Kuchen, her new musical venture.

The debut Kuchen album "Kids With Sticks" was released in 2001 by the German Karaoke Kalk label and her follow up, "Kuchen Meets Mapstation (a collaboration with To Rococo Rot's Stefan Schneider), was unveiled in early 2003, also on Karaoke Kalk.

At 3:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for all of the great information heath!


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