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