Pygmalion (1995)

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Picked up a reissue copy from the market in Cambridge, having never made much of an effort to listen to S but having enjoyed the Hollis-esque change of direction on cursory listens to P.

Dusky cymbals, prominent bass, (so warm on vinyl) sparse post-rock progression and clear vocals from Neil Halstead (now based near me in Cornwall, apparently) do kick off with a Laughing Stock feel. Lyrics and reverb on the guitars do give ‘Rutti’ a more psychedelic tone though; breathing space of Jackie-O-Motherfucker’s sunbaked soundscapes. “Here’s to the light outside.” Patient and peaceful. (thinking of Durutti Column’s sparse cold beauty too)

‘Crazy for You’ sounds like a kodak run through a knee-high field. After ‘R’ skirting pretension we’ve come right down; ambiguity in the lyric, repetition also in the restless guitar line, like trying to capture a whole summer in a single moment in six minutes. Ebb and flow. Guitar line prolonged at the end like it can’t really last. ‘Miranda’s’ haunted loops like the same burnt out memories filtering through a feverish head. Rachel Goswell singing like Chelsea Wolfe, sampled vocals; ‘Trellisaze’ concrète arrangements, beating Radiohead to it by five years with the effects. (‘Rutti’ also “don’t bother me”) Concludes A-side’s slow inwards degradation; mental isolation, effects automatically generated. Confrontative, cold and without concession.

‘Cello’ most Eno, glowing embers. Cracks of daylight through fingers on ‘J’s Heaven’, downstream guitar wandering and voices from the bottom of a well, “isn’t life small”. ‘Visions of LA’ like a Hollis/Bunyan collab, Goswell’s fey, Nico singsong sketch of impossibility of empathy.

Back to the “light inside” before ‘Blue Skied an’ Clear’, which is perfect; reapplying all the drenching effects to the wistful space of ‘Rutti’ and the aching nostalgia of ‘Crazy For You’. Ethereal background operatic wailing. (pop like ‘Ya Hey’) “You say life and it sounds so good / You say love and it sounds so sweet.” All the occlusive thickening effects but blooming with that irresistible Galazie 500 openness.

Sinking back into ‘All of Us’, ‘Rutti’s’ acid-dyed Gillespie vocals. “He is all of us”. Cello disappearing.

Plumbing deep sadness at the heart of pop, 90s. Hypnotic but not at the expense of clarity; you can hear it being put together, which makes it hold up better than most shoegaze sacred cows. Less sunbathing than heatstroke, mirages and memories.

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