Tuesday, February 10, 2009

comsat angels - sleep no more

Hailing from Sheffield, Comsat Angels appear to one of those 'What if...' bands, bands that should have been / should be more famous than they were/are (I am finding that a similar dirge can be sung for many bands found upon my late 70s/early 80s journey of discovery). Founded in the years of hopelessness that gripped the country, Comsat Angels released three albums of consistent magnificence (according to the reviews) and then started to disintegrate under pressure from lack of success and found their sound compromised and diluted (it is telling that a future reconciliation concert will feature songs only from the first three albums). At the moment this is conjecture to me as I have only experienced the second album, however what I have found there has encouraged me to seek out more in my own immutable way via a CD binge and whilst awaiting those I am availing myself of Sleep no more (1981) the second. And what a bleak album it seems at first listen. Along with Cabaret Voltaire churning out the grim-ness, Pulp (about to) relish in the narrative detail of the baser elements of human behaviour, ABC cataloguing the wreckage of relationships and Human League ignoring the dour past for future sparkle, it is a wonder that Sheffield did not collapse under the weight of its despair at this time. However there is miserable bleak and stately bleak and this falls into the latter category. At first listen it seems musically quite minimalist however there are hidden depths here; Dark Parade is majestic, a slow simmering anger of a song, building in tension until singer Simon Fellows cries out 'No release' in a way to make the nerves in your body tingle all over. The title track Sleep No More creates an eerie atmosphere in its attempt to go nowhere except into the realms of insomnia. Eye of the Lens was not on the original release however it is a joyful inclusion here, its searing tempo and buoyant rhythm underlying a creepy tale which seems to owe a debt to Kafka. Revelling in uncheery paranoia it may be, Sleep No More somehow elevates itself above the turgid introspection that mires bands like Radiohead.

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