For the first time This Heat's complete catalogue is being made officially available to download, along with a bunch of material that has only previously been available on Vinyl, bootleg cassettes, dodgy downloads or by word of mouth. Now speaking as someone who used to sell said bootleg cassettes back in the 1980's in Camden, I'm as likely to be familiar with the unreleased stuff as the released stuff.
So you get This Heat, Deceit, Repeat, Health And Efficiency, Made Available and Live 80/81 and Metal which is as much cutting edge experimentation and weirdness as you could want from the genius' that are This Heat, Charles Hayward, Charles Bullen and Gareth Williams and then briefly with Mario Boyer Diekuuroh and latterly with Trefor Goronwy and Ian Hill.
To say This Heat are an influential London band is an understatement, mainly because of their involvement with the London Musicians Collective LMC and Charles Haywards continued pushing of boundaries and involvement in helping to set up Resonance FM they have been at the forefront of helping to make London a thriving very broad musical city at and beyond the cutting edge.
Like many music fans my age I was introduced to This Heat by John Peel who regularly played them. Then when I started hanging out and helping out selling tapes in Camden in the early to mid-80's I was quizzed by the stall holder about what I knew about This Heat, as they always had 4 or 5 different This Heat tapes for sale and they sold well. So I was sat down after the market one Saturday and as the sputnik was passed round Ian played the best bits from the legendary London school of Economics gig in 1978. Something from the last 3-piece show at The Action Space in 1981 the excited reverence they had for the music that contained the future and the past, you had to know how this music sounded.
The sadness that they hadn't made it to the final gig At The Reims Festival in May of 1982, but had at least got a great recording of it that always sold well, so I'm going to approach this review in that way and listen through it as it downloaded track 1 then 2 then 3 from each of the Seven album in the box rather than as separate albums. In the way I have always interacted with this incredible music, that I've dipped in and out of ever since. I won't say what album the songs come from, but as this is the download version its playlist and shuffle ready. Best played at immense volume obviously.
Track ones: The opening Health And Efficiency is urgent slightly crazed alternative indie noise rock with vocals coming in and out and then the really odd noises really get going as an empty bottle rolls across the studio and the repetition kicks into our minds, just as the first smoke is ready to get us in the right head space for what's to come.
After the monster instrumental freak out the song eventually tails off and fades out like you've reached a calm spot.
The first version of Horizontal Hold has that sort of TV static sound at the beginning before the pulsing bass and head kicking drums kick in with all sorts of guitars and other weirdness and distortion derange the senses in time with the miasma in your brain caused by what you've just inhaled. This has elements of what would become nosebleed Gabba techno with drum and bass edges, but never just one thing at a time it's more like an assault by masses of musical ideas screaming into your brain at once before the organ goes Sun Ra style to the outer galaxies.
The second version of Horizontal Hold in the box set is a live version that's full on bombastic attack with the bass squalling up your thighs as the room reverberates and you sink back deep into the floor you should be sitting on. The guitar flying straight across your brain.
Metal starts its 23 minutes journey like a piece of gamelan percussion perfect for dancing barefoot on broken crockery too. It's a bit of a slow march that has many rewards. There is a bit of a tape jump in the middle and the second half seems to have had an adjustment to the tape recorder as it sounds clearer as the gamelan style percussion has quickened it's pace and has us in its repetitive embrace.
Repeat does just that in various looped and treated ways assaulting the senses with clap tracks dubbed out percussion keyboards repeating a two note phrase that launched a thousand drum n bass tunes as it mutates and irritates the middle section is like having radio interference pumped into your brain the hissing sounds and cymbals waiting for an implosion of sound that you know is coming and will feel like concave shapes worming through your brain like a weird Sci-fi film soundtrack.
Sleep is the shortest tune so far at only 2 minutes of chanting us to Sleep like a mantra to lull us to Sleep musically it's dense percussive lullaby drawing you into the message in the lyrics to ask why we are all in such a deep sleep yawn zzz.
Testcard is just Testcard noises for 45 seconds that feels like an ear cleanser or the very sound to give you a headache.
Track Two's: Graphic Varispeed starts with a single tone loop that you can hear when the loop has gone round and slowly other noises become apparent as the speed is obviously manipulated and the tone loop gnaws at your brain. The sort of piece you put on to sort out which of your friends really gets weird music and who just think it's a bunch of noise, the latter group will have told you to turn this off long before it gets interesting about 6 minutes into this 11 minute tune as it expands your perception of what's going on in the tone.
The Third version of Horizontal Hold on the box set is pummeled drumming distorting into weird-looped noises and squalls of intensity like super short death metal songs with mad keyboard leaps and guitars doing odd things. It gets rhythmic then spasmodic and tangential.
Not Waving opens like Sun Ra's Cosmic Tones For Mental Therapy and is a very minimal outer space tech jazz trip and when the vocals finally come In it feels very Robert Wyatt.
Paper Hats is unusually more or less a straight-ahead song, well by comparison anyway, as the screaming and howling vocals and not quite right rhythmic noise has a real off sound to it in a cool way and would work in a hard techno mix.
The second Paper Hats feels more focused and the vocals are intelligible for longer with mantra style chanting in an almost Soft Machine way before the music freaks the hell out and it becomes very intense and plateaus out like a storm is abating.
Track Three's: The second version of Not Waving in the box set opens gently like something on the soundtrack of Lost In Space with very Robert Wyatt like vocals and Tibetan gongs or something similar it's very haunting.
S.P.Q.R. is a chanted almost metronomic political diatribe claiming we are all Romans over a tune that's sort of Wire meets the Pop Group with a side order of Prag Vec.
The Fall Of Saigon feels like the soundtrack to the event with the almost cricket like whirring and banging and a funereal bass drum beat, as the events unfold, in the Wyattesque style vocals this is part eulogy, part reportage, part mocking the utter futility of war, against the sounds of the thump thump thump of the bombs and mortars going off it feels like it needs to be listened too with the visuals from the event.
Triumph is in a similar vein as they explore Triumph of the will in a very concise manner unusually.
Track Four's: Basement Boy is Henry Cow style avant jazz experimentalism and rather gentle. The Second S.P.Q.R. is fast furious chanted Roman history lesson with a guitar sound that would work for A Certain Ratio as easily as it does for This Heat, this almost feels funky.
The Second Triumph is all Matching Mole or if my memory of the only time I heard is correct the short lived band Silence that featured Carla Bley and Robert Wyatt among others. Sort of Avant Progressive percussive jazz. Water is gongs and pans being hit asymmetrically with a keyboard tone buried beneath it.
Track Fives: Aerial Photography seems to be the sorts of sounds you might get while paragliding through dystopia with what sounds like someone talking in the audience sawing sounds and building oddness, bass pulses eerie Eraserhead radiator noises.
Cenotaph takes drumming that might actually work on remembrance Sunday at the Cenotaph and then mangles it, as distorted guitars and a refreshing view of how awful it is, we have to remember all this war and destruction, I know quite a few people who may find this song offensive but really they should just try to answer why we keep doing this awful stuff over and over again, this should be played every year at eleven am on the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
Rimp Romp Ramp lives up to the name squalls of Noise an almost Contortions style funk jazz breaks fission drumming the maelstrom of noise rampaging round your speakers, odd death metal breaks leak into opaque twilit meanderings and more.
Twilight Furniture is obviously what you should be slouched in as the tribal drumming gets underway so you can hear the tale in the lyrics and learn from them as the sound builds and goes off on one.
Track Sixes: Twenty Four Track Loops does what it says on the tin lots of minimal building loops a very minimal techno feel as more and more loops get added.
Shrinkwrap is a warped eulogy to Shrinkwrap and what you can use it for like an ad soundtrack for a surrealist horror film or whatever that classic porno is where they wrap a woman in Shrinkwrap.
Sitting listening to squeaks and plonks. The Rough With The Smooth or the weird with the poppy a song that with straighter instrumentation would really be a pop song.
Track Sevens: Diet Of Worms squiggles tonal fractals into your brain.
The first version of Makeshift Swahili is a deep in the jungle cut up juxtaposition piece of noise art treated and mistreated vocals willfully deranged and hectoring tale of white privilege and the horrors it has delivered to the world. The second Version of Makeshift Swahili is less deep in the jungle but equally deranged live take on it.
Radio Prague almost sounds like you've tuned in on Shortwave radio and the signals not quite there and as you maneuver your aerial to get the best signal you get snatches of sounds and pulses and a bit of interference.
Track Eights: The third and shortest version of Makeshift Swahili is a concise burst of anguish and deeply pained vocals that comes in at under four minutes so it's almost the radio airplay version with the nice shift mid song into something more Soft Machine like but off on a tangent that gets incredibly tense as they fit all the ideas in the longer versions into this bite sized chunk.
The first version of Music Like Escaping Gas has a live verity feel to it as the pulsing sounds and odd noises mingle with what sounds like audience chatter and a slow low mantra. The second version is cleaner sounding more like a humming freezer odd carefully picked guitar notes for the slow low mantra to work against.
Slither has a violin slithering across some keyboards and sound effects department noises as you slither through some darkened dungeon scared witless of what might happen next.
Track Nines: A New Kind Of Water is the sort of strap line you'd expect on an ad for some new fancy overpriced bottle of Water not the dense enveloping chanted vocals, etiolated guitar emasculated drumming, opaque swamp of a tune, if this were a bottle of water it would be murky looking and bitter tasting, make sure to listen to the lyrics before tasting.
Independence musically is like a sixties almost noir sci-fi soundtrack with very Robert Wyatt like vocals talking about different notions and ideas of what Independence is and means and how governments use these notions, it feels lyrically almost perfect for 2020, especially for those living under Trump, also the closest thing they have that could be a single.
Rainforest is all radiophonic rain noises percussion skittering through your mind.
Track Tens: The second type of A New Kind Of Water is more intense bursts of intense bitter cloudy water with a rumpled repeating drum against almost looped guitar infusing the extra odd nutrients that give this water it's claim to be a New Kind Of Water for a new age of nursery notional crimes.
The second version of The Fall Of Saigon is a minute shorter and more concise and focused tour through the terrible events of The Fall Of Saigon this is almost a gentle retelling of the chaos that also allows the vocals to be the main focus for large parts before the whirring distortions of flailing helicopters trying to load up and take off suffering that ignominious fate.
The second version of Twilight Furniture is the sound of some wicker chairs and a 1970's swing set with Campari and soda's with an splash of bathtub speed all round, with tribal drumming and interspersed crashing sounds and distortions as if the furniture is so uncomfortable you have to get up and shuffle around to it.
Track Elevens: The second version of Health And Efficiency seems to be re-working and overlaying Pere Ubu's 30 Seconds Over Tokyo with the bands own nuclear assault of noises and brutality total cacophony, for the lyrics to be spewed into, as the bass shakes you a new core, as you negotiate even more new rules for the care quality commission, who are the current version of Health And Efficiency on these barbarous Isles.
Hi Baku Shyo (Suffer Bomb Disease) is the pains and agonies of radiation sickness set to music, the wailing agonies of the flesh decaying the cancerous tolling of the bells fading into oblivion and surprisingly gentle like a long slow drawn out death.
The box set closes with The second version of Testcard that is just annoying Testcard noises for a minute or so to make sure you know you are leaving the intense difficult world of This Heat and re-joining the normal world.
Find out more https://www.facebook.com/thisheat.official/ https://thisheat.bandcamp.com/ Repeat: thisheat.lnk.to/repeat
Graphic/Varispeed (16 RPM) (thisheat.lnk.to/graphicvarispeed16)
Graphic/Varispeed (33 RPM) (thisheat.lnk.to/GraphicVarispeed33)
Graphic/Varispeed (78 RPM) (thisheat.lnk.to/graphicvarispeed78)
Live 80/81 (thisheat.lnk.to/live)
This Heat (thisheat.lnk.to/thisheat)
Health and Efficiency - EP (thisheat.lnk.to/healthandefficiencyEP)