Thursday, 31 March 2016

Human Trapped Rhythms - Drowning and Falling in You (1985)

Every couple of years someone on the internet posts a picture of the cover of this record and composes a paragraph of text amounting to a shrug in the hope of preventing its seemingly inevitable backwards slide across the obscurity event horizon; and now it's my turn to do the honours. The last time I saw Drowning and Falling in You mentioned on a blog was some American bloke who used the term industrial in every other sentence whilst suggesting it all sounded a bit pretentious. Listening to this again, whilst I can see that Peter Elliott may have failed to produce an enchanting populist Cockney knees-up beloved of young and old alike, if you're going to call it pretentious then you might as well just call everything which isn't actually Chas & Dave pretentious on the grounds that it thinks it's too good to be Chas & Dave.

Peter Elliott is the name of the individual behind this record. I used to swap tapes with him back in the day, before everything went bad and was pronounced industrial by complete fucking cocks who weren't actually there - back when it was just people with tape recorders trying to make something which sounded interesting. Human Trapped Rhythms was a name that apparently emerged from a game of exquisite corpse which Mr. Elliott considered fitting for the music he'd been working on, as indeed it is. He produced a tape called And to Z in 1984 which ended up on the Grey Wolves' label - which I must still have somewhere - and then came this vinyl album, and so far as I'm aware no-one seems to have heard of him since.

Drowning and Falling in You is quite an oddity, and possibly one of the most minimal records I own. Whilst all of our contemporaries were struggling to multitrack twenty different weird noises onto the cassette deck of a crappy music centre without it sounding a complete mess, Elliott had apparently forked out for expensive studio time so as to record himself holding down a single key of a pipe organ for a couple of minutes in the highest possible quality. Well, it's not all the single key of a pipe organ held down for a couple of minutes, although it feels like it is, or at least it feels like 75% of what you hear on this record is empty space. There are occasional voices, even some singing, disparate sounds added for the sake of atmosphere, and you could probably move in an approximately rhythmic fashion to The Message if you really felt the need, but mostly this is about mood rather than music in the conventional sense. The sheer minimalism of muted tones rumbling away with a touch of reverb forces the ear to pay attention, to really appreciate the simplicity of the design, I suppose; and to wax pretentiously, the effect reminds me of certain Rothko paintings - there's a whole lot of pain going on in there, but you can't quite see it clearly, and so you can't quite be sure.

Sorry if I've alienated any Ministry fans.

Most powerful is possibly the title track comprising just female voice and canned laughter, which makes for a really unsettling combination given the absence of humorous context. No Words is also wonderful. In fact, most of it is, but it's also quite odd, which is probably why Human Trapped Rhythms have all but vanished from collective memory. Had Peter Elliott reached a more supportive audience, say whichever section of the Cornelius Cardew barmy army managed to avoid turning into Citizen Smith back in 1974, we might still be hearing about this one just as we still seem to be hearing one fuck of a lot about the similarly Mancunian Muslimgauze; but sadly I guess it was just me, those howlin' Grey Wolves, and maybe a few others. Oh well.

See you in another couple of years.

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