Album reviews – Disco Inferno: ‘Technicolour’ (“a poignant, if a touch unsatisfactory, monument to a band who did a most remarkable thing”)

5 Aug

Disco Inferno: 'Technicolour'

Disco Inferno: ‘Technicolour’

They were going to change the world with their world‑weary lyrics, noisy guitars and random artillery of samples.

As the USA brings us an ever more inventive and experimental range of post‑rock bands, it is sobering to reflect that, whether you like that all‑embracing genre‑heading or not, the UK could not sustain such a futuristic leap in pop music for long. Disco Inferno, Bark Psychosis, Seefeel, Insides and their ilk were just a temporary blip in the inexorable rise of ’60s revivalism.

Disco Inferno, in particular, had the cruellest of brief careers. Picked up and lauded by the likes of ‘The Wire’ and ‘Mixing It’, and used as a constant token of their superior musical taste by ‘NME’ and ‘Melody Maker’ journalists (a secret for them to keep and drop into reviews as an esoteric influence) Disco Inferno didn’t stand a chance of taking their unique vision to where they wanted it to be: the pop world.


 
This album nearly became the great “lost” work ‑ curtailed by the demise of the band, publishing difficulties made it uncertain if ‘Technicolour’ would ever see the light of day. Finally released months later, it stands as a poignant, if a touch unsatisfactory, monument to a band who did a most remarkable thing. Whilst producing truly “experimental” music, they didn’t forget the need for (well, it’s almost heresy to some chin‑stroking musical aesthetes) emotionally‑involving lyrics and a damn good melody.

So, for a sampladelic band, the opening two tracks scare the sheep with noisy guitar abandon. The title track, blasts in with a none‑more‑guitar‑and‑distortion start, but the unique invention soon creeps in ‑ a shuddering rhythm supplied by car horns, dog barks, shouts and breaking glass. A collision between The Art Of Noise and the glycerine melodies of The Lightning Seeds, with an end result comparable to late‑’80s Wire. Things Move Fast lives up to the title, and is a delirious noise‑guitar and beat‑fuelled rush through modern society. It ends with a sample of rapturous crowd noise. Truly, these guys lived in hope ’til the last.


 
I’m Still In Love reasserts DI’s passionate belief that a tender love song and futuristic sound could be combined: Ian Crause devoting himself to someone as they seal themselves away from the harsh iniquities of the world outside, with fireworks exploding and crackling during the exhilarating noise‑upon‑noise of the chorus. Lovely.

Sleight Of Hand is another hymn to the jaded view of the world as seen through Crause’s eyes ‑ “and once you see the sleight of hand / it’s never the same. / Once you see the cards are marked / it’s all in the game.” It’s the adult version of realising Santa Claus is actually your father dressed up in a red coat and cotton wool, pissed on cheap sherry. We’ve all been there. The feather cushion is provided by the swirling, tumbling harps, heavenly harmonies and chiming synth‑drums ‑ straight out of the ’70s ‑ in the chorus.



 
Don’t You Know is a sample sequel to Footprints In Snow from the band’s stunning 1994 album, ‘DI Go Pop’. This tine the rhythm is provided by the sound of heels on pavement, surrounded by the ethereal and enveloping electronica that features on so many of DI’s utterly entrancing slower tracks ‑ it really is best described by the contradictory term “acoustic sampledelia”. It’s a truly indefinable sound that I have only heard once before: in the unforgettable work of AR Kane in the late ’80s, another band who sounded like they were piecing together from the music and sound elements of a nuclear event. That is the spirit of Disco Inferno.



 
It’s A Kid’s World was the “big” single. That’s irony, by the way. It’s based on that Lust For Life drum intro. Kids’ TV themes ‑ ‘Doctor Who’, ‘Playschool’ ‑ are plundered for samples. There are even self‑referential samples from earlier DI tracks. It’s a veritable junkshop of found sounds. By any other standards, a triumph. By Ian Crause’s standards, this sounds like an attempt to produce what people expect post‑modern sampledelia to sound like ‑ knowingly ironic, dischordant brain music for ‘Wire’ readers and other musical eggheads.

But it lacks the tangible human emotions of most of the group’s material, unlike When The Story Breaks, which is perhaps the closest DI get to pop music for the twenty‑second century. The clattering synthetic drum breaks, harsh electronic ambience and (of all things) a sequence played on a touch‑tone telephone shows that some attention had undoubtedly been paid to the ten‑fledgling sound of drum’n’bass but applied to their melodic song‑based outlook.


 
Similarly, Can’t See Through It is almost a Blue Nile sound for the ’90s, a beautifully hushed marriage of natural acoustics and electronics. But more than anything, it is a song that sounds broken and exhausted. The lyrics state Crause’s dilemma at Disco Inferno’s situation: utter belief in the musical path they are following (“nothing can touch us / ‘cos everything in us / is digital cold”), but clear frustration that they’re not getting their vision across (“I can’t see through it / There’s no way back / I can’t get home…”).


 
It’s a lyrical concern that is developed in the final track. Devastating emotion soaked into its words, Over And Over is by far the most simply-recorded track Disco Inferno ever did ‑ just Crause’s voice, a guitar and a haunting drone in the background (more acoustic sampledelia…) It’s pure assumption, but it sounds like it was performed solo, after the split. The lyrics are undeniably concerned with the band’s demise ‑ “So many plans, so little time, / I can’t shake the feeling I’ve watched it all back from the end / Every missed chance and mistake / I hear when we’re playing / Forever in my head.” The man obviously lived for this project. It’s our loss that we didn’t sign up to it in droves.

I, for one, sincerely hope that Ian Crause and Disco Inferno soon find that they can’t bear not to present their music to the world, whether in a reformed group or a new set‑up (rumours abound of a new Crause band called Floorshow…). Perhaps the musical environment will be right this time ‑ more open minds, more adventurous listeners. Well, you live in hope. But it would be a tragedy for Disco Inferno to enter the files of Great Lost Hopes populated by Furniture, Kevin Rowlands, Bark Psychosis and… insert your own choice here.


 
Ian Crause’s last words on Over And Over are “it’s always, it’s always the same. / It’s never the way that you dream, / it’s never complete…” Disco Inferno, RIP.

(review by Vaughan Simons)

Disco Inferno: ‘Technicolour’
Rough Trade Records, R4102 (5022781204106)
CD‑only album
Released: 22nd July 1996

Get it from: (updated 2018) pick up the reissue (on vinyl and CD) from One Little Indian.

Disco Inferno online:
Homepage Facebook MySpace Last FM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

ATTN:Magazine

Not from concentrate.

Xposed Club

improvised/experimental/music

I Quite Like Gigs

Music Reviews, music thoughts and musical wonderings

A jumped-up pantry boy

Same as it ever was

PROOF POSITIVE

A new semi-regular gig in London

We need no swords

Static and debris. Skronk and wail. This is music?

:::::::::::: Ekho :::::::::::: Women in Sonic Art

Celebrating the Work of Women within Sonic Art: an expanding archive promoting equality in the sonic field

Ned Raggett Ponders It All

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Headphone Commute

honest words on honest music

Yeah I Know It Sucks

an absurdist review blog

Pop Lifer

Waiting for the gift of sound and vision

Archived Music Press

Scans from the Melody Maker and N.M.E. circa 1987-1996

The Weirdest Band in the World

A search for the world's weirdest music, in handy blog form

OLD SCHOOL RECORD REVIEW

Where You Are Always Wrong

Fragile or Possibly Extinct

Life Outside the Womb

a closer listen

a home for instrumental and experimental music

Bird is the Worm

New Jazz: We Search. We Recommend. You Listen.

Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

eyesplinters

Just another WordPress.com site

FormerConformer

Striving for Difference

musicmusingsandsuch

The title says it all, I guess!

songs from so deep

Songs and sound. Guitars and stuff.

%d bloggers like this: