Him/Rex
(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
Rex: Rex , 6.5/10
Rex: C , 7/10
Rex: 3 , 5.5/10
Him: Egg , 6/10
Him: Interpretive Belief System , 6/10
Him: Sworn Eyes , 7/10
Him: Our Point Of Departure , 4.5/10
Out Of Worship
Him: In Dub , 5.5/10
Him: New Features, 5.5/10
Him: Many In High Places Are Not Well (2003) , 4/10
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Former Codeine's drummer and future June Of 44 drummer Doug Scharin formed Rex in 1994 with singer/guitarist Curtis Harvey, bassist Phil Spirito (of the Red Red Meat) and cellist Kirsten McCord. The lengthy, convoluted jams of Rex (Southern, 1995) coalesce in cloudy ballads that recall Galaxie 500, Red House Painters and Idaho. The album opens with two eight-minute long pieces that set the pace for the rest of the songs. Nothing Is Most Honorable Than You is a litany accompanied by languid cello and guitar lines over slow, booming, psychedelic drumming. The guitar punctuates with bluesy chords and intermittent bursts of energy the agonizing, sedated lullaby of Angel Tune He Hums.
The shorter Ditch is a more original artifact, a sort of "acid" ballad with loose accompaniment sung in a drugged Syd Barrett-ian tone. A sort of appendix is the violent, tortured dynamic of This Is A Recording, which sounds like a dead man's call for help from hell.
The instrumental tracks, Tortured Animal and especially the cello-driven trance of A Good Time To Die, are surreal vignettes that hint at otherworldly solutions. But the catchy and tender country waltz High School Dance Hit proves that the method can yield more accessible results. And Come Down (seven minutes) is a more regular ballad, a pensive and subdued meditation with a lengthy coda of burning riffs, like Neil Young on opium. The album as a whole focuses on downbeat moods and feelings, leaving little to enjoy in the fabric of the songs.
The following single is also split between a dilated ballad (All) and a brainy instrumental (Nayramadin Orgil).

The mini-album Waltz (Southern, 1996) sticks more faithfully to the format of the plantive country ballad.
That format permeates the better structure and more organic second full-length, C (Southern, 1996). Ride Home doesn't sound all too different from many alt-country singer-songwriters, and Critella is an emotional ballad with a pretty melody. Again, the longer tracks tell a more interesting story, but even the longer tracks have forged a more traditional style out of the first album's oddities. Opener Morning (seven minutes) is a solemn lament/sermon that like Come Down on the previous album, evokes a very sleepy and calm Neil Young, and New Dirge (eight minutes) has enough substance to sound like the overture to a King Crimson or VDG epic. The most adventurous pieces are probably New Son (ten minutes), that carries out a subtle deconstruction of bluegrass music, bordering on chamber music and funeral music, and Jubin (seven minutes), a surreal ragtime that builds up to a grunge intensity; while the intricate jamming and majestic crescendo of C (nine minutes) boasts perhaps the best combination of melody, dynamics and atmosphere. On the other hand, the seven-minute instrumental Audrey La Mort is little more than a lengthy exercise of hypnosis. The sound is more relaxed than on the first album, possibly under the influence of Him's experiments with dub.

Leak Through (Bubble Core, 1996) is another mesmerizing country ballad and Pour Down (the B side) another awesome instrumental score.

Compared with the two early masterpieces, Rex's 3 (Southern, 1997) is a minor work, or at least a less ambitious one; but this is not to say that the album is devoid of fascinating moments. Rex may have exhausted the initial manifesto and may be recycling less compelling ideas (such as the usual seven-minute dirge, Other James), but they can still write and perform astonishing ballads (at least the seven-minute waltz-tempo singalong Gathered) and uniquely deviant instrumentals (Waterbug). The third album completes Rex's progression from post-rock to folk-rock.

Loftus (Perishable, 1997) is a collaboration between Rex and Red Red Meat.

Directions is a trio with Tortoise's Bundy Brown and James Warden.

Him was born as the dub project of Rex. Egg (Southern, 1995) is a sequence of seven extended dreamy pieces, that draws on Lee Perry's dub as well as on Brian Eno's ambient music and Miles Davis' jazz (Creality). The experiment is more interesting when it is more futuristic, as in the more electronic tracks Painted Egg and E-Bola, but the ethnic approach of Creality and Law is no less intriguing.
Equally hypnotic additions are the EP Chill And Peel (Southern, 1996), containing the psychedelic Pony, the jazzy, tribal, noir Second Star Green and the ghostly instrumental Black Shadow, and the single Changes/ The Focus (Soul Static, 1997).

Scharin's hallucinogenic dub turns into industrial dub on the more complex and neurotic Interpretive Belief System (WordSound, 1997). Him's six new tracks metabolize dub into labyrinthine percussive geometries. Synthesizer's noises populate The Science Of X while it is being dismembered on an assembly line by robots. Spacetime geometry is warped in L'Esprit N'A Pas D'Maison by a female singer's ethereal wails. The spoken-word Port Of Entry is so disconnected and noisy that one thinks of dub as performed by Edgar Varese (plus a loop of harmonica). The pieces that escape the claustrophobic atmosphere are the ones that pivot on insistent and exotic polyrhythms: Second Chance and Twirling Dub.

In between Him's records, Scharin also records as Out Of Worship with San Francisco-based guitarist Joe Goldring.

Scharin performed as well in Drumhead (Perishable, 1998), an experimental album of instrumental improvisations led by Pere Ubu bassist Tony Maimone.

Another sudden stylistic shift redefined Him as a jazz-rock combo. Rob Mazurek's cornet plays the ghost of Miles Davis on Sworn Eyes (Perishable, 1999), an album that also features guitarist Jeff Parker and bassist Bundy Brown. The combo pens elegant and nostalgic compositions that flow like streams of consciousness. A Verdict Of Science is a 20-minute journey through dreamy and exotic landscapes, the trumpet mirroring Jon Hassell's quest for the "fourth world" and the xylophone evoking Indonesian jungles. Scharin's electronic manipulations create expanses of psychedelic ambience from which all instruments have been removed, leaving only shapeless traces of sound and rhythm.
Of The Periphery boasts a charming, exotic theme that the trumpet and the guitar bounce back and forth over a bed of tablas. A violin picks it up amid the growing "gamelan" of the tablas and the dub-tinged backwater of the drums.
Scorn Nothing (ten minutes) balances frantic scratching and a soaring trumpet melody, and the effect is akin to watching a kite fly in a storm.
Occasionally, the ensemble gets caught in its own net of excessive talent, as in the self-indulgent doodling of Sworn Eyes.
But, then, some music is the equivalent of a lesson on composition. The sinister, dub-drenched clockwork of Trace Elements captures how This Heat would sound in the modern world.
Him's music is now almost baroque. Compositions have endured exhausting studio manipulations but still retain an emotional charge and plenty of magic.

Funk and world-music are the focus of Him's fourth album Our Point Of Departure (Perishable, 2000), that is almost a June Of 44 album because most of that band helps out. The fusion of latin, jazz, dub and funk is occasionally riveting (Arrival), but too much of this album lives on repetition of a few basic ideas (and often physical repetition of a few sonic fragments). Scharin tries too hard to achieve the "super-fusion" he has in mind. The only track that displays Sworn Eyes' baroque fluidity is Third Wish ("the" outstanding jazz episode of the album).
What shines throughout is Scharin's production skills: he had to comb through hours of live recordings and noise tapes, and then overdub, chisel out, with meticolous patience and a magical gift for synthesis.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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With Him's In Dub (After Hours, 2001), Doug Scharin continues and expands his experiments with dub and this time he seems to be heavily influenced by Fela Kuti's afro-funk. The three lengthy, atmospheric and elegant jams manage to merge African primitivism and electronic futurism the way Jon Hassell did in a different context. Con In Dub (After Hours, 2001) degli Him, Doug Scharin continua ed espande le sue sperimentazioni dub e stavolta sembra pesantemente influenzato dall'Afro-funk di Fela Kuti. Le tre improvvisazioni lunghe, eleganti e d'atmosfera, riescono a fondere primitivismo africano e futurismo elettronico come ha fatto Jon Hassel in un contesto diverso.
Him's New Features (Bubble Core, 2001), a return to Him's Miles Davis obsession, collects six improvisations by Doug Scharin on drums, Fred Erskin on bass (June Of 44), Carlo Cennamo on sax and Josh LaRue on guitar. The nine-minute Magnified Features and the 18-minutes In Transition have little to commend themselves: meandering tracks that are meant to display the players' prowess but drag on for lack of a point to make. The 11-minute Out Here and the nine-minute Sea Level at least have an idea to pursue, the idea of a fusion between buoyant afro-beat, dub and electronic effects. Best of all could be Clouds, that sounds like King Crimson gone trip-hop. Scharin tests the patience of the listener with jams that are too often pretentious and indulgent, although the playing is impeccable and the overall idea is not without its merit.

Scharin adds a touch of world-music to his brainy dub recipe on Him's Many In High Places Are Not Well (Bubblecore, 2003), but that hardly resurrects his genius, despite the distinguished jazz guests (Rob Mazurek, Fred Erskine, Julie Liu) and ambitious efforts such as the nine-minute Elementals. This album was followed by the EP Lila (Galaxia, 2003), a collaboration with Mazurek and others.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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