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