Groomed by EMI as another potential Duran Duran, by the mid nineteen eighties Talk Talk were turning their back on the record executive’s dream and following their heart for making music. 1986’s Colour Of Spring was recorded with a stunning list of guest musicians that included Steve Winwood; hence some tracks have a sound reminiscent of a great Traffic album, interspersed with more brooding, introvert songs. A couple of singles (some of the best of the eighties) served to appease the record company and allow a substantial budget for recording their next album, for which sessions took place in an abandoned church over several months.
Having created an isolated environment (engineer Phil Brown has commented on the eighteen hour sessions with no clues as to whether it was night or day) they again invited guest musicians to play, but with an emphasis on improvisation rather than set pieces. The songs were then constructed around the material with a considerable amount of editing and overdubbing.
The result sent EMI into apoplexy; this was about as far from commercial as you could get, a dark mixture of rock, jazz, classical and ambient. With tracks that meander into one another this is an album that encompasses a vast array of both acoustic and electric instruments, brooding and sometimes disorientating. Saved from disappearing into a claustrophobic pit by a brilliant production and arrangement that is open and at times sparse, it has none of the trashy synthesised sound that seemed to afflict so much eighties music. Thankfully here was a band somewhat out (or ahead) of its time, much to the record company’s chagrin; they refused to release the next album after hearing the tapes.
Highly atmospheric and sumptuous, veering from gentle seductive songs to highly charged ‘blow outs’, this music is never less than evocative, at times intense and occasionally scary. I hadn’t realised just how unnerving it could be until I played it through the dCS Puccini and Clock; Mark Feltham’s harmonica playing on the first track starts with a few quiet rumblings to burst into a shattering solo that pins you back with its intensity and wailing passion. Be warned though, this is one of those albums that draws you in to listen through to the end.
CD – EMI 7243 8 57129 2 0
DSD – EMI 7243 591 455 2 5