Monday, September 22, 2008

THE FALL- ICE MOUNTAIN (CDR, unreleased, UK, 2005)

For those expecting The Fall's tour in support of "Fall Heads Roll" to adhere strictly to the buffed, chrome-plated peaks and valleys of the LP, the loose-limbed and altogether less insular approach of the group in a live setting was nothing short of eye-opening. Far more earthbound in their constructs than the psychotropic inclinations of their successors, Pritchard, Trafford and Birtwistle's familiarity with the material (some of which had been in the woodshed for nearly two years) allowed Smith to unfurl his distilled post-avant-garde lyrics against a stiff backdrop of confident indierock and surprisingly effective genre pieces.

While the sound quality of the recordings on this disc doesn't reach the crystalline heights of recent audience captures, the variegated aural palette mostly works to the material's advantage. The true gems here are the FHR tracks that benefit the most from this re-jiggering: a mono-bricked and Black Ark-infused "Ride Away," a snow-covered and crepuscular "Early Days of Channel Fuhrer," possibly the group's most purely beautiful piece; a pastoral and propulsive "Midnight in Aspen," with a midnight cowboy bass motif from Trafford; and Pritchard's limber and lubricious lead guitar lines on "Higgle-Dy Piggle-Dy," which comes close to the careening chaos of that song's studio incarnation.

And while there are surely any number of performances that one might classify as "the best version of 'Blindness" ever," surely the version included here (from Southampton) should be included in the canon. Taken at more of a sprint than a marathon, the intensity never dissipates. Incandescent and thrilling, turn it up and prepare to be blown away.


01 Pacifying Joint
02 I Can Hear the Grass Grow
03 Bo Demmick
04 Breaking the Rules
05 Early Days of Channel Fuhrer
06 What About Us?
07 Midnight in Aspen
08 Blindness
09 Assume
10 Ride Away
11 Higgle-Dy Piggle-Dy
12 Clasp Hands

(Source gigs in comments)(unofficial audience recording)