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This weekend I’ll mostly be listening to… The Passage September 11, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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Here’s an interesting one. The Passage, avant garde new wave, electronic, plying their trade in the early 1980s. I first happened across them many many years ago on the pivotal Cherry Red Pillows and Prayers compilation – a resource that would see many groups from that relatively limited selection fill the turntable, and the iPod, in years to come.

The Passage were arguably the most innovative formation on the compilation – well, perhaps Thomas Leer as well, or maybe not. I was lucky, I happened sometime in 1984/5 to be Free Bird and find a compilation of theirs, Through the Passage, second hand which I subsequently played to death. I’ve still got it in the attic.

They were a quartet which reduced to a three person outfit led by Dikk Witts, former percussionist with the Hallé Orchestra, fan of The Fall and, if I’m not mistaken, music journalist. Their output was a curious mix of the melodic and the atonal but channeled generally within electronic parameters.

All set within a strongly, indeed avowedly, minimalist package both visually and lyrically. The second track on For All And None is entitled Lon Don. Ho ho.

But musically, well, musically they were something else, and I find it hard to think of a group which was similar at that point in time. I guess at a push what they remind me most of is some of the material that would appear much later on Warp or in the broad IDM genre. But that, a question of tone and texture, is to ignore their sometimes shouty vocals which position them neatly in the post-punk category and an explicit, albeit often subtle, concentration on political and sexual topics.

Their most commercially successful [ahem] song, XOYO, apparently was written as an experiment in aleotoric composition. Or to use the technical term, ‘winging it’ 😉 . I’ll let others judge how successfully, but I like it a lot. Songs like Devils and Angels have an eerie quality all their own underpinned by insistent pianos and keyboards, as is the enormously cynical Carnal. Or take More than One Born, where the chorus sounds like a precursor of Pet Shop Boys. Watching You Dance is representative of their more challenging side, although only by degree. And then there’s more didactic material such as Troops Out, unusually straightforward – whereas what about the cynicism in Sharp Tongue or Taboos (some fantastic percussion on that last)?

They released three albums in addition to the compilation album. Unfortunately later digital compilations don’t have the correct sequencing or track listing and unaccountably jettisons some cuts which should have made it.

A group producing music that is as challenging in places as it is rewarding.

XOYO

Devils and Angels

Born Every Minute

Carnal

Watching You Dance

Troops Out

Sharp Tongue

Taboos

Comments»

1. All your bedroom queries « The gaping silence - October 3, 2010

[…] your bedroom queries Nice to see WorldbyStorm lighting on the Passage the other weekend. I started composing a comment after I’d listened to a couple of the tracks […]

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2. This weekend I’ll mostly be listening to… Wire « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - January 29, 2011

[…] too, catch me on another day and it’s all 154 around my place. But there’s something of The Passage about their approach. Perhaps not quite as stark but listen to ‘Drill’ and the […]

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3. This weekend I’ll mostly be listening to… Wire « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - January 29, 2011

[…] me on another day and it’s all 154 or Pink Flag in my head. But there’s something of The Passage about their approach. Perhaps not quite as stark but listen to ‘Drill’ and the […]

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4. This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Princess Tinymeat – Herstory « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - January 14, 2012

[…] The sound of PT foreshadowed My Bloody Valentine and had something of PIL, the Jesus and Mary Chain and Alien Sex Fiend about it. Listen to ‘Wigs on the Green’ which has that JAMC Bobby Gillespie trebly reverb drum sound down pat – and given that it was released the same year as Psychocandy we can reasonably attribute that to convergent evolution. The other instruments could fairly easily have been accommodated on Loveless ['Sloblands' is a case in point] and then the half sung half spoken approaching a falsetto vocals and the combination is entirely otherworldly. In that sense this is also nudging towards Alien Sex Fiend and Specimen territory, sort of the edges of then early enough post-punk/goth experimentation. But where the latter groups were all melodramatic and baroque gestures there’s something more considered about Princess Tinymeat. In that respect every once in a while when I hear them I think of The Passage. […]

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