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Bucketfull of Brains reviews several solo albums circa 1988 Print E-mail
Monday, 01 February 1988
***********************************************************
  Source: Bucketfull of Brains Magazine (London, Eng.)
   Issue: No.32
    Date: Feb/Mar, 1988
 Subject: Review - Unearthed, Earthed, When Reason Forbids, In Reflection
***********************************************************

(issue with small article on Steve and flexi-disc of Starling Street)

SOLO CHURCH
  Steve Kilbey - Unearthed (Enigma)
    Steve Kilbey - Earthed (Red Eye, Australia)
      Peter Koppes - When Reason Forbids, A Requiem Session (Australia)
        Marty Willson-Piper - In Reflection (Chase, Australia)
          By Brad Bradberry


So, they haven't broken up.  At least not yet.  The Church,  probably
the best psychedelic band in the world, have simply gotten to the point
where there's just too many good songs from too many good songwriters
in the band to record as a "band project."  The Church started out with
"Of Skins and Hearts" in 1981 and have released roughly an album a year
(plus the hard-to-find The Church Sing Songs EP in 1983) since then.
The songwriting has evolved from being exclusively Steve Kilbey's
domain to the point where a majority of the music is credited to "The
Church" (with Kilbey handling the lyrics).  The band is currently in
and out of the studio in southern California recording their latest
album (currently untitled, for their third US label, Arista) which
should arrive sometime early February.  But for now there's some great
solo stuff to trip on.

Bassist, singer- songwriter Steve Kilbey seems to have gotten pretty
good on both keyboard and guitar, not to mention programming.  He
utilizes all these talents on his first full- length solo outing,
"Unearthed".  These 14 tracks range from Church- like psych- pop ("Out
of the World," "Guilty") to stripped-down Eno-esque instrumentals
("Rising Son," "Famine," "Swampdrone") to personal, reflective ballads
("Nothing Inside").  Recorded mostly on an eight- track recorder in his
bedroom in Australia, then mixed in a pro-studio, this album is quite a
departure from the glossy, orchestrated "Heyday" album the band
released in 1985.  Still, of all the Church solo offerings thus far it
sounds the most complete.

Kilbey's "Earthed" LP is a soundtrack to a book of poetry Kilbey
released recently.  All instrumental, this 46 minute, 20 track album
goes even further in showing off Kilbey's subtle keyboard work.  Kilbey
once said he'd rewritten and recorded Eno's "Another Green World" 9,000
different ways" in his pre-Church days.  He also stated that these
experiments were "uncommercial and esoteric."  This album is probably
an extension of that period, but adds lots of textured acoustic /
electric guitar work and goes down easy, never sounding especially
elitist or pretentious.  Few tracks are over three minutes (many are
much shorter), but they flow into each other, making this a perfect
backdrop for reading (as intended).

One of my favorite Church songs of late is "As You Will" by guitarist
Peter Koppes.  I never could figure why it never made the "Heyday"
album proper (it appeared only on the cassette and "Tantalized" 12").
Koppes has just released what amounts to a "maxi-single."  The
title-track, "When Reason Forbids," is a wonderful keyboard-based
tribute to recently departed, longtime Church pas Greg Hickman (the
band considered him the "fifth member").  This moody ballad perfectly
captures the melancholia close friends feel when separated by death.
Koppes manages to put in just enough sweet melody to keep the listener
from slitting his wrists.  Tastefully programmed drum machines keep the
beat on all three tracks.  Side two consists of two instrumentals.  The
first is a light mid-tempo piece ("At the Castle"), the second, "Air,"
reminds me of Matthew Fisher's Hammond organ work with early Procol
Harum.

Probably the biggest surprise of the solo offerings is guitarist Marty
Willson-Piper's "In Reflection" album.  Willson-Piper has usually
written one or two songs on Church LPs (sometimes co-written with
Kilbey), but who figured he had this in him?  This 13-track, 52 minute
collection of 4-track recordings is magnificent!  Piper's vocal
delivery is much like Kilbey's--mellow, oft half-spoken, ethereal.  His
writing has a warmer, "pop" feel.  "Night is Over" is the catchiest
thing here with a killer-hook and harmonies/background vocals that
sound like Willson-Piper had tons more than four tracks to play with!
The original version of "Volumes" (from the band's "Remote Luxury LP)
is here in all its rough, demoed glory.  Heavy post Pink Floydian psych
is present ("Velvet Fuselage," "Winter Splinter Bay").  Willson-Piper
also includes a beautifully designed home tapers guidebook in which he
discusses his recording techniques track by track.  At one point last
year Willson-Piper quit the Church.  They were on tour and out of
"creative frustration" (he usually sings just one song at any give
Church concert) felt he had to leave.  This only lasted a week and
perhaps was the impetus for this fine solo outing.  Willson-Piper has
another record already recorded and ready to go to press soon.  Don't
even wait for the reviews on this one...grab it immediately.


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