Overlooked second album from post-rock progenitors gets double vinyl reissue.
Bark Psychosis are an unfortunate example of why pioneers don’t always win. Having defined a particular strain of emotive post-rock on their 1994 debut album Hex, which would effectively act as a template for a host of similar-minded bands who came after them, they promptly split up on its release, torn apart by the pressures of making it. And then when they returned to the fray 10 years later with the release of Codename: Dustsucker, everybody’s attention was elsewhere, distracted by the last hurrah of the indie rock mainstream epitomised by The
Strokes and The White Stripes.
Many people regard this album as more of a solo record from Graham Sutton, the last remaining member of the original band, but even if the spacey counterpoint of John Ling’s bass playing is sometimes missed, there’s a clear tonal and thematic connection back to the first record. And for a band who never tried to hide the fact that Talk Talk were a major influence on their sound, the presence here of Lee Harris on drums and percussion suggests a return to the source of their original inspiration.
Certainly, opening track From What Is
Said To When It’s Read takes us right back to the hushed, small-hours atmosphere of Hex. It’s a psychedelic lullaby of quietly strummed guitar with subtle flecks of wah wah around the edge, Sutton’s sombre vocal reinforcing this impression, singing as though he doesn’t want to wake the sleeping city – but a sudden blast of unidentifiable noise puts paid to that.
The Black Meat emphasises that while the songs are still full of subtle sonic detail, the arrangements are a little less discursive than before. On saying that, both Miss Abuse and INQB8TR are pretty far out, the former all hypnotic acid squiggles and cosmic voices, the latter a trippy voyage into the earth with processed rhythms and echoing vibraphone.
But more than anything, Codename: Dustsucker displays a heart and intimacy missing from many of Bark Psychosis’ post-rock descendants.