Classic Album of the Week: Bark Psychosis-Hex

Hex is one of those accidental–and perhaps impractical–masterpieces.  From the use of a church’s natural reverb to drench the heavy dose of electronic sampling to the various guest appearances, including trumpets, string quartets, and tamboura, Bark Psychosis crafted a painstaking work impossible to recreate on a night by night basis–especially considering the domineering nature of guitarist Graham Sutton that gradually kicked out the rest of the band. Nonetheless, the work survives to this day as one of the most important re-calibrations of the rock aesthetic of the past 30 years.

Sutton spent a great deal of time playing with different sounds leading up to the Hex sessions.  The Loom is perhaps the most akin to typical rock song forms, but the long hand-drum sounding groove at its center is encapsulated by these aquatic drone sounds before crunchy sampling eventually kills any possibility of a chorus.  The longest track, Pendulum Man, contrasts bass noodling and distant guitar cries with a glorious crystal of electronics that swells blissfully, stringing the listener along for 10 minutes.

The beauty of Hex takes a deep listen to garner, but the big moments on the record are certainly breathtaking.  Eyes & Smiles digs in more than most tracks with battling trumpets, whereas Absent Friends’ high pulsing guitar melodies and screaming drones hypnotize for the whole second half of the track.

Hex was almost sacrificial in the end.  Bark Psychosis didn’t survive to make a handful of records and their touring history is minimal, but their fingerprint is all over the post-rock that followed (the term was coined in Simon Reynolds’ review after all).  While everyone in Seattle at the time was trying to distortion their way back to 1974, Bark Psychosis stood far out in left field trying to figure out how to wrangle every sound they could think of into the next era of rock.

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