Made Available: Peel Sessions
Styles: no wave, progressive rock, noise
Others: Velvet Underground, Neu, Sonic Youth, Battles
Shackled to the fourth dimension, music rarely escapes the time in which it was created. Occasionally, chaos theory steps in, flapping its butterfly wings to create ripples throughout which the music resonates far beyond its temporal birth. (This commonly manifests itself as an appearance on a “Best Albums of All Time” list in Q, Rolling Stone, or Pitchfork.) By and large, though, a recording is a time capsule, a moment of cryogenically-preserved zeitgeist.
What, then, to make of music that is literally timeless? Perhaps an explanation exists in the annals of quantum theory, but seldom does a band like This Heat exist in utter defiance of chronological classification. It was 1977 when the Brixton trio marched into Maida Vale studios to record eight tracks for John Peel, but the band hammered out a claustrophobic clamor that could have been recorded anywhere in the last forty years. Parallels could be drawn across the decades to the Velvet Underground’s narcotic haze, Eno’s billowy ambience, Albini’s clawhammer guitar, and Tricky’s dusty hip-hop dirges. But This Heat were more obtuse than any of the above. They jumped between genres, tempos, and instruments, more with nervous energy than schooled precision. Grindstone drones underline the songs like a bed of nails, prodding the vocals to convulse like Ian Curtis on helium. The sound is so tightly-wound it can only betray its paranoia.
Opening this collection of live recordings, “Horizontal Hold” was either the precursor to post-rock, or Krautrock with a junkie’s itch. Hi-hats and guitars shuddered like helicopter blades, building to a velocity that threatened to (and eventually did) rip the song apart. After “Not Waving” drifts on seasick synths, “The Fall of Saigon” comes clattering in on one of the grimiest loops to ever grace tape. Pulsing with apocalyptic beauty, the song cuts deeper than any other agitpop band’s barbs. It was topped only by “Makeshift,” an angular epic that evokes King Crimson reborn with Public Image Ltd.’s metallic lurch. This Heat built a post-punk Tower of Babel, climbing for five minutes before tumbling in a hail of drums and rabid bleating. It was an impossible racket to follow, as evidenced by the three anemic ambient pieces that close the album.
Evidently, appearing on Peel’s show was as big as This Heat got, unsurprising given the band’s emotionally rattled timbre. But in that paradox sat the music’s power: Made Available was a genuinely unnerving experience — the ultimate in uneasy listening.
1. Horizontal Hold
2. Not Waving
3. The Fall Of Saigon
4. Rimp Romp Ramp
5. Makeshift Swahili
7. Basement Boy