Wreck Small Speakers on Expensive Stereos

River Falling Love

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One of the most descriptively named groups of all time, Wreck Small Speakers on Expensive Stereos was an early project of Michael Morley, the New Zealand noise rock pioneer who later led the Gate and the Dead C. The nine lengthy tracks on their sole album, 1993's River Falling Love, mix the sort of minimalist aesthetic that the artier side of kiwi rock (Morley's other acts, Alastair Galbraith, some of Chris Knox's work) so thoroughly embraces with a soft-focus, narcotic, droning vibe akin to '90s slowcore artists like Low, Bedhead, and Godspeed You Black Emperor. What makes the set particularly interesting, of course, is that these songs were all recorded between 1984 and 1986, making them sound amazingly prescient in their foreshadowing of a certain subset of the indie rock avant-garde. The recording quality, as might be expected, is more than a little rough at times, and there are times -- like the piercing synthesizer note that kicks off the album opener "Lots of Hearts" -- where clearly Morley and his collaborator Richard Ram are setting out to accomplish the band name's statement of intent. Other tracks, like the instrumental "Torn," which consists of a hypnotic bass riff and some seemingly random, sonar-like synthesizer pings, have an odd beauty to them. Denise Roughan's delicate second vocal on "Rain" is another lovely moment, leavening what is, until her entrance, an oppressively dark and leaden song. That kind of shift in dynamics is all over this album, making River Falling Love a more varied and intriguing album than many similar efforts.