The Durutti Column

The Return of the Durutti Column

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More debut albums should be so amusingly perverse with its titles -- and there's the original vinyl sleeve, which consisted of sandpaper precisely so it would damage everything next to it in one's collection. Released in the glow of post-punk fervor in late-'70s Manchester, one would think Return would consist of loud, aggressive sheet-metal feedback, but that's not the way Vini Reilly works. With heavy involvement from producer Martin Hannett, who created all the synth pieces on the record as well as producing it, Reilly on Return made a quietly stunning debut, as influential down the road as his labelmates in Joy Division's effort with Unknown Pleasures. Eschewing formal "rock" composition and delivery -- the album was entirely instrumental, favoring delicacy and understated invention instead of singalong brashness -- Reilly made his mark as the most unique, distinct guitarist from Britain since Bert Jansch. Embracing electric guitar's possibilities rather than acoustic's, Reilly fused a variety of traditions effortlessly -- that one song was called "Jazz" could be called a giveaway, but the free-flowing shimmers and moods always revolve around central melodies. "Conduct," with its just apparent enough key hook surrounded by interwoven, competing lines, is a standout, turning halfway through into a downright anthemic full-band rise while never being overbearing. Hannett's production gave his compositions a just-mysterious-enough sheen, with Reilly's touches on everything from surfy reverb to soft chiming turned at once alien and still warm. Consider the relentless rhythm box pulse on "Requiem for a Father," upfront but not overbearing as Reilly's filigrees and softly spiraling arpeggios unfold in the mix -- but equally appealing is "Sketch for Winter," Reilly's guitar and nothing more, a softly haunting piece living up to its name. The 1996 reissue is the edition to search for, containing six excellent bonus tracks. Two are actually solo Hannett synth pieces from the sessions, but others include an initial tribute to Joy Division's Ian Curtis, "Lips That Would Kiss," and "Sleep Will Come," featuring the group's first vocal performance thanks to A Certain Ratio member Jeremy Kerr.

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