Autumnfair 1986-1989

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Thom Fuhrmann has described the work on this CD as being from his "4AD period," and that's not a half-bad way to look at the results, which draw together both the single tracks and a variety of unreleased material for a complete, if unannotated, overview. He and partner Val Haller, along with a rotating crew of backing players, created a generally dark and oftentimes dramatically powerful series of tracks that do have a bit of This Mortal Coil-styled impact to them, spiked more than once with Joy Division's sense of power as filtered through Martin Hannett's production. More rock and less texture, though -- the opening cut, "Alone," is practically an epic, with pounding drums; soaring, wordless backing vocals; and a piano part snaking through the mix. There are certainly dollops of Savage Republic-styled aggressiveness on Autumnfair 1986-1989, but generally speaking there's nothing in the way of industrial/metallic rhythms ("Read My Lips" being a definite exception) or roared, shouted vocals -- guitar, first and foremost, leads the way. But Haller's growling bass often offsets his calm, reflective singing (reminiscent of Simon Huw Jones' quieter moments with And Also the Trees, as on the pounding "She Only Smiles"), while Fuhrmann's at once cold and enveloping guitar work is often pure post-punk ecstasy. Add in touches such as the reverbed choir sample starting the swirling, very Cocteau Twins/Xymox-tinged instrumental "Novy Mir," and it's little wonder one could imagine this packaged in artwork by Vaughan Oliver or Chris Begg. Other strong numbers include "Cascade," with a conclusion worthy of Unknown Pleasures (down to the echo on the drum machines), and the rumbling, doom-laden punch of "Glaciers and Gods," which also has the best song title of the bunch hands down.