Friday, 25 February 2011

The Aloof * Sinking


The Aloof we're somewhat of a lost supergroup, their various members and associates being involved in some of the best British records and bands of the last 20 years yet I'd be surprised if 1% of the people who'll read this ever got round to owning 'Sinking'. I know this as almost everyone I know loves this record, yet this is due not to slavish record collecting but to maybe 3 copies of it being constantly passed about, lent and borrowed between my friends during the summer of 96. In fact the copy I ripped this from was, I'm positive once the property of Mr John Arlo Lapworth from the wrong side of the river in sunny Ryton.
Anyhoo, enough misty eyed transgressing and back to the meat and bones of it. Unlike many bands who started out playing more or less straight-ahead rock but in the late '90s began to assimilate electronic elements, the Aloof was formed as a strictly dance squad and only later added a vocalist and employed tighter song structures. The band began in 1990 when DJ Dean Thatcher and producer Jagz Kooner (also a member of 'Sabres of Paradise' alongside Andrew Weatherall) issued the single 'Never Get out of the Boat' on a limited white-label pressing, then on a wider release 8 months later via the legendary 'Flying Records' label, but was only officially launched when 'ffrr Records' gave the single a proper release almost a year later. By then year, the duo added vocalist Ricky Barrow and programmer Gary Burns (also with the Sabres) and recorded several singles for Thatchers fledgling 'Cowboy Records' label.
While playing live PAs at nightclubs around Great Britain, the Aloof grew bored with the burnt-out house scene and had almost, without realising it, become a true live band. Adding drummer Richard Thair (later with Red Snapper) in 1993, the expanded quintet set up their own label, 'Flaw Records', and released their debut album 'Cover the Crime' in 1994.
The album became somewhat of a hit in the British indie charts, and earned the Aloof a contract with East West, which reissued the LP in 1995 and also released their second album, their magnum opus and our focus for today, 'Sinking' one year later. Recorded in a converted Hounslow council flat, and fuelled by Guinness, marijuana, and acid 'Sinking' is a brilliantly realised record of thick floating dub, with Barrows soulful, haunting vocals floating over the devious lines of thick beats with sultry ease, like a tormented postcard home to self-sanity. This, in my opinion is the record that typified the sound of the mid 90's more than any other. The record is sonically equal parts PiL, Studio 1, Massive Attack, The Stone Roses and Primal Scream, without ever really sounding like any (Sinking pre-dates 'Vanishing Point' by 2 years and 'Mezzanine' by 3) and lyrically touches on social consciousness, the mid 90's party drug hangover, weekend excesses, psychosis and political unrest. Uplifting, brooding, sometimes dark but always interesting and never more than right now does it sound like a retrofit for modern beggared Britain.
The group we on to play several festivals during the summer of 1996, opened for 'Leftfield' and had their single 'One Night Stand' reach the British Top 30 later that year. The album 'Seeking Pleasure' followed in 1998, though the group was dropped from East West after weak sales and a shake-up in the label's dance division. By now, almost any inertia had left the group, and Kooner jumped ship soon after, they battled on, moving to 'Screaming Target Records' for 1999's 'This Constant Chase for Thrills' which was at best a lackluster effort, and the group, bereft of most of the original players sadly failed to regain any of the epic drift, majesty and swagger of their sophomore effort.


1. One Night Stand
2. Bittersweet
3. Bitter Sweet
4. Stuck On The Shelf
5. Abuse
6. Wish You Were Here
7. Sinking
8. One Night Stand (2)
9. Hot Knives At Lunchtime
10. Space Dust
11. Losing It
12. Sunk
13. Last Stand

Download 'The Aloof * Sinking'

Till next time.
Big love. Tourist. X

1 comment:

justin said...

song number one is actually the radio edit of 'one night stand', 'space dust' is missing, everything needs to be shifted down one until I believe 'one night stand'. every site seems to be hosting this version of the album with the messed up tracklisting which makes it kind of irritating to someone who's not familiar with it and has to re-name all the files. great album though!