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Music Reissues Weekly: Pale Saints - In Ribbons | reviews, news & interviews

Music Reissues Weekly: Pale Saints - In Ribbons

Music Reissues Weekly: Pale Saints - In Ribbons

Open-minded Leeds band’s second album catches them at their peak

Pale Saints in 1992. Psychedelic? Us?Matthew Heslop

In an interview following the release of Pale Saints’ March 1992 second album In Ribbons, the band’s Ian Masters expressed his admiration for Eyeless in Gaza, Laura Nyro and Television. He told Option magazine “I find it incredible how much I am moved by Laura Nyro’s songs and how much of the emotional input that she has translates. I find it quite disturbing – it’s uplifting and depressing and really has the full spectrum of feelings.”

Of Television, he revealed “I’ve just been buying up old copies of [their debut LP] Marquee Moon and stacking them in my living room. Sooner or later, I’ll just put the covers on my walls.”

Pale Saints - In RibbonsWhether this particular household makeover was completed is unrecorded, but the assemblage of music which influenced Masters did not have an obvious impact on the sound of Leeds’ Pale Saints. Like his band, Eyeless in Gaza dealt in atmospherics but the precise architecture of Television and the abstracted New York soul of Laura Nyro were undetectable undertones rather than overt inspirations.

He also mentioned Texan psych band Red Crayola and Los Angeles’ X, circa 1980. Also from LA were Opal, whose 1984 track “Fell From the Sun” was covered by Pale Saints on their first album, February 1990’s The Comforts Of Madness. Another of their covers was "Blue Flower," originally by esoteric early Seventies art-rockers Slapp Happy. At live shows, Pale Saints had come on stage to Eno's Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks album

Pale Saints had at least one broad-minded music fan in their line-up. Their singer and bassist Masters wasn’t the only one. In 1991, they covered Nancy Sinatra’s "Kinky Love" – a favourite of their other guitarist and singer Meriel Barham, previously in Lush. She had joined Masters, guitarist Graeme Naysmith and drummer Chris Cooper in 1990, bringing what was a three-piece up to a four-piece. Like Lush, Pale Saints were signed to 4AD.

Over 30 years from when it was first issued, experiencing In Ribbons through the lens of the music which inspired Masters is instructive. Although they played live on bills with Lush and Ride and were lumped in with shoegazing or dream pop, the album now comes across as a form of baroque psychedelia. While there’s a My Bloody Valentine-style penchant for sudden dives into squalling noise, Masters’ Left Banke-like, upper-register voice and sections of songs suggesting a kinship with the orch-pop of Sixties bands like The Left Banke, sundry Curt Boettcher vehicles and Tim Buckley’s ornamented Goodbye And Hello give the album a different slant to what resulted from the Cocteau Twins, House Of Love and My Bloody Valentine influences hanging over many of their contemporaries. Viz: the filigreed piano on “Hunted”; “Three of Lights’” folk-rock approach; the short, “Song to the Siren”-ish “There is no Day."

The reissue of In Ribbons comes with an extra album of demos from the period. These are instructive. When played with no studio adornment, the songs come across as either a form of fuzz-pop or as doleful, introspective strum-alongs. These bare-bones takes say that once they were recording for release, Pale Saints – like their contemporaries Boo Radleys – used the opportunities the studio offered as the equivalent of an addtional raft of instruments. Producer Hugh Jones was integral. He had worked with Echo & The Bunnymen and had inputs into In Ribbons' arrangements.

What followed the exquisite In Ribbons was messy. Masters left the band the year after its release and Pale Saints carried on with a reconfigured line-up to make a third album. Then Barham left in 1995 and the band fizzled out in 1996. Back in 1992 though, In Ribbons catches Pale Saints at their peak. Remember them this way.


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