BARK PSYCHOSIS: INDEPENDENCY (1989-1992; 1994)
1) I Know; 2) Nothing Feels; 3) All Different Things; 4) By Blow; 5) Manman; 6) Blood Rush; 7) Tooled Up; 8) Scum.
For the serious patient of Bark Psychosis, this is an indispensable addition to the two full LPs. Independency is a compilation, released in 1994 (the same year as Hex) and collecting, in roughly chronological order, most of the stuff from their several singles and EPs from 1989 to 1992, altogether more than an hour of post-rock bliss in a state of growth — starting off with the early «naïve» singles (that's what Sutton called them himself) and culminating in the 21-minute ʽScumʼ, the track that literally put Bark Psychosis on the map and paved the ground for the less monumental, but even more elaborate compositions of Hex.
Indeed, the band's first single often feels as if they were just so excited with the possibility to lay down some trippy sounds in a professional studio — ʽAll Different Thingsʼ is really all about the miracle of phased guitar effects, looped and echoed off each other during the fussy free-form coda, and ʽBy Blowʼ, true to its name, explores the idea of how cool it can be when a soft, smooth, lulling New Age soundscape is gradually transformed into a messy nightmare "by blow" of the reverberating power chord, gradually gaining in intensity and frequency, until the Talk Talk-ish air is ripped apart by almost John Zorn-ian sound bombers. But it doesn't sound particularly professional or grappling — in fact, Sutton later admitted that they distorted the tapes in the process and didn't even notice it until it was too late. (Not that you'd ever guess that the wobbly sound of the track came by accident, rather than artistic decision).
Pending their second single (ʽNothing Feelsʼ / ʽI Knowʼ, for some reason placed here before the first one), the really interesting stuff starts with the Manman EP — the heavily rhythmic title track shows a clear techno influence, but is still imbued with Sutton's usual melancholy and some astral psychedelics: the guitar-dominated parts are similar to The Cure, but then they get swapped for keyboards, and it sounds like somebody wanted to record a completely digital track, but ended up recording the synthesizer parts manually — in other words, an oddly «homebrewn» version of whatever the real pros in the techno genre were doing, but also somewhat endearing because of that factor. The most curious track of the three, though, is ʽTooled Upʼ — also rhythmic, funky, and it seems as if they sampled the bassline from Talking Heads' ʽCrosseyed And Painlessʼ for this! Hardly a coincidence, even if there is hardly anything else in common between Bark Psychosis and Talking Heads.
As for ʽScumʼ, this is indeed like a 20-minute preview of whatever Hex would soon be, and as such, somewhat superfluous — there is no serious reason for it to go over 20 minutes. In fact, there would be no serious reason for any Bark Psychosis track to go over 20 minutes, unless you accept that the nature of their music is totally static (which is not true) and you just have to treat it as background musical incense. But historically, one can easily see how this was a sort of milestone for «post-rock»: the freedom of a psychedelic jam combined with the vague influence of the classical symphonic form and, in the case of Sutton, also with a strong jazz vibe. There's a little bit of everything in this track, and they make an adorable job of reducing it all to Nothing (with a capital N, which means respect, if not adulation).
Altogether, this is not a particularly tremendous line of evolution — one would hope for one of those early Napalm Death covers, but no dice! — but it does reveal several somewhat different incarnations of the band before they settle into their classic image, and, most importantly, there is absolutely no telling whether any of these tracks might strike a hidden chord in you: I'd say there's a big chance of a random music lover connecting with at least one, which sort of justifies paying one buck for this compilation if you happen to find it for such a price. But if you're one of those rare Suttonites who think that Bark Psychosis combined breathtaking beauty and deep intellectualism like no other Nineties' band, Independency is the required third shard to complete the Holy Grail of Proto-Post-Rock.
PS. And yes, that's not a bootleg cover - apparently, the band's name was in Cyrillic letters on the cover of the original compilation. It does look suspiciously like a Russian bootleg: I wonder if the band members had access to any of those, or were they simply influenced so much by Paul McCartney's so-called Choba B CCCP?