Durutti Column: Idiot Savants (Artful)

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Durutti Column: That Blows My Name Away; For Rachel
Durutti Column: Idiot Savants (Artful)

To be honest, I thought they wuz dead!

It has probably not been since the early 90s that I last heard of, let alone heard, Durutti Column. I just assumed that mainman/guitarist Vini Reilly had packed his exotic tent and headed off into even greater obscurity.

So I was initally baffled -- then delighted - when this new album arrived in the post (with no proper cover and no information so I have no idea who is singing).

Of all the bands to emerge out of the Manchester/Factory scene in the late 80s/early 90s, Durutti Column were the most politically interesting: their name was based on that of a group of anarchists in the Spanish Civil War; and their first album came in a sandpaper cover (to damage other albums in record shops). Apparently, I never saw it but recall reading about it in NME.

However their music seemed oddly, but pleasantly, at variance with all this: Reilly played magical and mercurial guitar which was often delicate and referred to jazz or Anglo-folk; and over time their musical ambition grew and the line-up included trumpets, strings and guest vocalists. It was highly seductive stuff.

It seems they have spent the past decade on very small labels which were probably proud to have them although the labels' accountants must have been increasingly distressed.

But their ambition remains expansive and on this delightful and sometimes musically provocative album Reilly touches some sensitive places: Interleukin 2 has an ethereal choral part; Please Let Me Sleep opens with a flamenco flourish then settles in to some acoustic Anglo-folk and what sound like a working drawing for Pink Floyd; and in other places Reilly's guitar refers to both the avant-garde and a great tradition (jazz, folk, pop) simulateneously.

Fascinating.

On their website Reilly offers this mission statement: "The basic idea behind Durutti Column's music is to break with whatever structure supports the foundations of musical formalism, in order to try and create a kind of music which really can belong to everyone ."

Mission accomplished.

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