Graham Reid | | 3 min read
From time to time Elsewhere will single out a recent release we recommend on vinyl, like this which comes as a remastered double album in a gatefold sleeve (with an additional rare track), the first vinyl release of Pitch Black's 2004 breakthrough album.
Check out Elsewhere's other Recommended Record picks . . .
When, in 2004, Elsewhere interviewed Mike Hodgson and Paddy Free (who are Pitch Black) they were justifiably proud of their new two-years-in-the-making album Ape to Angel.
“We are happier with this album than any other; we certainly have the least regrets about it,” said Free, although he later laughed and said, “it might be three or four bars too long. I notice it. I think, 'Oh, come on' because I'm waiting for it to get through That Bit.
“But for some people that may be 'The Moment' where they get into it and then come back for the delivery bit I was waiting for.”
Ape to Angel, Pitch Black's third album – not counting remixes of the previous two – proved to be their breakthrough release, its emotional breadth and sonic depth through a driving bottom end taking them to clubs around the world and picking up ecstatic reviews, club and radio play, and establishing them at the cutting edge where electronica collided with dub, dance and synth-driven space-rock.
It also included their first vocal tracks with the soulful voice of Sandy Mill, distant on the languid-but-layered six minute dubby Freefall and central on the groove-riding nine minute-plus Elements Turn.
It was an album which was diverse but coherent and, as with all their releases, was as listenable at home as it was massive in the clubs.
“We've always made 'album albums' that we like people to have in their lives,” said Hodgson at the time. “We let the remixers do the dancefloor versions and, because we play live so often, don't feel we have to release a 12-inch for a DJ. We're touring and doing it anyway.”
Free described their recordings as “slow-release albums which is probably why we have a longer lifespan than many bands”.
“We want to be as equally accessible as a pop band so people can listen and not think we have lost it, or are not paying attention. It's so easy in electronica.
“Because our stuff is instrumental all you have is an arrangement to tell the story. I love pop music where you are grabbed by the throat and led through it by an expert, but in electronica that can be difficult.”
Ape to Angel effected the gap between pop accessibility and the spaciousness which electronica could offer, the pieces – most of them around the eight minute mark, the live Random Smiler at 10 – might have stretched but there was no loss of focus or the sense that Pitch Black was taking the listener on a journey.
Where to -- as in the case of the eight minute shapeshifting Flex -- hardly mattered.
Now issued for the first time on vinyl – a double album in a gatefold sleeve, remastered by Angus McNaughton, the Shane Cotton cover art slightly changed by designer Hamish Macauley who also created the photo collage inside the centrefold (see below) – Ape to Angel joins the ranks of previous and welcome PB vinyl reissues: their 1998 debut Futureproof and 2000 Electronomicon.
There's the slightly disturbing and driving Lost in Translation with distorted vocal samples from an Estonian satellite transmission and the brief, atmospherically spacey Protect the Grain (not on the original album) slips neatly at the end of the second side after Big Trouble Upstairs which opens with quirky beats then hits a pace with some deft and defiantly clever rhythmic changes.
Ape to Angel was both an extension and consolidation of where Pitch Black had been, but the sheer scope and subtlety which Pitch Black confidently explored lifted them into a different realm.
An essential Recommended Record.
You can hear and buy this album at bandcamp here
For more on Pitch Black and solo projects by Mike Hodgson and Paddy Free at Elsewhere start here
Footnote: also available on double vinyl now is Sub Signals Vol 2 by Gaudi which includes the Adrian Sherwood remix of Pitch Black's Transient Transmission.
Here is Elsewhere's review of the original 2021 CD release of which we concluded it was “best devoured for the whole 75 minutes when time and space stretch and/or contract . . . and sometimes become meaningless”.