The Church

Uninvited, Like the Clouds

Jan 2006

 

 

“Uninvited, like the clouds
           Unremembered, like the leaves
   Unintroduced, like the rain
    Unperceived, like the truth”

Ladies, gentlemen, enthusiasts, detractors, obsessive collectors, curious novices… several facts were employed in the making of this Church record. Some are herewith assembled in good faith. But as ever in this perpetual labyrinth of sound and imagination, the truth is likely to remain unperceived.

This intriguing state of suspension should be familiar to those who have followed this band’s remarkable journey from Sydney 1980 to their current, peerless and stateless location best described as Sometime, Anywhere.

Uninvited, Like the Clouds is their tenth, thirteenth, twentieth or umpteenth album, depending on how you choose to count them. It arrived, as its title may suggest, by colliding accidents of fate and atmospheric pressure.

It was received, played and produced by Steve Kilbey, Peter Koppes, Tim Powles and Marty Willson-Piper, with select guests, in the summertime, at Spacejunk 1 and Dodgy Sound studios in Sydney.

The Spacejunk sessions largely centred on the random, self-generating process of live interaction that spawned two recent, highly regarded Church albums, After Everything Now This and Forget Yourself. The Dodgy sessions were generally more considered, structured and traditional.

Perhaps as a result, the album’s expansive textures and arresting melodies form a kind of bridge between the euphoric pop of the band’s fortuitous radio intrusions (see “Almost With You”, “Metropolis”, “Under the Milky Way”) and the ominous, unsettled light of their more kaleidoscopic art-rock trips.

Hence “Block”, a dramatic course through metaphysical traffic and fever from Miracle Street to Hyperion, a song like a slow dream of falling through a mutating vortex of guitars. And its polar opposite, “Easy”: a briefly shimmering sun shower with an updraft of promise and trilling mandolin.

The Church’s infinite spectrum of colours spans here from the sinister shards and magma of “Space Needle” to the opiated drift of “Pure Chance”, a cool surrender to a mermaid’s song.

“Real Toggle Action” is a fragmented ice-scape with a chilling dose of deep space blues, “Untoward” a nightmarish inner dialogue on smart drugs, the blissful “Unified Field” perhaps the band’s most summery, exuberant and plain catchy tune of the last decade or more.

Willson-Piper's “She’ll Come Back For You Tomorrow” revisits and updates a recurring theme in the Church’s big book of dreams, one in which nameless muses tease and hypnotise then vanish like mist, flesh and blood turned into imagination and contradiction.

Less familiar to the Church’s ethereal palette are some quite modern and earthbound images, notably the sense of shared isolation that makes “Overview” resonate so vividly: abstract 21st century angst tempered by the perennial hope of the music’s swelling sunrise.

Then there’s the penultimate entry in this year’s space log, “Day 5”, one of the band’s most gorgeous and intriguing songs to date. It sparks opaque memories, like a random chapter in a continuing story that’s left us suspended before, maybe on Séance, Starfish or Priest = Aura.

Throughout the grim, beautiful, disorienting journey, the four cornerstones of the Church continue to greet and defy expectations, Kilbey the receiver of an endless stream of outlandish images, the guitars of Koppes and Willson-Piper spiralling, aquaplaning, morphing and diverging. Powles shares production duties this time to concentrate on drums and percussion.

Like all truths, these basic rules are naturally in permanent flux. In "Song To Go", a guitar is abandoned for a hand-operated pump organ and cellist Sophie Glasson adds a classical counterpoint. David Lane’s piano bridges “Overview”; a mercurial, mandolin-like motif binds Koppes' “Never Before”; Powles’ additional production continues a sonic thread through the band’s last extraordinary decade.

Divine intervention may well have played a part too, but it’s refreshingly clear that the prevailing Hot Sound, the convenient market niche and the media-sponsored zeitgeist did not. These flecks of pestilence are too weak and transient to affect the cosmic seeds that the Church sow.

Possibility remains a more alluring mistress than expectation. To some parties, it’s best to remain uninvited. Not unlike, say, the clouds

 

the church: a chronology

1980     The Church play their first gigs in Sydney, Australia.
1981     Of Skins and Heart LP makes a Top 30 debut.
The Unguarded Moment hits #22.
1982     US debut combines Skins… and Too Fast For You EP.
Classic second album The Blurred Crusade hits Australian Top 10.
Almost With You is another hit.
1983     Sing Songs EP in Australia; first UK EP.
1984    Séance album serves notice of more experimental, atmospheric intent.
Persia and Remote Luxury EPs.
1985     Steve Kilbey releases first solo disc, a precedent Marty Willson-Piper
and Peter Koppes soon embrace with gusto.
1986     Heyday album breaks Australian Top 15, becomes global cult classic.
1987     Top 10 Starfish LP marks new worldwide commercial peak.
Under the Milky Way, #5 in Australia, #24 in US, Best Single ARIA
1990     Metropolis reaches ARIA Top 10.
Compromised Gold Afternoon Fix LP, another Top 10 hit, seals band’s resolve to put art before commerce.
1991     A Quick Smoke At Spot’s rarities compilation.
1992     Self-produced Priest = Aura, a new career high, is the end of an era.
1994    Kilbey and Willson-Piper reconvene for epic Sometime Anywhere set;
tour as acoustic duo.
1996     2nd duo LP, Magician Among the Spirits, Koppes makes guest appearance that leads to reunion tour, with drummer Tim Powles completing most cohesive Church line-up.

1998 Hologram of Baal cements new line-up

Companion album, Bastard Universe, first 70-minute improvisation album.
1999     A Box of Birds covers album.
2001     After Everything Now This, biggest international hit in almost 10 years.
2002     Parallel Universe remix album.
2003     Forget Yourself sparks another sweeping world tour.
2004    Three albums find the Church at a new peak of creative health:
Jammed – second 70-minute improvisation album.
Beside Yourself – a second B-sides compilation.
El Momento Descuidado – Liberation Blue acoustic album.
2005     Back With Two Beasts outtakes album
2006    Uninvited, Like the Clouds worldwide release April - 26 years after first Church shows.