12 O'Clock Track: "Testcard/Horizontal Hold," proto-noise rock by This Heat | Bleader

12 O'Clock Track: "Testcard/Horizontal Hold," proto-noise rock by This Heat


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In rock history few bands made music as bracing, unique, and prescient as the London trio This Heat, which first performed in early 1976 and disbanded in 1982. The group's eponymous 1979 debut album remains an all-time favorite of mine, and its opening blast stands as one of the fiercest, most rewarding moments in music, a terrifying slice of proto-industrial rock that sounds as fresh and innovative today as it must've three-and-a-half decades ago. "Test Card 1" is 47 seconds of barely audible electronic noise suddenly destroyed by "Horizontal Hold," a ferocious in-the-red blurt of ugly bass churn, hovering guitar noise, and gut-punching drums, recorded with unsettling rawness by a single room mike. Forty seconds in, the din halts, replaced by meticulously recorded organ swells, a slow drum pattern with deadly snare hits, and chunka-chunka guitar licks. Over the next six minutes the instrumental pieces goes through endless permutations and shifting densities, and all these years later it's never than exhilarating and inspiring. How did the group—guitarist Charles Bullen, multi-instrumentalist Gareth Williams (who died in 2002 from cancer at 48), and drummer Charles Hayward—come up with such a piece of music? I'll never figure that out, and that's pretty high praise in my book. "Test Card 1/Horizontal Hold," today's 12 O'Clock Track, is waiting for your ears and awe after the jump.


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