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If You Dig Deep Enough, You Hit the Darker Stuff - Adrian Borland - The Last Days of the Rain Machine

date: Jan 29, 2012


The collection of acoustic demos recorded between 1994-1998 by The Sound's Adrian Borland, The Last Days of the Rain Machine is simply exquisite. Released on the German label Red Sun Records. I don't believe he was ever a household name in many American households, if there was a scintilla of doubt that he was an amazing artist, this collection merely confirms what some of us can see so clearly. I've been listening to Borland the past few days, and right now I'm not certain that I can bring myself to stop listening.

Soldier to the Cause
Spending money on an album is no mortal sin. When you hear an album like Radiohead's landmark OK Computer, you see what talented, smart people can accomplish on a huge budget. In many cases all the studio dial twiddling and high profile producers, DJ's and song doctors can produce the aural equivalent of the Philosopher's Stone with crap. In other cases, a low budget or no budget can surpass anything a 96 recording tracks can theoretically accomplish. Pink Moon by Nick Drake is an obvious example, or the simple acoustic tracks on the early Elliott Smith albums. Alex Chilton's Big Star demos from Keep an Eye in the Sky. Less well known but similarly amazing is the posthumous collection Last by Glide, the amazing Australian band of the late William Arthur. I still remember when I got the album in the mail; I immediately put it on, and suddenly by about the third song I started bawling, which is highly unusual for me. But I heard the raw vibrant last music he ever would make, and it was such a matter of jarring contrasts for me. What a waste....Heroin is one of the stupidest things you could possibly ever dabble with.

I think that Last Day of The Rain Machine fits among these tremendous works, and it is basically unadorned; one man, and an acoustic guitar, exposing his soul to the world. A stark, astonishing, revelatory album. This album was released posthumously, after Borland's untimely tragic death. In the liner notes to this album, Carlo van Putten, who he collaborated with in the groupWhite Rose Transmission, sent a copy of these recordings that Adrian made on a four-track to Holland to his manager. They sent a copy to Adrian's parents and his mother phoned back saying that this was material that needed to be released. The music connects on a very primal and personal level, with a level of intimacy that is seldom found on a record.

The Kings of Convenience put out an album entitled Quiet is The New Loud. I could not help but think about that concept while I'm listening to this, because he managed to accomplish what in many cases an auditorium of Marshall Stack fails to deliver. In a lot of ways this sound like the British equivalent of a vintage American Blues artist, not in mimicry but in the very essence of the songs, from the marrow of his bones. If you knew him personally, this album probably would be hard to listen to. It's unfortunate that this recording is probably almost impossible to find now. If you see a copy of this, don't procrastinate.

If you want an affordable starting place however, From the Lion's Mouth and Jeopardy, early albums by The Sound have just been reissued again this year. Let's hope this is a beginning because Borland is clearly one of the best and most unappreciated artists I can think of. Renescent Records reissued a bunch of Sound albums on CD for the first time a few years ago (plus a number of other deserving artists), but though their website is up, it has not been updated in a long time and their shop looks closed right now. Hence the astronomical prices for many of their recordings. Your best bet on Borland's solo work is the Brittle Heaven website.

Some songs, such as the dark and gorgeously fragile Love is Such a Foreign Land, were recorded on Van Putten's patio. You can hear birds chirping throughout the recording. Valentine is an equally obsessive dirge of a love song, for some reason reminding me of Elvis Costello's I Want You. One of the best songs in this collection is the confessional sounding Running Low on Highs, where it sounds like he is so beaten down at this point that getting from day to day is becoming a bigger struggle. Of course there is always the difficulty when you hear this music of allowing the artist to become caricatured, like he was this sensitive guy who was sad all the time. I hope I'm not contributing to this, as I'm sure that while these songs are no doubt an outlet for a lot things, there is a lot more to this picture. There is an element of dour defiance here also, that even when things are bad, that even with a hell hound on his trail, he's going to get up tomorrow and keep fighting the good fight.

For instance, you have strong tracks like the opener, Walking in The Opposite Direction, basically a song about walking to a beat of a different drum. Dead Guitars is another terrific number, though the song seems to be about alienation and the limits of music. The music actually cuts out abruptly at the end. Hallucinating You, on the other hand sounds stylistically like a surreal romantic 19th century poem.

You walked like a ghost,
With silent steps
Shimmered like a fire
Heat-haze at your edge...
Were you protecting me
From something I couldn't see?
Was I hallucinating you?

Hopefully many people will come around to this music. Certainly the music of The Sound is on a par with groups like Echo and the Bunnymen, Teardrop Explodes, Joy Division, and better than a lot of bands who's images MTV burned into our retinas back in the high flying 80's. It would be nice if doesn't take a Volkswagen advert to do it, like the thousands of people who discovered Nick Drake from the auto manufacturer's use of the song Pink Moon. But maybe by any means necessary is good at this point. Maybe the fact that these recordings are so valuable right now does in some respect point to supply and demand and the value of Borland's music, and why at least a small group of fans are such passionate devotees. It's a good club to be in.

FJ Kulu -

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