Oh now, this is beautiful. Originally released in 2008, East of the Wall’s genre-bending debut album ‘Farmer’s almanac’ has now been re-released on luscious translucent turquoise vinyl for audiophiles to salivate over. Housed in a thick, card gatefold sleeve showcasing the album’s faux-vintage artwork and perfectly pressed by those wonderful chaps at Nefarious industries, this is an album to treasure. The band themselves are one of those impossible to define acts who vary so wildly in terms of sound and ethos that to pigeonhole them is out of the question. This, their debut album, is an instrumental effort with nary a vocal in sight. Other albums have taken a different approach without compromising the band’s core sound, but ultimately, despite the excellent ‘the apologist’ being a most worthy effort to explore, this wonderful debut is the place to start with East of the Wall, and this lovely vinyl edition is the way to do it.
Opening amidst a haze of feedback, ‘meat pendulum’ is the perfect introduction to East of the wall’s damaged world. With wordless vocalisations and gritty guitar the band set a disquieting scene that brings to mind fantomas, only for the pulverising drums to shatter the ambience and drag the music kicking and screaming into a metallic take on Fugazi’s angular art punk. What an introduction to a band! The sound, engineered, mixed and mastered by Colin Marston, is rich and detailed, every instrument captured in crystalline detail but with that warm analogue edge that makes vinyl the perfect medium for this sort of experience. Shifting into a psychedelic groove, ‘winter breath’ is both an astonishing display of nimble musicianship and a treat for those raised on the progressive excursions of bands like King Crimson. The absence of vocals is certainly no issue here, the band’s inventive musical exertions so filled with invention that lyrics would be rendered entirely superfluous. There’s a jazzy sensibility within the band’s endlessly varied time signatures and, in particular, the fluid bass runs that captures the attention throughout and despite the song’s length it feels but the blink of an eye and ‘century of excellence’ is upon us. Opening with creepy, horror-movie bass and shimmering guitars, it’s a shift in mood that showcases the band’s versatility and when the guitars come hammering in towards the track’s conclusion, it is with considerable force. It all leads the listener inescapably to side one’s conclusion, the initially elegant ‘switchblade knife’. Opening with Seth’s thunderous percussive blasts underpinning stair-stepping riffs, the band also deploy some of their most fearsome riffs here, and it brings the first side to a crushing close.
Side two opens with the amusingly titled ‘clowning achievement. Punning titles aside, there’s nothing amusing about the ferocious riff that announces the opening of side two. A distortion-laden slab of complex rock, it’s punishing and yet accessible, the band serving the song rather than some innate desire to throw in complex manoeuvres for the sake of demonstrating their undoubted dexterity. It’s an amazing piece of music and one that sees some of the album’s most graceful soloing. In contrast ‘unwanted guest’ is a gentle piece of work that features a horn section playing alongside the band. A perfect piece of progressive rock played on largely acoustic instruments, it’s a welcome change of pace that eventually explodes into a molten riff fest that feels all the more urgent for the moments of calm that preceded it. The band bid farewell with ‘I am crying nonstop hysterically’, a fast paced, multi-headed beast that leaves the listener firmly wanting more. Kit marks the close of a fine debut album and one, that with the benefit of hindsight, only briefly hinted at the remarkable music that was to follow.
For fans of the band, this vinyl reissue will be a most welcome gift, but I’d like to think that Nefarious industries have also opened up the ground for a whole new audience to find East of the wall. Strictly speaking in technical terms it is a beautifully crafted pressing. There is minimal surface noise from the vinyl, even at high volumes (and believe me we tested this rigorously!) and the sound is rich, warm and clear, capturing Colin’s stunning mix to perfection. Musically, meanwhile, it is a wonderful collision of styles played by four, clearly inspired musicians teetering on the thin divide between insanity and genius. Frequently thrilling, inventive and richly rewarding, ‘farmer’s almanac’ is a wonderful album and this vinyl version is an exquisite way to appreciate its unique charms.