Review Summary: A unique delight you've never heard...
So much in music, past and present, is rinse and repeat but with a slight dyed difference. Ideas from one band inspire and spread by osmosis into the next generation, mutating and twisting into a different, but historically traceable, form of its origin. Every now and again something else comes along with a unique slant that is virtually original through its own identity and distinct style; one of whom is Vini Reilly of The Durutti Column.
Emerging from Manchester and put out on the Factory label (notorious for its indie ideals and one early label signee who changed the game; Joy Division), one might assume that Reilly’s debut LP The Return of the Durutti Column
would be a bleak, post-punk soundscape drenched in dour metallic noise. But it’s not – it’s something utterly unique, not just for a Factory or Manchester band of the era, but for all of modern rock music. It’s not a revolution, nor is it loud and forcefully influential, but listen carefully and it soon becomes irrefusable to claim that Return…
was anything less, if only in its own quiet, delicate way.
The record is produced by Martin Hannett (legendary producer of both Joy Division LPs), whose synthetic beats and alien touches give an opaque and mysterious edge to Reilly’s inimitable electric guitar tones. They blend well with and add to what is, essentially, an ambient album of one instrument – the electric lead guitar. Vini Reilly has such a distinctive and talented style – his riffs flowing, fluttering and intricate, never staying rigid, sounding as though they wish to take flight and be carried by a warm summer breeze. ‘Sketch for Summer’ is a glorious example; so warm, free and androgynous in its mood – not quite melancholy enough to be sad; not quite joyful enough to be happy; instead existing in some vague light between the two, fluctuating towards either direction based on the discretion of the listener.
It’s this identity, carried throughout The Return of the Durutti Column
that makes it such a special and unique record – not to mention the fact that original vinyl copies were housed in a sleeve made from sandpaper, deliberately designed to scratch the surface of neighbour shelf sleeves. It's an ambient piece crafted on guitar, best absorbed in one sitting and with an ear for subtleness and delicacy, and while musical nerds may be able to point out one or two antecedents, for the vast majority, The Return of the Durutti Column
sounds utterly unique and captures such un-graspable mood that it demands more attention than any ambient album should, and the time between now and its release date over 30 years ago have done little to erode such thoughts. Unique, intricate, mysterious and beautifully made; The Return of the Durutti Column
is an obscure album that deserves to be lifted out of such a status. Give it a try and drift off into Vini Reilly’s distinctive world.