You should know by now that Light in the Attic's Modern Classics Recordings subsidiary has been reissuing the catalog of British post-punk mavericks This Heat. In 2016, MCR re-released This Heat, Deceit, and Health and Efficiency. This summer, the sublabel rescued from obscurity Made Available, Repeat/Metal, and Live 80-81. (Material by This Heat satellite projects Lifetones and Camberwell Now has also received a new lease on life via LITA.) Damn, they do spoil us so...
Anyway, let us now focus with laser intensity on "Horizontal Hold," a track recorded for BBC DJ John Peel in 1977. This song later appeared on This Heat, but as magnificent as it sounds there (and as sampled in Detroit rapper Danny Brown's "Adderall Admiral"), this radio-session take on Made Available is the definitive one. Along with "Health and Efficiency" and "Rimp Romp Ramp," "Horizontal Hold" represents the peak of This Heat's radical subversion of rock-song conventions.
The first 30 seconds of "Horizontal Hold" sound like Iannis Xenakis scoring a horror film, before a shock-cut jolts things into ultimate fight-or-flight mode. What could be a modulated car alarm tussles with a bass oscillation so distended and frazzled, you fear your stereo/computer/cell phone's going to burst into flames. Gradually, a series of controlled explosions pop off, and it's so discombobulated, even the most obsessive gearhead probably can't fathom how it's happening. An oblong groove materializes, a synth becomes a machine gun, a phantasmal, Sonny Sharrock-esque guitar solo skronks snakily through the chaos, an organ drone terrorizes ears in the middle distance. Another jump-cut to another ratcheted rhythm plunges the piece to a lower level of the inferno. Etbloodycetera.
Jesus fucking Christ, This Heat put you through the ringer over these eight eventful minutes, while conducting a PhD-level seminar in dynamics. Stanley Kubrick could shoot a mini horror classic to "Horizontal Hold"'s diabolical montages.
As the Last Poets bellowed back in 1971, "this is madness!" "Horizontal Hold" makes Miles Davis's Dark Magus and On the Corner—works I hold in the highest esteem—sound like fuzak. I want to drag Thomas Pynchon out of hiding to write an encomium about "Horizontal Hold." Perhaps only someone of his caliber could do justice to the aural alchemy happening here. Who's his publicist these days?