Boomkat Product Review:
One of the most low key influential and brilliant records of the 1990’s finally available in an officially sanctioned edition, remastered at Abbey Road Studios by Miles Showell with the help of frontman Graham Sutton, and featuring an additional track - ‘Mucs’ - ‘Scum’ played in reverse.
A historic side of music, ‘Scum' was released in 1992 with a razorblade on the cover and a b side etched with angry knife cuts. It features the most beautiful, seething music you’ll likely ever come across, harnessing a universe of sound across its 21:21 running time that’s impossibly intricate, slow-moving and patient - still revealing new layers of detail three decades later.
‘Scum’ was famously recorded in the vault beneath St. John's Church in East London, with an open mic capturing not only the spontaneous, improvised recording session, but also the building's strange acoustics and the echoes of life outside; traffic passing by, ambient noise, unexpected reverberations, a pentecostal meeting going on in the back room of the same building, The song itself; achingly slow to unfold - the first 3 minutes just the sound captured by ambient mics left up in the church, then with barely-there guitar, a wheezing melodica, a slow bassline in dub, into distant, scattered percussion, then samples, what sounds like a clarinet, found sounds and electronics, winding around the dissociated vocals of Sutton, who unwittingly found himself in the role of frontman.
Simon Reynolds coined the term post-rock to describe the band's debut album ‘Hex’, but ‘Scum’, which preceded that album by a couple of years, was a different beast. In its aggressive avoidance of clapped ideas and cultural memes, it was better described as "anti-rock”, capturing the grey gloom of the Thatcher-to-Major turnover. The sounds; alien and unique, brutal - then shimmering, quiet then loud (before that was a thing) - all faithful to Sutton's dedication to the recording process and a storied obsession with Miles Davis, conjuring a sonic template that few have managed to fathom, let alone replicate, in the years since.
Music produced with this kind of obsessive attention to detail rarely engages on an emotional level, but ‘Scum’ is the complete opposite - endlessly deep, revealing myriad contours of ancient, urban, decrepit beauty - a sort of spiritual successor to Talk Talk’s’ similarly inebriated and deliriously hushed ‘Laughing Stock’, which was released a year earlier, and which - in contrast - had a huge cast of players and the budget to go with it.
Ambient, dream pop, jazz, dub, punk rock - it's all in there somewhere, shrouded beneath the shattered dreams of a rag-tag group of squatters in pre-gentrified East London who somehow managed to record one of the most inspiring and brilliant records of the 90’s.
Absolute core listening.