Record Review: It’s Immaterial Album Shimmers After Almost 30 Years Tucked Away In A Closet [part 2]

it's immaterial - house for salew cover art

It’s Immaterial | UK | CD | 2020 | IICD001

It’s Immaterial: House For Sale – UK – CD [2020]

  1. Summer Rain
  2. Kind Words
  3. Just North of here
  4. Downriver
  5. Tell Me Why
  6. Up On The Roof
  7. The Gift Of Rain
  8. I Can’t Sleep
  9. In My Dreams
  10. How Can I Tell You

[…continued from last post]
The evanescent beauty of “Summer Rain” started the album on a wistful note with a rising string patch under which the crystalline synth loops replicated the feel of rain itself. The spacious vibe that Callum Malcolm dealt in was present in all of these songs. With airy arrangements that never overpowered, except through subtlety. Almost below the threshold of perception were curiously funky synth figures if we listened carefully. Long time China Crisis stalwart Mark Pythian guested here on keys and the vibe would not be out of place for those of a China Crisis persuasion. The subtle acoustic guitar got a chance to have some spotlight in the middle eight on this song of delicate remembrance.

“Kind Words” was a sly samba that proffered vocalist John Campbell in a surprising Lothario role singing a duet of embittered romantic fallout with Eva Peterson as the wronged woman [left with two kids] who upbraids the evasive Campbell role as he swings by [probably not in the best of intentions] to see what he can get away with as the lady sends him packing in spite of his perfunctory overtures of recompense. A surprising “too little, too late” scenario of a heel’s comeuppance for this normally prosaic band.

jarvis whtehead + john campbell

Jarvis Whtehead + John Campbell

Then the album delivered a quintessential It’s Immaterial moment for the third song. “Just North of Here” began with scintillating strings and a tentative piano before the gentle rhythms began and Mr. Campbell dropped the listeners into a potentially dangerous scenario with agitated strangers [possibly given to fits] in a restaurant asking unanswerable, metaphysical questions. Specifically, “where’s heaven?”

Campbells’ classic matter-of-fact delivery was the sort of conversational, intimate performance that no one did better than this band. I loved how the narrator’s relating of this surprising event led to his extended reverie about a fishing trip where, indeed, he  found as close to heaven as he’d ever known; the possible street person he had encountered in the restaurant now forgotten. A red herring of a song opening gambit as he waxed further eloquent on the wonder of that fishing trip that had, in retrospect, made such an impression on the narrator.

The gentle rhythm under the sustained strings and a three note sampled string hook. The song formed was a Mobius loop of longing and beauty that gently pulled the listener in to calm and reassure them that heaven was indeed attainable, if we opened ourselves to the possibilities. By the song’s end, the narrator was ready to leave the restaurant, put his boots on, and go north of town and just disappear…with the last word repeated twice on the fade out.

The abstract synth that sounded like a sampled horn, given an envelope that altered it’s attack and decay considerably, was a continual presence in the epic “Downriver.” The subtle beat of a tom hit and finger snaps grounded the verse structure of the song. The chorus had the tempo matched by a completely different rhythm programming as the song seemed to be woven from two different takes of the same song. The EQ and vibe of the verse being more spacious and abstract, with the chorus structure sounding more compressed. The deep synth bass that occasionally figured in the deep end of this river was eventually outlasted by that almost random sampled horn synth pulling us through the song gently.

Next: …Sleepless Nights + Yet More Rain


About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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6 Responses to Record Review: It’s Immaterial Album Shimmers After Almost 30 Years Tucked Away In A Closet [part 2]

  1. I had a chance yesterday (Canadian Thanksgiving) to give the new disc a spin … only to realise to my chagrin that I’ve misplaced my (Firewire!) external CD unit that I could hook to up to my now semi-retired 2012 MBP. I’ve since located it, but that pleasure may have to wait for another opportunity.

    As for your comments re: China Crisis, while It’s Immaterial don’t occupy quite the same space, they certainly do live on the same planet. Listening to Life’s Hard once again I was reminded of some passing resemblance to the band James as well as other “not ‘soft rock’ but intimate rock” type bands such as The Colourfield, Kissing The Pink, Furniture, The Lilac Time and of course The Blue Nile. Still, I think It’s Immaterial stand alone even among those peers, and their first album (the only one I currently have access to until I hook up this #$!& CD/DVD burner) is a classic in my “Rainy Day Music” playlist.


  2. Emperor Rossco says:

    Methinks wise Monk the best is yet to come? Who doesn’t welcome the “gift of rain” even while up on the roof with the neon sign like that memorable scene from the movie ‘Strictly Ballroom’?
    Such a sweet journey home; albeit helluva trip!


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Emperor Rossco – Welcome to the comments! We don’t always have such royalty here and will dust off the red carpet [if we can find it among all of the piles of CDs records…]. We hope that the best is always yet to come. If any album was surely deserving of an inspirational movie made of its journey, then it would be “House For Sale,” yes? Loved the new wrinkles in the Itsy fabric.


  3. Echorich says:

    Just North Of Here is so very beautiful. It’s the perfect crossroad where Malcolm’s and It’s Immaterial’s paths collide.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – It’s a classic for the band for certain. I could easily point to that track and say “this is what It’s Immaterial are all about.” Mr. Campbell’s storytelling ability is peerless.


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