Record Review: It’s Immaterial – Space UK 12″

it's immaterial - space cover art
Siren | UK | 12″ | 1986 | SIREN 34-12

It’s Immaterial: Space – UK – 12″ [1986]

  1. Space…He Called From The Kitchen
  2. Hereby Hangs A Tale
  3. Space

I’d heard “Driving Away From Home” by It’s Immaterial quite a bit as it got the band in the public eye in the musically depressing mid-80s. I’d been aware of the band since hearing an early version of “Washing The Air” back in 1982 on a SFX cassette, but their time spent on local Liverpudlian labels completely missed the sleepy Central Florida where I lived. So it was four years later when the band seemingly re-erupted fully formed from the head of Virgin’s Siren imprint.

The second single that popped up on 120 Minutes was the stunning video for “Space.” As directed by Peter Care, it used the same crane that had jolted my eyes on Cab Volt’s “Sensoria” clip a couple of years earlier, but managed to juxtapose singer John Campbell wildly in the frame via various methods of rigging relative to the moving camera for an exceptionally “spacious” effect.

The 12″ single was bereft of such visual stimuli but made up for it in the musical department. The expansive Bert Bevans remix offered more spotlight to the TR-808 beatbox and the expressive bass to emphasize the funk in this deceptively dry song. The bass player was uncredited, but to my ears, the end effect is almost the same sound that Peter Gabriel and Tony Levin achieved on Gabriel’s life-changing third album. I don’t know if the budget was there for Levin, but the sound was pretty close to these ears!

Almost two minutes of groove played out up front before singer John Campbell calmly entered the mix with his sprechgesang dissertation on the nature of space itself that made the song so memorable. The EQ on the lead vocals were more up front on this remix than on the album track. His dryly dispassionate, matter-of-fact “voice over” technique had  a touch of David Byrne’s early delivery to it and ironically, Byrne was one of the names that the label tried to secure to produce this album, eventually ending up with a session produced by Jerry Harrison [which was largely abandoned] before settling on David Bascombe, who ultimately produced here. I was surprised when upon first listen, the climax of the song featured a female vocalist joining Mr. Campbell on the vocals. Again, the artist was uncredited on the overdub, but I felt she added an interesting counterpoint to the song without leaning too heavily on Campbell’s spotlight.

The deceptively cheerful B-side was amazing. “Hereby Hangs A Tale” was a song that referenced racism and lynching in the lyrics, replete with sampled strings and a winsome beatbox arrangement. The song’s powerful chorus was one that we can never tire of hearing and one that seems even more relevant today, then 36 years ago, when it was released.

“So tired of Old Jim Crow

Cut him loose and let him go”

“Hereby Hangs A Tale”

Unfortunately, the sophistication of It’s Immaterial fell on mostly deaf ears in their heyday. “Their earlier hit, “Driving Away From Home [Jim’s Tune],” went Top 20 in the UK but a reissue of the previous single after that, “Ed’s Funky Diner” only managed to reach #65, with the follow up of the haunting “Space” failing to chart. Well, there’s no shortage of pearls before swine in This Fallen World. I remained a fan of It’s Immaterial and was eager to follow them to their incredible sophomore album of 1990, “Song.” I would evangelize that album to any and all ears back then! Not that it was anything simple to buy in the first place. Without the catalogs I was using heavily at the time, even I would have had a hard time buying mine.


About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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