The Shadow Ring - City Lights
City Lights. The title conjures feelings of excitement, a hot 'n horny night on the town stuffed well beyond the brim with endless possibilities for adventure. So it's forgivable if you went into this recording expecting sweaty dance bangers. What's here instead is... free form outsider post-punk? Oh, rats! Forget about your night on the town. The lads will be in the Shadow Ring are staying in at 3:00 in the morning and they're taking you along with them!
Much like their one time Siltbreeze labelmates the Dead C, the music on City Lights finds the group largely mining the bleak, angular nihilism of classic post-punk groups such as This Heat, The Fall, Wire, and Joy Division. And like the Dead C, the results not only make the listener realize just how truly "post" so much of that music actually was but that there are still more extreme realms for it be dragged into. Ordinary pop/rock concepts such as production, melody, rhythm, and song structure are stripped down to the point where the "songs" are only that in the loosest sense, seeming as if they could possibly continue clanging away forever. If we accept that Disco Inferno represents an accurate manifestation of the idea of "post-rock," then groups like the Shadow Ring and the Dead C are simply the raw DIY inverse, less like an otherworldly technology woven MIDI landscape of the future and more like a sort of post apocalyptic aftermath where music is reduced to banging on a floor tom and disappearing into some awful thrift shop guitar racket, all done in the name of mourning the deaths of those who weren't so lucky to make it out alive and thus rendering all worlds around and within you desolate and barren, so why commit yourself to anything other than this pretentious droney bullshit?
The pieces contained on this, the Shadow Ring's 1993 debut recording, bring to mind phrases such as "primitive," "outsider," "art damaged." The guitar stylings aren't so far off from the "retarded" pluckings of Jandek or the Godz. There is a certain feeling that music like this inspires, one of being sucked into a black hole of darkened apartments, drab sofas, and a sense of being consumed by the blank spaces that dominate the surrounding walls. City Lights paints a vivid portrait of this world. It is certainly "arty," what with its lyrical content consisting of incredibly dry readings of pseudo (?) dadaist (??!) poetry delivered in a joyless British monotone, yet that also injects some humor into the proceedings. The presence of a track like "Lyin' Eyes," which features the "catchiest" moment on the album, a bouncy hook that could serve as the central idea of a Dragnet or Grotesque era Fall track, emphasizes this, as does the fact that it only lasts for a comically brief 56 seconds. The rest of the album is a spirit killing journey through tuneless muck. Sometimes somebody accidentally sits on a keyboard. I bet Sonic Youth talked about this back in the day. It's good!
Rating: Lost classic.
Download Link: "Cape of Seaweed"... a sick jam.