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Siiiii CDSiiiii
Ancient (King Sol)

 

 

Sheffield, somewhere back in the allegedly golden eighties. A city of many noises. Amid the pulse and crunch of long mac-clad proto-industrialists Cabaret Voltaire, and the bloops and oscillations of electronic experimentalists The Future, another band elbowed their way into contention, after-punk afterburners glowing and guitars to the fore. The name of the band was, and still is, Siiiii. Now, I know what you're going to say. Never heard of 'em, right? I mean, with a name like that, you'd remember, wouldn't you? Well, that's understandable, because while many of the other Sheffield scene noise makers went on to fame and greatness (Cabaret Voltaire became acclaimed left-field dance groovers, The Future became The Human League), Siiiii always remained below the parapet. Until now - for Ancient is a much-belated collection of the band's finest rackets, hauled out of the vaults and slapped on a CD for the benefit of the digital generation. It's an opportune moment for this re-release, for post-punk seems to be the big influence for many of today's bands. And, neatly enough, that means that many of the vintage tunes here actually sound very contemporary.

You can't pin Siiiii's music down. Although, if you mentioned swamp-punk-tribal-experimentalism (and reeled off those terms with enough shameless chutzpah) you'd be, if not bang on the band's target, then at least in the same windswept derelict warehouse. Try these songs for size: 'Split' is all looming and booming and metallic scritching and scratching, over which vocalist Paul declaims tremendously. It's a tour de force of slo-mo drama, like These New Puritans would sound if you dropped them in a swamp and told them the alligators were coming. 'Conception' sounds like the band's let's-do-something-like-the-Cure song, although they've set the vocals back amid so much reverb the effect isn't so much 'A Forest' as lost in Mirkwood. 'Dust' rattles along on yet more down-in-the-cellar reverb and a busy drum pattern, which, interestingly, almost hides under the bass, Siiiiidemonstrating that whatever was in Siiiii's minds when they recorded this, it certainly wasn't conventional rock arrangements. (The accompanying notes, incidentally, tell me that Wayne, Siiiii's drummer, was in an early line-up of Pulp, which if I'm not mistaken means he drummed on 'My Legendary Girlfriend' and is thus a Top Bloke).

Talking of drums, 'Rictus' is all tom-toms and a tribal rush and push, 'Equator' sounds like it's going to go dub reggae on us at any minute, but never quite tips over the edge. 'Springheel'd Jack' has another touch of the Robert Smiths about it, an apparent influence which crops up often enough to suggest that while Siiiii didn't necessarily want to be The Cure, they were happy enough to be the disease. 'Over' almost gets funky, a song which suggests Orange Juice was another influence at Siiiii Towers at the time, although a twenty-first century indie DJ could drop this one between Twisted Charm and Franz Ferdinand and it would fit right in. Indeed, perhaps the only song here which anchors Siiiii to 1980s Sheffield is 'Speaking In Tongues', with its collage of machine-like rumbling, half-heard choral effects, and a surreal spoken word vocal. It's very 'eighties art', in a way, and not a million miles from the kind of stuff the Cabs and their cohorts were doing at that time. If Siiiii didn't spend their formative years hanging out at the Meatwhistle arts lab in Sheffield, this song sounds like they might have done.

The product of a heady time when all the barriers were down and anything seemed possible, these songs are at once a nifty sonic document and a noise that's very now. I reckon Siiiii could hit the present-day new wave circuit and knock 'em dead. The In Your Ear nights at 93 Feet East, plus maybe the Artrocker parties at the Buffalo Bar would be their natural stamping ground, and maybe that'll happen, for it seems the band have plans to record new stuff shortly. I'll be interesting to see what changes the passing of two decades have wrought on the Siiiii sound - but for now, this material telescopes time with uncanny effect.

Essential links:

Siiiii: Website | MySpace

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