So the rumour goes that Gordon Sharp was invited to join Duran Duran after Sharp dissolved his Edinburgh glam-punk band The Freeze in the late ’70s. He turned them down. Elizabeth Fraser and Robin Guthrie also put out the request for Sharp to join the Cocteau Twins. After a brief stint accompanying the Cocteau Twins for a Peel Session in 1982 and a guest spot on This Mortal Coil’s It’ll End In Tears, he opted for his own project — the obscure, yet majestic Cindytalk.In This World is an opus in every sense of the word. Originally, In This World came out in 1988 as two separate albums under the same name, each with slightly different artwork. One album, a masterpiece of abject post-punk that in all honesty is the closest parallel to Swans’ Children Of God; the other, a delicate ambient construct of melancholy piano scarred with surface noice prognosticating pretty much everything that Type Records has released (e.g Machinefabriek, Jasper TX, etc.). It’s very good thing that both of these albums have been repackaged into one self-contained object, as the only half of In This World that seemed to be floating around was the piano-laced ambient one. As good as that half is, you need the grit and dirge of its companion album to complete Cindytalk’s ideas of grand dualities: heaven / hell, pleasure / pain, holiness / transgression, etc.
While billed by Sharp as the ‘disgusting’ part of the In This World diptych, the first half begins with a lovely tonefloat of scratched violin drones and painterly piano notes. Yet, with the crushing rhythm and noise attack of “Janey’s Love,” Sharp does not disappoint with his disgusting tag. This is a monstrous industrial dirge with huge monotone slabs of distortion and atonal drones counterpointing Sharp’s soaring falsetto. The punk poet Kathy Acker supplies a brief spoken word interlude as the coda to this incendiary number. Immediately hereafter, Cindytalk continue their turgid rhythmic marches with an angular distorted rhythm, slippery bassline mired in audio rust, and twin guitars spitting acid, fire, and brimstone on such tracks as “Gift Of A Knife” and “Circle Of Shit.” As the first half of the album progresses, the songs steadily disintegrate as rhythm, song structure, and noise all collapse into a blur of smeared grey that is eerily reflective of William Basinski’s Disintegration Loops. The piano which opened In This World becomes the dominant sound in Cindytalk’s soundscapes, also marking the delineation between the two halves of In This World. Yes, this is the beautiful side of Cindytalk, coated in ash, snow, bruises, and rust. Gordon Sharp’s piano playing comes from Brian Eno’s Thursday Afternoon, which in turn came from Erik Satie; and that impressionist sentiment continues forward amidst subterranean drones and field recordings of barren spaces. Sharp’s voice is mostly absent from these tracks, although the eponymous finale to the album showcases one of Sharp’s most emotive croons. They really don’t make albums like this any more, with such attention to detail and dynamics between rage and beauty.
Fortunately, both of these records were concise enough that they could both fit onto one CD; and if you’ve not had the opportunity to hear Cindytalk, please do not let this album and its predecessor Camouflage Heart pass you by! (Aquarius Records review 2009)