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Who could claim having had one of his songs taken up by Martin Gore (Depeche Mode)? Has co-produced Morrisey's first album (Viva Hate) as well as his first hit? Is considered as a genius by John Frusciante (Red Hot), Robert Smith (the Cure), Brian Eno and many others (ask Hood and Piano Magic)? Who has prefigured ten years before, through his music bringing up some 'bewitching desolation and sad hypnosis', a movement pretentiously called 'post-rock'? Who then? Vini Reilly, of course! The passionate soul that you cannot think of without thinking of a unique and uncompromising musical project: The Durutti Column!
Some history first... If Joy Division and New Order remained the outstanding bands of the Mancunian stage and the label Factory, other bands whose career was more discreet did not stay behind as long as influence is concerned; among others, The Durutti Column stands out as an evidence. One of the most secret, discreet and paradoxically most influent musicians of his generation has hidden, from the label creation on, behind this tribute to situationism and to the Spanish anarchist Buenaventura Durutti (who died shot by Franco's troops in 1937).
During the eighties Vini Reilly releases a series of beautiful albums, those unique records that you keep preciously and will never sell on no account. 'The return of the Durutti Column', 'LC' (for Lotta Continua), 'Another Setting', 'Circuses and Bread' or 'Vini Reilly' impose the master's touch with consistency: an unheard guitar technique (licked chords, rhythm sections, arpeggios, soli, two-octave soli... sooo brilliant!) held to cyclic drummachine rhythms or to the jazzy variations of his accredited lifelong drummer / manager Bruce Mitchell, sometimes swimming through Vini's depressed/depressing voice. The alloy works beautifully.
With the constancy of a quiet river and rare apparitions, the musician has kept on delivering his solitary anorexic records until today, always lightened up by some inspired melancholy and his very arpeggios. With the same regularity and a bit of laziness the press will describe the whole as ethereal, melancholic, hypnotic, haunting, even soporific, with some critics for his works during the nineties. Downturn maybe following the traumatic death of Factory, knowing the convictions and integrity of the guy.
After its two latest releases (the albums 'Someone Else's Party' in 2003 and 'Tempus Fugit' in 2004), however, The Durutti Column will brilliantly revive the class shown through its albums from the eighties. Better: mute for years, Vini goes back singing, intensifying the impact of this way back to the roots, underlined by crystal guitar melodies and persisting samplings. As a perfect stylization of the rediscovered emotion 'Spanish Lament' (musical version of 'Crying', from David Lynch's 'Mulholand Drive' soundtrack) will delight the fans and convince those for who the Column Durutti remains to discover. Magic moments that, as we hope it, will happen again on the Rh‚‚‚ Lovely stage, for an inevitably exceptional concert... after 22 years of absence in Belgium!
Till then: silence. Silence. Silence. And contemplation.
-) 1980 : 'The Return Of The Durutti Column' on Factory Records.
Allmusic's point of view :
More debut albums should be so amusingly perverse with its titles -- and there's the original vinyl sleeve, which consisted of sandpaper precisely so it would damage everything next to it in one's collection. Released in the glow of post-punk fervor in late-'70s Manchester, one would think Return would consist of loud, aggressive sheet-metal feedback, but that's not the way Vini Reilly works. With heavy involvement from producer Martin Hannett, who created all the synth pieces on the record as well as producing it, Reilly on Return made a quietly stunning debut, as influential down the road as his labelmates in Joy Division's effort with Unknown Pleasures. Eschewing formal "rock" composition and delivery -- the album was entirely instrumental, favoring delicacy and understated invention instead of singalong brashness -- Reilly made his mark as the most unique, distinct guitarist from Britain since Bert Jantsch. Embracing electric guitar's possibilities rather than acoustic's, Reilly fused a variety of traditions effortlessly -- that one song was called "Jazz" could be called a giveaway, but the free-flowing shimmers and moods always revolve around central melodies. "Conduct," with its just apparent enough key hook surrounded by interwoven, competing lines, is a standout, turning halfway through into a downright anthemic full-band rise while never being overbearing. Hannett's production gave his compositions a just-mysterious-enough sheen, with Reilly's touches on everything from surfy reverb to soft chiming turned at once alien and still warm. Consider the relentless rhythm box pulse on "Requiem for a Father," upfront but not overbearing as Reilly's filigrees and softly spiraling arpeggios unfold in the mix -- but equally appealing is "Sketch for Winter," Reilly's guitar and nothing more, a softly haunting piece living up to its name.
Ned Raggett - site.
-) 1981 : 'LC' on Factory Records.
Allmusic's point of view :
After some abortive collaborations, Reilly hooked up with a regular drummer, talented fellow Mancunian Bruce Mitchell, to create LC, Durutti's second full release. Self-produced by Reilly but bearing the unmistakable hints of his earlier work with Martin Hannett, LC, named after a bit of Italian graffiti, extends Reilly's lovely talents ever further, resulting in a new set of evocative, carefully played and performed excursions on electric guitar. Mitchell's crisp but never overly dominant drumming actually starts the record off via "Sketch for Dawn I," added to by a simply captivating low series of notes from Reilly that builds into a softly triumphant melodic surge, repeating a core motif again and again. His piano playing adds a perfect counterpart, while the final touch are his vocals -- low speak-singing that sounds utterly appropriate in context, mixed low and capturing the emotional flavor at play via delivery rather than lyrical content. As great as Return is, this is perhaps even better, signaling a full flowering of Reilly's talents throughout the album. Mitchell proves him time and again to be in perfect sync with Reilly, adding gentle brio and understated variation to the latter's compositions. Nowhere is this more apparent than on "The Missing Boy," the album's unquestioned highlight. Written in memory of Ian Curtis of Joy Division, on it Mitchell adds quick, sudden hits contrasting against the low, tense atmosphere of the song, while fragile piano notes and Reilly's own regret-tinged, yearning vocals complete the picture. For all the implicit melancholy in Durutti's work, there's a surprising amount of life and energy throughout -- "Jaqueline" is perhaps the standout, with a great central melody surrounded by the expected Reilly elaborations and additions in the breaks.
Ned Raggett - site.
-) 1982 : 'Another Setting' on Factory Records.
Allmusic's point of view :
Whereas LC was a clear leap forward from an impressive start, Another Setting tries slight variations instead, otherwise sticking to the same combination of Reilly's elegant guitar work; Mitchell's subtle, effective drum lines; and a dollop of distanced singing and keyboard work from Reilly on top of that partnership. Given that this combination is already so distinctly and uniquely the band's, though, it's hard to complain too much when hearing numbers like the gently tense "Bordeaux" and the emotional, oboe-tinged crawl of "Smile in the Crowd," later covered by Depeche Mode's Martin Gore. Opening track "Prayer" is actually one of the best things he's done, a softly rising, meditative piece with soft synth horns mixing with a brief Reilly guitar part just so. "Francesca," meanwhile, demonstrates his skills at combining a central melody with subtle improvisation and development throughout the rest of the track, again double-tracking his pieces to create a hypnotic effect. These and many other moments clearly signal where a fair amount of Cocteau Twins' work would eventually go, not to mention other later avatars of experimental guitar calm like Talk Talk and Piano Magic. Mitchell's standout moments crop up throughout, one of the best being "The Beggar." Giving just enough drumming heft and power to be as anthemic as an early U2 song without sounding ridiculously overwrought at all, it's a grand fusion of Durutti's general restraint and a more straightforward punch. The sometimes easy-to-miss humor in Durutti also remains present, as the title of one Morricone-tinged number puts it, "For a Western."
Ned Raggett - site.
-) 1983 : 'Amigos Em Portugal / Dedications For Jacqueline' on Fundacao Atlantica.
-) 1983 : 'Live At The Venue London' on Vu.
-) 1984 : 'Without Mercy' on Factory Records.
-) 1985 : 'Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say' on Factory Records.
-) 1985 : 'Domo Arigato' on Factory Records.
-) 1986 : 'Circuses And Bread' on Factory Records.
-) 1987 : 'The Guitar And Other Machines' on Factory Records.
-) 1989 : 'Vini Reilly' on Factory Records.
Allmusic's point of view :
Reilly's singing has often come in for criticism (unwarranted, really, considering how his soft approach effortlessly suits the general atmosphere of Durutti's work), so the slew of sampled and borrowed snippets from other vocalists and musicians that pepper the album makes for an intriguing change. "Love No More," the album opener, shows how the approach can work, with acoustic guitar to the fore and echoed, truly haunting snippets of what sound like soul and opera singers wafting through the mix. Another full-on highlight is "Otis," with Pol's live singing and Connell's keyboards combining with a brisk synth loop, building Mitchell drums, an astonishing, uplifting Reilly guitar line, and the legendary singer Mr. Redding himself in a combination that needs to be heard. Mitchell's overall work on percussion is less prominent than before but still present, while Reilly's guitar efforts are again simply wonderful, further testing new approaches on both acoustic and electric that call to mind everyone from John Fahey to Bootsy Collins. If that last comparison seems strange, give the loud and funky "People's Pleasure Park" a listen, then marvel at how Sola's lovely singing and Reilly's further guitar runs transform it yet again.
Ned Raggett - site.
-) 1990 : 'Obey The Time' on Factory Records.
-) 1991 : 'Dry' on Materiali Sonori.
-) 1995 : 'Sex & Death' on Factory Too.
-) 1997 : 'Red Shoes' on Materiali Sonori.
-) 1998 : 'Time Was GIGANTIC' on Factory Too.
-) 1999 : 'A Night In New-York' on Reachout International Records.
-) 2001 : 'Fidelity' on Les Disques Du Crťpuscule.
-) 2001 : 'Rebellion' on Artful Records.
-) 2002 : 'The Return Of The Sporadic Recordings' on Kooky.
-) 2003 : 'Someone Else's Party' on Artful Records.
Pitchfork's point of view :
[...] As his mother's health failed, Reilly turned to his constant outlet, and recorded Someone Else's Party at home while mourning her death. Centered by loss and present-tense mortality, Reilly has laid to rest the distended distractions of his 90s work, and on opener "Love is a Friend" seems sure to reclaim the glory of Vini Reilly. A danceable, wet drum machine grounds his always echoing vocals, and his guitar lines rival the best tracks on LC. It's all offset by a once triumphant, now depressingly nostalgic brass hit, sampled alongside a showboat pop star's boast, "Top forty!"
In his boldest move since his controversial late-80s sampling, Reilly solos over Rebekah del Rio's Spanish rendition of Roy Orbison's "Crying" ("Llorando", from Mulholland Drive), calling the proxy collaboration "Spanish Lament". While it works beautifully, Reilly reveals the simplicity of his approach too honestly: he could turn just about any existing melody into a Durutti Column song by soloing over it-- and that's an effortless proposition at this point.
"Somewhere" and "Remember" return to the same poppy beats as "Love is a Friend", but bear an odd similarity to one-hit wonder Chris O'Connor's Primitive Radio Gods. The simplicity of O'Connor's only worthwhile ditty is something implicit in all of Reilly's work-- his tunes aren't flukes of inspired genuity, and are far more accomplished-- but bedroom-born pop jaunts like this are in many ways a purer side of the same coin O'Connor moaned about in his garage-recorded mid-90s heartbreaker.
Many of these tracks are reworked from other arrangements in recent years. The hokey keyboards in "Vigil" are simpler but equally awkward as in their original form, "For Rachel" from Time Was Gigantic. "Drinking Time", though, nicely retreats from the painfully straight balladry of that album's "Drinking Song", excising drums in favor of the trickling guitar we're used to. "No More Hurt" and "Woman" are the only notable failures, the former jumping into classic rock by way of Madchester, the latter a too-simple loop experiment you'll swear is based around the first seconds of Duran Duran's "The Reflex".
Unsurprisingly, "Requiem for My Mother" is the emotional centerpiece of this album, a devastating lament that in its slowed-down flamenco rhythm and initial melody immediately recalls Andy Summers' nylon work on The Police classic "Bring on the Night". A mid-pass wash draws you into the simple, hoenst refrain, "Lay down dear mother/ Lay down and rest your head."
Chris Ott - site.
-) 2004 : 'Tempus Fugit' on Kooky.
A few tracks are to be downloaded here.