Pale Saints

The Comforts of Madness (4ad 1990)

http://www.divshare.com/download/5210899-715

From the first moment I heard the angelic choirboy voice of Ian Masters, I was hooked. I’ve followed his circuitous career and always was surprised that more folks haven’t come to appreciate his more spartan, ethereal work as Spoonfed Hybrid and ESP Summer. However, none of these projects ever compared to the brilliance of his work on The Comforts of Madness. His influence on the band is made even more clear by the blandness of Slow Buildings, the album they recorded without him. In fact, the followup to The Comforts of Madness, In Ribbons, is a lesser work because Masters was disenchanted with the poppy direction of the band and pressures to tour outside of England. However, their debut was entirely Masters’ platform and it resulted in one of 4ad’s best albums.

The Comforts of Madness is definitely influenced by Galaxie 500, Jesus and Mary Chain, AR Kane and My Bloody Valentine, but Masters’ songs are much more delicate and fragile despite the swells of feedback that propel some songs. They also set themselves apart from their peers in the shoegaze scene with their sudden shifts in tempo and mood within each song. Plus, it kind of sounds like a member of the Vienna Boys Choir tinkering with twee and shoegaze by writing complex, but odd pop songs with tape loops and almost subliminal samples. They even cover Opal’s “Fell From the Sun” and improve on the original by lending it a graceful quality lacking from the original. It’s a thoroughly 4ad take on an American gem. I could listen to Masters coo the alphabet and be a happy man, so I may be biased in my praise of this vastly underrated album.