As two-thirds of seminal shoegaze outfit Skywave, Paul Baker and John Fedowitz were partly responsible for creating some extraordinarily sonically challenging records as the twentieth and twenty-first centuries changed hands. The three albums released between 1998 and 2004 culminated in Synthstatic, arguably a precursor for the subsequent rebirth of shoegaze in its present day noise incarnation. The band's implosion led to birth of not one, but two pivotal outfits. While third member Oliver Ackermann's A Place To Bury Strangers have quite rightly become sonic torchbearers in recent times, Baker and Fedowitz have been busily constructing an equally unholy, if slightly more industrial racket of their own as Ceremony.
Having put out their debut self-titled EP as far back as 2005 on Alcian Blue's Safranin Sound label, they promptly followed this up with the release of their first long player, Disappear, just two years later. Although still relatively unknown outside of the US noise scene, Disappear would bring Ceremony to the attention of a European audience also just discovering former colleague Ackermann's new project for the first time. Three years on, a follow-up, Rocket Fire, finally sees the light of day on Boston's Killer Pimp label, attracting London's Northern Star Records among others to use one of their songs ('Don't Leave Me Behind') on 2011's Revolution In Sound compilation.
With Ceremony's profile finally in its ascendancy, new recruits to their fanbase searching long and hard for treasures within their back catalogue, it turns out they somehow managed to lose the original masters and recordings to both the Ceremony EP and Disappear long player. Enter Berlin based imprint No Emb Blanc, several months remastering and in some cases re-recording each of the 18 songs that comprised those two early releases, throw in four previously unreleased songs, and voila! You have Safranin Sounds.
In many ways it's kind of unfortunate Ceremony have managed to unleash the crown jewels in their armoury to a worldwide audience just as a vitriolic hardcore band sharing the same name from California have also broken through after a similar seven-year struggle for recognition. Nevertheless, across its 22 individual parts, Safranin Sounds is a more than affluent showcase for Baker and Fedowitz's multi-faceted wares, its creators doubling up as producers as well as playing every instrument on the record between them.
The first half of this mammoth compilation is devoted to the 11 songs that make up Disappear, and from the outset Ceremony make their industrialized intentions known, 'Dull Life' seeing Baker doing his best to emulate Andrew Eldritch while delivering lines like "How many times will I say I'm sorry?" to maximum, maudlin effect. 'You Never Stay' takes a more refined route down the back alley previously occupied by Curve and Sunshot, while the pulsating synths on 'Nothing Inside' conjure up a black celebration of Ceremony's own making. Its on the brutal 'No Good For You' and ferocious 'Without Your Love' that Baker and Fedowitz really come into their own, the latter treading hi-hat shaped footprints over Robert Smith's finest worksongs, whereas the former wraps the spirit of post-punk in a barbed wire halo of feedback and distortion.
The second half of Safranin Sounds takes an even further trip back in time to 2005, 'Nothing In The Sun' and 'Forever Lost' fusing swirling guitar histrionics with Kraftwerk style loops almost kinetically. 'Living For Today' borrows the template from New Order's earliest musings while 'Old' seemingly mashes up the intro lick from Suede's 'The Beautiful Ones' with the underbelly of 'Morning Glory' by Oasis, all the time managing to retain a certain degree of individuality thanks to the melange of effects engulfing its very frame.
Of the four new compositions, the drone-heavy 'Throw Your Love Away' and dreamy 'Love Is Fiction' stand out, both hinting that Ceremony's next long player should be worth the (already two years and counting) wait. For now though, as an introduction to their music, or simply as an exercise in filling the gaps after Skywave's sudden demise, Safranin Sounds ticks all the boxes.
7Dom Gourlay's Score