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Watching the Hydroplanes
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Performer Notes
  • Audio Mixer: Peter Hook.
  • Liner Note Author: James Nice.
  • Recording information: 1981-1982.
  • Editor: James Nice.
  • Following on some years after a single-disc compilation of available Tunnelvision material, LTM returned to the band by offering up two separate discs, generally divided between live and studio cuts. Watching the Hydroplanes was the studio offering, starting with the one item LTM had been unable to license for re-release the first time through -- the actual "Watching the Hydroplanes"/"Morbid Fear" single itself, the one item the band released during its initial lifetime. Given a remix from original demo tracks by Martin Hannett, it bears less of that producer's imprimatur than might be thought -- the feeling is much more one of murk than crispness balanced with echo, say -- but "Watching the Hydroplanes" itself is a hypnotic blend of lost-somewhere vocals, steady rhythm, and a calm but persistent spindly guitar part. The remaining tracks mostly come from two demo sessions -- in an odd compare/contrast offering, one session, the second chronologically, is repeated twice, one in its Peter Hook-remixed form and the other as originally recorded, though taken from a muddy source tape. In both versions the band's performances are quite good, if also betraying signs of picking up on the work of bands like Bauhaus and the Cure (musically if not vocally), with Hook proving to be a more sympathetic producer than Hannett, perhaps unsurprisingly bringing the bass to more prominence and emphasizing a strong band performance all around even while letting the individual players stand out. The other demo, the first chronologically, covers the recordings that produced the eventual single (the difference Hannett made being clearly audible), with "Old Comrades" in particular sounding like it might have been a better choice than "Morbid Fear" for the flip side in the end. A final, extremely rough alternate take of "Watching the Hydroplanes" concludes the disc. The liner notes are up to the usual high standard of LTM-related work, giving a solid history of the group while noting that the band reunited in 2003 to carry out more live and studio work, perhaps in the wake of Crispy Ambulance's own striking re-formation. ~ Ned Raggett
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