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15 January 2016

The Garbage & The Flowers - 'Stoned Rehearsal' (Quemada)

Were this a lesser band, Stoned Rehearsal would be a case of scraping the bottom of the barrel to release something, anything, by a band that (criminally) left too few recordings. It's just a dictaphone recording from what I assume was a practice space, but that's OK since almost everything on their "proper" album is also recorded on a dictaphone. The title's pretty much perfect as a description; a rehearsal this is, complete with stops, chatter, and tuning breaks. There's nothing provided to indicate when this took place, though we get a 4 page well-typed lyric sheet to sing along. This is great because it enables you to read 'Henry, Where is Lyon?' as a short story, which is really is - a long dark rumination on relationships set through some characters in a vague, gun-orientated narrative. It's the pick of the album for me, as it lumbers along it's chord progression, bassline meandering and the open hi-hat keeping time awkwardly - but over this, Helen Johnstone and (I'm guessing) Yuri Frusin take us through this journey, casually harmonising but not consistently. 'Though the world has come undone', indeed - this, like the rest of Stoned Rehearsal, is a song unique to this record, not appearing on Eyes Rind which suggests it was recorded later - and it feels like it's just teetering on a precipice of something intangible - but something that is welcoming and inviting. Other songs are less cohesive - 'River of Sem' takes some tries to get going (and Johnstone has some fun with her delivery);  'Call Out the Dogs Again' falls apart at the end - but this only serves to make this more intimate. 'Elisabeth' is adapted from a Herman Hesse poem and the vocal interplay, though barely above a murmur, is lovely, and the plodding drums (and dog barks!) are still forming the song. The one thing I find frustrating about this wonderful band is that everything feels so archival, like a document, rather than something living and growing. Or maybe that's exactly what the mystery is. I don't think a lot of artists could get away with releasing a practice tape on vinyl years later, but with Garbage and the Flowers it feels vital, like a missing piece. Johnstone is part of a new project called Caroline No that has recently released a (great!) tape, which retains some of the somnambulant motion of tG&tF's more genteel side. So, while I'm pretty sure this is all we're gonna get from them (the vault is surely dry), this feels appropriate as the final gasp.

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