The DURUTTI COLUMN – ” Sunlight to Blue… Blue to Blackness “

Posted: February 10, 2022 in MUSIC
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While Vini Reilly’s The Durutti Column made its name with those early Factory Records offerings, the project’s output actually stretches out far beyond Tony Wilson’s label.

Once Factory shut up shop in the early 1990s, The Durutti Column went on to have runs with the Artful and Kooky imprints. Reilly had been with the latter for a few years by the time he issued ‘Sunlight to Blue… Blue to Blackness’, and his time on Kooky had already made for a couple of intriguing LPs. By and large, 2004’s ‘Tempus Fugit’ and 2007’s ‘Sporadic Three’ had felt like logical progressions of the project’s dreamstate style, their echo-drenched guitar fugues spooling out like golden-hour light. However, the exploratory vision of those early Durutti Column records remained, and as such one could sometimes find the music’s pleasantness jarred by some dancehall or industrial techno import.

‘Sunlight to Blue… Blue to Blackness’ is a fairly typical period-piece for this era of Reilly’s work. The 2008 LP is a modest affair – it’s not as artsy as the 80s stuff, nor does it serve up the acid-/baggy-tinged wanderings of early post-Factory offerings like ‘Fidelity’. Nevertheless, the Durutti DNA continues to run here. If you stripped the drums out from certain parts of 1983’s ‘Another Setting’, say, and maybe swapped electric guitars/synths for acoustic tones, you’d end up with tracks like the first two entries here.

‘Glimpse’ and ‘Contact’ set out the stall for ‘Sunlight to Blue… Blue to Blackness’ with filigree loveliness. Despite Vini Reilly’s advancing years when he made this music, there is a distinctly adolescent quality to these sun-dappled lilts. I don’t say that to imply that this stuff is immature – I mean it in the sense that there’s at once a wide-eyed quality about these tunes and also a sense of slightly dislocated unease, of emotional churn in repose, which carries through from DC’s early output. It’s a feeling which persists for the first half of ‘Sunlight to Blue… Blue to Blackness’, finding voice in both further noodling adventures such as ‘Ged’ – heard now, the meandering guitar work here makes me think of someone like William Tyler – and the Durutti-goes-Dylan ‘Messages’.

Having kept things largely instrumental for the opening stages, Reilly starts to usher vocals in as ‘Sunlight to Blue… Blue to Blackness’ progresses. By and large, the sung tracks largely maintain the album’s air of wistful contemplation, but as with ‘Tempus Fugit’ and ‘Sporadic Three’ there are exceptions. The most obvious outlier is ‘Never Known Version’, the LP’s sixth cut and the first here with a real sense of urgency. Yes, the track is echo-drenched, but with its murmured vocalising and dem bow beat this intriguing diversion could pass for a post-imperial phase Pet Shop Boys demo. Elsewhere, ‘Demo For Gathering Dust’ may not be as stark an outlier as ‘Never Known Version’, but it’s whirlwind of bluesy licks brings a similar injection of speed.

And while they may not switch up the pace, there’s variation to be found at the more sombre sections of ‘Sunlight to Blue… Blue to Blackness’ as well – particularly those in which one discerns keyboards amidst the guitars. Poppy Morgan collaboration ‘Ananda’ is a stately highlight, with Morgan’s deft piano work bearing the influence of Frédéric Chopin and Philip Glass, and while it may be more filigree the cascading spool of chords and textures on closer ‘Grief’ bring similar ceremony to proceedings – as do those parts of the record where one can hear Reilly employing the evocative tones of his flamenco guitar, for instance on ‘Cup A Soup Romance’.

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