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Alternative & Indie - Released January 17, 2020 | 4AD

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The shoegaze revival is upon us, so a revisit of the classics can only do a world of good. The first Pale Saints album, which came out in February 1990, is precisely a milestone record in the dream pop and shoegaze movement. For its 30th anniversary, it is being rereleased in a remastered deluxe version, in 24-Bit Hi-Res quality, adorned with never-before-heard demos. At the time, the 4AD label was living a sort of golden age with the establishment of the Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, Throwing Muses, This Mortal Coil and of course Pixies. The record label headed by Ivo Watts-Russell kept their roster fresh by signing bands such as Belly, Lush and Pale Saints. The Leeds-based group, formed in the late-1980s, based the originality of their sound in the duality of singer Ian Masters’ delicate voice and the wall of sound created by the guitars carrying fairly pop melodies. Evanescent fury, raging daydreaming… in a way, this is the dichotomy of shoegaze. Gil Norton, who made a name for himself by producing Ocean Rain by Echo & the Bunnymen and Doolittle by Pixies, is in the mixing booth for five of the tracks, with John Fryer from This Mortal Coil covering the other half of the album. Once the album starts, the sound of this first Pale Saints opus is unmistakably Cocteau Twins or Jesus & Mary Chain. Some may even draw comparisons with My Bloody Valentine, despite their iconic Loveless coming out only a year and a half after Comforts of Madness in November 1991. More of a cult figure than he is given credit for, Ian Masters is more than just a run of the mill shoegaze singer: he knows how to orchestrate different rhythms and especially how to compose often-perfect pop songs, stringing them together so that the project as a whole feels like one single composition. This feeling is amplified by the absence of any gaps between the eleven tracks. Thirty years later, this masterpiece has not only not aged a bit, but stands out amongst its contemporaries. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Alternative & Indie - Released January 17, 2020 | 4AD

The shoegaze revival is upon us, so a revisit of the classics can only do a world of good. The first Pale Saints album, which came out in February 1990, is precisely a milestone record in the dream pop and shoegaze movement. For its 30th anniversary, it is being rereleased in a remastered deluxe version, in 24-Bit Hi-Res quality, adorned with never-before-heard demos. At the time, the 4AD label was living a sort of golden age with the establishment of the Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, Throwing Muses, This Mortal Coil and of course Pixies. The record label headed by Ivo Watts-Russell kept their roster fresh by signing bands such as Belly, Lush and Pale Saints. The Leeds-based group, formed in the late-1980s, based the originality of their sound in the duality of singer Ian Masters’ delicate voice and the wall of sound created by the guitars carrying fairly pop melodies. Evanescent fury, raging daydreaming… in a way, this is the dichotomy of shoegaze. Gil Norton, who made a name for himself by producing Ocean Rain by Echo & the Bunnymen and Doolittle by Pixies, is in the mixing booth for five of the tracks, with John Fryer from This Mortal Coil covering the other half of the album. Once the album starts, the sound of this first Pale Saints opus is unmistakably Cocteau Twins or Jesus & Mary Chain. Some may even draw comparisons with My Bloody Valentine, despite their iconic Loveless coming out only a year and a half after Comforts of Madness in November 1991. More of a cult figure than he is given credit for, Ian Masters is more than just a run of the mill shoegaze singer: he knows how to orchestrate different rhythms and especially how to compose often-perfect pop songs, stringing them together so that the project as a whole feels like one single composition. This feeling is amplified by the absence of any gaps between the eleven tracks. Thirty years later, this masterpiece has not only not aged a bit, but stands out amongst its contemporaries. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Alternative & Indie - Released February 12, 1990 | 4AD

Pale Saints appeared on some micro-indie compilations in 1988 and early 1989, but it was a demo that enticed the 4AD label's Ivo Watts-Russell, who without haste caught a gig and consequently signed the band (along with support act Lush). Watts-Russell was particularly taken with "Sight of You," and in a few months, a remixed/retouched version of the drifting ballad led Pale Saints' debut EP. Almost sickly sweet and seemingly innocent until Ian Masters' chorister-like voice lets slip a covetous blood-soaked fantasy -- the escalation from "bad"/"sad" to "red/"dead" is easy to miss -- "Sight of You" went over well, landed on BBC DJ John Peel's listener-driven Festive 50 for 1989, and was covered by Ride. The following February, coincidentally between the recording and broadcast of Ride's take for a Peel session, "Sight of You" was placed in a new context on The Comforts of Madness. Perhaps seen as too significant to be left off, and downplayed so as to not overstress its signature status, "Sight of You" was tucked deep into the LP's second side, thereby emphasizing the many other colors of frayed-nerve dream pop -- as filtered through avant-folk, West Coast psychedelia, the Paisley Underground, power pop, and C-86 -- the trio had to offer. The album creates a kind of whiplash effect by starting with a violent existential tantrum, recharging with a swirling assault that gathers steam (concluding with "I'll destroy you," or something else suggesting emotional rupture), and halting with a chilling and diaphanous ballad cast in a soft shimmer (line one: "You're body's cold"). The rest of the sequence moves from one extreme to another, from the resemblance of a sugared-up Dream Syndicate in a wind tunnel to sighing and strumming through plaintive material ripe for This Mortal Coil picking. All the turbulence is mitigated by Masters' singular tenor, and further eased from song to song with Bad Moon Rising-style noise segues and subtle crossfading. These first steps still delight, startle, and chill. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released September 18, 1989 | 4AD

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Alternative & Indie - Released March 23, 1992 | 4AD

An argument could be made for In Ribbons topping the Pale Saints' debut, and it would be a rather solid one. Thanks to yet another stellar job by "knob twiddler of the mighty atmospheric pop bands" Hugh Jones, the Pale Saints sound full and polished, gleaming and bright. What makes this a lesser record in comparison to its predecessor is the absence of that loose sense of adventure from before. The songs are strong, the musicianship is improved, and Meriel Barham's presence as second guitarist and vocalist provides for more muscularity, but In Ribbons is missing the slightly perverse sense of experimentation that The Comforts of Madness had in spades. The unpredictability is gone, which is one of the few downsides of a band whose members are getting to know each other musically. That doesn't prevent In Ribbons from being a great record, stacked to the gills with great songs. Barham's sporadic contributions provide a fine spoil to those of Ian Masters. The mid-tempo moodiness of "Thread of Light" benefits from Jones' excellent treatment of her voice, with swooning backgrounds that dart between the left and right channels. (The verses bear odd sonic resemblance to Duran Duran's "Save a Prayer" -- no kidding.) Her reading of Slapp Happy's "Blue Flower" tops Mazzy Star's version, and "Baby Maker" also makes the grade with its dizzied liveliness. Masters' love for the abandonment of rock constructs strikes upon a zenith on "Hair Shoes," a drumless cluster of limpidly jousting guitars that simultaneously jiggle, rattle, moan, twinkle, and reverberate. His miasmatic vocals seal the track off as a brilliant approximation of the oceanic wash of 69-era AR Kane. Otherwise, more accessible fare, like the sprightly "Throwing Back the Apple" (a single) and the melancholy epic "Hunted," are also accountable for the record's success. Though these tracks' more traditionally structured material doesn't sound a great deal different from many of the Pale Saints' peers, the wan voice of Masters -- who sounds less world-weary here -- clearly sets this unit apart. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released April 29, 1994 | 4AD

Anyone arguing the case that the Pale Saints were the sole vision of Ian Masters was pretty much silenced when he left the group. Masters might have said some misleading things to the press but, as it turned out, his mates had a great deal of artistic input. That's probably what led to his departure. Wanting to do things more his way -- abandon drums, screw with song structures, experiment like a mad scientist, etc. -- he split. Thanks to Masters' tales of artistic control, many were surprised to see the band continue. Meriel Barham took over all vocal duties, and Colleen Browne was brought in on bass. Yet Slow Buildings doesn't do much to dissuade listeners from the general opinion that Masters was the band's creative center. Though containing a couple excellent songs (the breezy, Breeders/Lush-like "Angel" and "Under Your Nose," the sleepy "Fine Friend"), Slow Buildings sinks under the weight of lengthy dirges that don't stick and general overindulgence. Five tracks clock in at over six minutes; rather than concocting lovely mood setters or dynamic epics, the material is "just there" and fails to stimulate. Some ugly guitar fireworks don't mesh (like the Skynyrd-ish solo in "Gesture of Fear"), and there are no less than a handful of other instances where one loses sight of where the band's coming from. Program out some of the clutter, and there's a decent 35- to 40-minute record here, although still not on the level of the band's prior works. Credit the Pale Saints for remaining creative and prolific in the wake of a key member's departure, but there's little denying the failure of Slow Buildings. The discomforts of blandness? Quite possibly. Advice: no one hoping to like this record should listen to Lush's Split within the same month; the similarly formatted and styled record completely belittles Slow Buildings in every respect. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released June 24, 1991 | 4AD

The Pale Saints' 1991 Flesh Balloon was the first single the band released after its excellent and experimental debut album. The band scaled back its ambition and noise levels for the EP but dialed up the emotion. "Hunted" appeared on the fine In Ribbons album in 1992 and it is an epically melancholic track that is lush and lovely, depending more on shadings and feeling rather than sonic assault. "Porpoise" is a charming bit of filler that utilizes a skittering drum machine rhythm and spacy guitars to create a weird hybrid of shoegaze and lounge music. The bubbly sweet "Kinky Love" is a dreamy cover of a 1976 Nancy Sinatra tune featuring new bandmember Meriel Barham on vocals. The demo of "Hair Shoes" (the rerecorded version appears on In Ribbons) is similar to the finished version but is still interesting. Fans of the band, and anyone who is even slightly a fan of the shoegaze sound should be, ought to look high and low for this great EP. "Kinky Love" alone is worth whatever you end up paying. © Tim Sendra /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released August 15, 1994 | 4AD

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Alternative & Indie - Released May 11, 1992 | 4AD

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Alternative & Indie - Released January 10, 1990 | 4AD

A handy compilation of the band's earliest EPs, Mrs. Dolphin was a Japanese-only release that swiftly became a new point of obsession among the band's fans when it first came out, leading the group themselves to ask that folks not re-buy material for only a bonus song or two. That said, the unfamiliar songs that did surface were quite enjoyable -- "Colours and Shapes," if one of the more conventional compositions from the band, still has a nicely hyperactive drum shuffle on the verses and a fine Ian Masters lead vocal. "A Deeper Sleep for Steven," an alternate take of the Comforts of Madness track, isn't radically different, but has a little less echo and still makes its attractively woozy way along. As for the rest of the contents, consisting of tracks from Barging Into the Presence of God and Half-Life Remembered, both still sound as wonderful as ever, the often-underappreciated creativity of the band in their rhythm work and sometimes off-kilter melodies still shining through. "Sight of You" remains a deserved high point of U.K. indie as well as being one of the best drone/shoegaze songs ever done, with Masters' sweet singing belying the sharp sentiments of the lyrics while his majestic guitar overdubs are both loud and heavenly. More frenetic combinations of soothing singing and feedback chaos like "She Rides the Waves" and "Baby Maker" still sound truly captivating as well (the latter's shifts between wistful verses and pile-it-on choruses are to die for). A cruel trick for a dear friend -- play the dark, moody psychedelia of "The Colour of the Sky" at louder-than-usual volume and say nothing about the screaming that begins 50 seconds in. © Ned Raggett /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released October 29, 1990 | 4AD

Heralding the addition of singer/guitarist Meriel Barham, who would become the Pale Saints' focal point following the exit of original frontman Ian Masters, Half-Life bridges the gap between the soundscapes of the band's debut LP, The Comforts of Madness, and its more conventional, pop-oriented follow-up, In Ribbons. Helmed by Wedding Present producer Chris Allison, this four-song set nevertheless manages to explore the altered states of the Pale Saints' earliest and strongest work, particularly on the vivid "Baby Maker" and the eerie "Two Sick Sisters." The closing "A Revelation" is anything but, however, its bland production rendering the group indistinguishable from countless other guitar pop outfits. ~ Jason Ankeny

Alternative & Indie - Released November 18, 2019 | 4AD

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Pale Saints in the magazine
  • Pale Saints: 30 years of crazy comfort
    Pale Saints: 30 years of crazy comfort "The Comforts of Madness", a shoegaze/dream pop masterpiece by British band Pale Saints, turns 30. It's being re-released in a Deluxe Hi-Res 24-Bit version to mark the occasion.