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LEWIS, SUSANNE/ DRAKE, BOB: Venus Handcuffs
Before 'Hail' loomed up out of the Pre-Cambrian swamps to lay waste to much of the known world, there was Venus Handcuffs. This is as much a testament to an attitude and a time as it is a CD of songs. In Bob's excellent accompanying notes he describes the conditions: a totally impoverished group of people, wholly focused on music, working with impossible equipment in an abandoned yoghurt factory on the wrong side of town, who somehow turned all their problems into solutions. Those of you who know Hail will recognise the vital roots, somewhat battered and scratched by time and technology (Bob has done an extraordinary job of recovery from the original surviving cassettes) but imprinted here too is the inventiveness and determination of original talents to create, whatever the obstacles. These are recordings that capture the empty rooms and alien machinery of their birthplace, and in this respect this is more than a collection of songs. And it gets spookier as it progresses. It certainly isn't slick. It calls across time like a wistful ghost, or a spirit photograph, that can't get free of its veils. I've always wanted to use the word horripilant in a review and by the end of the CD this gets close. 'Rest Home' is quite extraordinary and as for 'For the rest of the Day', 'I see dead people' isn't even in it.