This Heat – Peel Session 1977

17th October 2022 · 1970s, 1977, Music, Punk

I’m ashamed to admit I found This Heat too experimental, too avant-garde, too noodly and (dare I say it) too proggy to appreciate them at the time. And for that I feel foolish.

With hindsight they were a British equivalent of Can or Faust, a missing link between krautrock and yet-to-be-invented industrial/post-rock, making music so ahead of their time that it took me decades to catch up with them.

This Heat was formed in South London in 1976 by Charles Bullen, Charles Hayward and Gareth Williams, adding pre-recorded tapes to their multiple instruments, which included clarinet and viola.

Hayward and Bullen had met when they both played in Phil Manzanera’s side project Quiet Sun, and struck out on their own afterwards, adding visual artist Williams to the mix.

Between 1976 and 1977 they developed their wild and uncompromising sound through live performance and homemade recording experiments, playing with tape manipulation and early makeshift tape looping to create sounds that ranged from ambient soundscapes to percussive squalls of noise.

They sent this, their first recording – made in the top room at Hayward’s parents’ house in Camberwell – to John Peel and he played it in March 1977.

After that they created their own ‘Cold Storage’ studio in a disused cold storage room in the Acme Studios complex of artists’ studios in Camberwell.

Their self-titled debut album was recorded over two and a half years from February 1976 and finally surfaced in August 1979 as a set of dense, eerie, electronic soundscapes and dub-inflected experimental rock.

Their sound became more conventional when they signed to Rough Trade, recording their second (and final) album Deceit, though there was still a strong element of musique concrete, with collaged clips of live shows and other found sounds, as well as live mixing by reggae producer Martin Frederick.

According to Allmusic, “the influence of This Heat’s groundbreaking experimentation was immediately visible in the pre-industrial grit of Public Image, Ltd., Sonic Youth’s early skronk, and Glenn Branca’s wiry wall-of-noise symphonies.”

They went on, it says, “to inform generations of experimental-leaning rock acts in Chicago’s mid-’90s post-rock scene and later in the tape manipulation assaults of C. Spencer Yeh and the watery polyrhythmic sound portals of Gang Gang Dance, among many others.”

Nope, me neither.