In my last post I talked a lot about the joy of listening to a band in their daisy age; the juxtaposition of glorious intent and a serious lack of resources creates recordings that burst with vitality, innocence, and joy. Quite an unusual thing to say about a goth band, where adjectives like “brooding” and “menacing” are more often at play.
Children On Stun‘s early cassettes are a prime example of this. Partly because the band’s personality is inherently joyous and partly because the songs are really, really good. They walk a fine line between ripping off their favourite artists and sounding exactly like themselves. I think the reason it works so well is that when they’ve tipped their hat to an obvious influence, they’ve done it unapologetically and with good grace. Note the “Temple Of Love” refrain in “Tortured (By A Sense Of Humour)” for a perfect example of this.
The use of clunky, primitive bass synths alongside their guitar/drum machine sound (see “Crawl ’92 [Remix]”) can easily be compared to The Horatii tape reviewed previously in this blog. This ability to experiment with their sound palette in such a way that it creates musical interest but avoids rubbing their “creativity” in the listeners face typifies some of the better quality releases of this early ’90s goth period. However, they do indulge in gratuitous sampling of the film Hellraiser, a weird trope that spread across the genre around this period.
These tapes played a huge formative role on me personally as a songwriter. Despite the lo-fi recordings and the excessive use of distortion and reverb, there’s a true clarity to be heard in them which allows a real insight into the shape and life of the songs. So many modern artists get this so badly wrong – they think there’s a trade off to be made between harsh and aggressive and clear and spacious. Done well, one complements the other perfectly – just listen to The Velvet Underground!
I’d like to finish on the note that Children On Stun’s founding guitarist, Simon Manning, sadly passed away last year. Seeing the band perform “When Lovers Die” in his memory was genuinely emotional. It turned what had previously (to me) seemed like empty melodrama into into a genuine outpouring of grief at a lifetime’s friendship wrenched apart too soon.
CHILDREN ON STUN : Monochrome I & II (1992)
Lineage: Original Cassettes > Nakamichi DR-10 > Asus Xonar U7 > Adobe Audition @ 24/96 > ALAC 16/44
- Tortured (By A Sense Of Humour)
- Crawl ’92 [Remix]
- When Lovers Die
- Shallow White
- Downfall ’92
- When Lovers Die [Remix]
- Crawl ’92
Both transfers featured here are from TDK D60 Type I cassettes, we actually had two copies of Monochrome I to choose from! As stated in the article above, there’s a subtlety present in these recordings that is revealed thanks to the Nakamichi’s transparency. Thankfully, both tapes feature tracks that are replicated on another, more high-fidelity source. “When Lovers Die” and “Shallow White” feature on the Hollow EP, which was used as a reference for pitch and speed correcting these cassettes. The result is a stable, clear transcription of these classic demo tapes which, I hope, should keep listeners satisfied until an official master transfer is released. More Stun to come!