Having released their first single (“All Different Things”) when the band members’ average age was around seventeen, East London’s Bark Psychosis hardly seemed likely candidates to cause critic Simon Reynolds to identify an entirely new musical sub-genus (“post-rock” found its first mention — at least since pioneering culture writer Ellen Willis used it in 1968! — in his review of Hex), much less reshape the context of pre-millennial rock’n’roll. However, the quartet managed to do both. Over the course of five singles (four of which are collected on Independency), the group’s music slowly metamorphosed from spacious rockscapes (the percussive “By-Blow” recalls some of Talk Talk’s better moments) into truly epic visions of ambience (the ultra-sinister twenty-three minutes of the vaguely improvisational “Scum”). With the release of Hex, the band’s music — as well as its reputation — solidified.
Ironically, though Bark Psychosis had earned a bit of notoriety for lengthy songs, the tracks on Hex are hardly the double-digit exercises in mind expansion the earlier singles were. Rather, excepting the nine minutes of hazy ambience called “Pendulum Man,” the songs seem decidedly more structured than their predecessors. Although still working outside of the typical expectations of “rock” music — no choruses, no solos…hell, not too many verses or repeated refrains — Hex shows a band that has learned to employ the dynamics of dilation without resorting to noodly, space-rock jams. The music is delicate and accomplished, relying on atmospherics that are reminiscent of early A.R.Kane (minus all the post-Romantic angst drama) or the enveloping pizzicato of Durutti Column. Beautifully tense, strangely relaxed and unexpectedly visionary.