The haut-rockist concept of the supergroup might have seemed outdated by 2004, but the phenomenon was resurrected by Githead, albeit in a modest post-rock fashion. Initially a trio of Wire’s Colin Newman (vocals/guitar), Minimal Compact’s Malka Spigel (vocals/bass) and multimedia enfant terrible Robin Rimbaud (who traded his police-radio scanner for a good old-fashioned ax), Githead was not the snotty punk outfit its insulting name suggested.
Headgit offers infectious avant pop with sparse, melodic textures, rigid electronic beats and a big, Jah Wobble-esque bottom. Newman and Spigel’s collaborative and solo projects, as well as ’80s Wire, certainly make their presence felt here, but Githead also brings them onto new terrain: while the tight minimalist guitar patterns threading through “Reset” recall the sort of hypnotic grooves pioneered by Michael Rother, Githead also get down with their bad selves, after a minimalist-funk fashion, on “Craft Is Dead” and on “Profile,” with its dub-sized bass. Newman takes care of lead vocals and, for the most part, delivers deadpan clusters of what sounds like the type of instant surrealist poetry used in spam-filter-evading junk E-mail (“Her golden magazine smiles / Her daughter’s clock is thinking”). Overall, an intriguing debut.
With ex-Minimal Compact drummer (and psychiatric nurse) Max Franken on board to flesh out the beats, the band’s first album builds on the foundations laid by the EP. Profile is a more fully realized exploration of the interface between organic and electronic musics that shows Githead expanding its range and developing a distinctive sound. A more mature, assured feel is evident on the opener, “Alpha,” whose densely layered wall of shoegazing guitars infuses the sound with a harder edge and a gravitas at which Headgit only hinted. The band’s newfound authority also comes across on “Antiphon,” a textured, driving instrumental that could almost be a lost track from PiL’s Metal Box, largely due to Spigel’s lumbering, juddering bass (one of the common sonic denominators on many of Profile‘s tracks). Newman’s spam filter still appears to be working overtime, his lyrics on the subtly funky “Cosmology for Beginners” suggesting a recitation of entries from an arcane encyclopedia written by Stanley Unwin: “Marqueed marsupials…Skating on thin rice, breaking your pardon / Hanging with the insteps, barking at the wrong sea / Writhing from the pressure, coughing in the right tree.” Although Newman’s largely expressionless voice has its own perverse charm, elsewhere Spigel’s vocals add an engaging dimension. On “My LCA (Little Box of Magic),” a blissful, dreamy love song to her Lomo camera, Spigel breathes melodic air into the occasionally clinical, affectless Githead sound. Indeed, another welcome development on Profile is its greater attention to melody and melodic variation, whether in the economical guitar lines weaving between the rigid electro-pop beats of “Wallpaper” (which recalls the poppier tendencies of Eno, Cluster and Harmonia) or the more expansive, spectral sounds that adorn the epic “Raining Down.” Sometimes when accomplished artists come together for side projects, the results feel like experiments that don’t really lead anywhere. Profile is definitely not one of those projects. It’s catchy without being vacuous, intelligent without being too clever for its own good.