Hair & Skin Trading Co.

  • Hair & Skin Trading Co.
  • Ground Zero EP (UK Beggars Banquet) 1992 
  • Jo in Nine G Hell (UK Situation Two/Beggars Banquet) 1992  (Beggars Banquet) 1993 
  • Go Round EP (Beggars Banquet) 1993 
  • Over Valence (UK Beggars Banquet) 1993  (Beggars Banquet) 1994 
  • Psychedelische Musique (Lava Surf Kunst) (UK Freek) 1995 

With its pursuit of maximal volume and minimal motion, Loop was one of the earliest figureheads of England’s ’80s drone-rock movement, but those two extremes proved too difficult to reconcile. When the band split at the turn of the decade, frontman Robert Hampson and guitarist Scott Dowson chose to trance out totally in Main, while singer/bassist Neil Mackay and drummer John Wills (augmented by ex-Savage Opera guitarist Nigel Webb) cribbed this unsavory moniker from an old warehouse in London and persisted in their efforts to rephrase Metal Machine Music as power-rock.

Actually, Jo in Nine G Hell is a bit more conservative than that. The album’s methodically building tracks reflect a post-goth sensibility reminiscent of both early My Bloody Valentine and, oddly enough, the Skids. The trio makes the mistake of enabling listeners to draw breath through the cracks of songs like “Flat Truck” and “Elevenate” (both delivered with Mark E. Smith-styled scorn). Plenty of sound, but precious little vision.

The Go Round EP teeters between amorphic tones and structured sound. The title cut is a Joy Division-like swirl; “Amine” and “Cymbals” weave together spacey textures and abstract noises reminiscent of Nurse With Wound. Even the more rock-based “Deeps” begins and ends with formless, meandering soundscapes.

Thanks in part to the efforts of producer Ott (of Th Faith Healers), the sonic fissures are mostly mortared over on Over Valence. Webb’s playing is more contentious and abstract — particularly on tracks like the throbbing “On Again Off Again” and the lathe-like “K-Funk” — which confers a gripping dislocation, but the album’s dominant characteristic is the promethean size of the riffs that roll forth.

Psychedelische Musique (Lava Surf Kunst) virtually dispenses with grounding elements entirely — to the point that only a few of its songs bear titles (the rest are marked off by letters or symbols). Fittingly, the attendant work is largely atmospheric, mostly instrumental and redolent of head-music forebears like Faust. When vocals are figured into the mix (as on “*”), they’re flanged and distorted to the point where they could pass for just another channel of synthesizer. Wills’ intricate drumming proves especially effective in this setting, maintaining a motorik pulse on “Kinetic” and imparting a machine-shop impersonality to “S.” Alternately horrifying and riveting, Psychedelische Musique shows up “industrial” celebutantes like Al Jourgensen as the bubblegummers they really are.

[Deborah Sprague / Marlene Goldman]