Manchester’s Spherical Objects were led by Steve Solamar, a terrible singer with an intensely personal viewpoint. His songs concern typical subject matter, but utter lack of selfconsciousness invests his writing with more openness and introspection than you’re probably hoping to hear.
The five Objects of Past and Parcel play simple rock that’s lightweight but pleasant; Solamar’s overbearing vocals spoil it. Elliptical Optimism has the same lineup and a more textured sound, featuring organ (prominently) and trumpet (occasionally). The songs are instrumentally inventive, while the vocals are less abrasive but no more interesting.
Further Ellipses takes a danceable turn, playing it smooth and rhythmic with more horns and synthesizer and less guitar. Solamar’s singing continues to resemble David Thomas’ but sounds too forced to be believably weird. The musical development is impressive, the songs are good, but the same old problem persists.
No Man’s Land, which announces itself to be the final Spherical Objects album, has a different lineup from the previous three and sounds it. Gone are the keyboards and horns, replaced by rudimentary guitar/bass/drums plus patches of Solamar’s wailing harmonica. There are some very pretty songs that are slowed down to add emotion, but overall the initial impression isn’t as strong as Further Ellipses. A strange way to go out, No Man’s Land is a record that slowly reveals itself to be quite lovely in spots.
With the help of Manchester indie scene fixture Steve Miro, Solamar managed to dam his stream-of-consciousness long enough to allow for the collection of the Noyes Brothers’ atypically unrevealing double-LP set. More experimental than the Objects’ concurrent work, Sheep from Goats owes more than a little to German groups like Can. While a few of the redundant, largely free-from instrumentals could easily be dispensed with, there are moments worth remembering, from the amusing (an apparent Fall parody dubbed “Bo Scat Um I.D.”) to the lovely (the side-long “It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time”) to the freakishly prescient (an excursion into what sounds like modern-day computer-enhanced hip-hop christened “Byte to Beat”).