Rema-Rema: Fond Reflections (4AD)

 

In the annals of independent music, Rema-Rema are more of a footnote for what they were as opposed to the music they made. In their very brief lifetime––began in 1978, ended in 1979 ––they played a grand total of eleven shows and released one posthumous EP. It would be wrong to deny them for their curiosity status, as even footnotes have relevancy. Fond Reflections is a compilation of recordings that imagines what their proper debut LP would be, as well as a remastered and expanded version of their.EP Wheel In The Roses, marking its first time to be reissued on CD as a non-limited edition release.

The songs that constitute Fond Reflections highlight the band’s m.o.; have a long, nearly all night jam session, during which song ideas would be bashed out, recorded, and then expanded upon. Half of the songs offered here are taken from those rehearsal tapes, and as one would expect they are quite raw and rough. “Feedback Song,” “Instrumental” and “Rema-Rema” are harsher and much more foreboding than the versions that would eventually be released, yet one can’t deny the charm and the spark of promise in these embryonic takes. Yet by the time they entered the basement studio in Portobello Road, their material had definitely grown tighter; instead of amorphus dark industrial sounds, there was a true kernel of pop sensibility in “Short Stories” and “Why Ask Why.” The songs are dark but accessible, not unlike  Joy Division and A Certain Ratio.

For a band that preferred playing with each other in the rehearsal space rather than playing live, things started happening for them quite quickly. Their manager is able to get them some choice opening gigs, while Charisma Records showed interest and invited them to record a handful of songs in a proper studio for a demo deal. Unfortunately, things quickly fall apart; the promising opening tour slot for a UK tour with Siouxsie and the Banshees and The Cure gets canceled, Charisma passes on the band after hearing the songs they recorded, and guitarist Marco Pirroni quit. Yet even as things are falling apart, a spark of good news appears; they are approached by Peter Kent, who wants to sign them to his new label, 4AD, and even though they have come to an end, he still agrees to release their sole EP, Wheel In The Roses, and it becomes the label’s first 12-inch release.

Even though the EP arrives DOA, its members are moving on to better things. Bassist Michael Allen and keyboardist Mark Cox would stay with the label, first as the band Mass, and then as The Wolfgang Press; vocalist/guitarist Gary Asquith would form Renegade Soundwave; guitarist Marco Pirroni would become the right-hand man to Adam Ant; drummer Dorothy Max Prior would join Psychic TV. Furthermore, two of their songs would live on; “Rema-Rema” would be covered by Steve Albini‘s band Big Black, while  “Fond Affections” would become a highlight of the 4AD collaborative project This Mortal Coil.

Even though Rema-Rema may only warrant brief mention in the grander scheme of things, Fond Reflections shows that there was a lot more going on there than most anyone knew, and even though it took four decades to appear, it is a most welcomed release. (Nor is it the only archival release to appear this year, either; another collection of live rehearsal recordings is planned for release later this year.)

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