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The Spaceman Reissue Program – Pure Phase

Pure Phase by Spiritualized is often overlooked by fans and critics. With contributions from band members and other musicians, this article aims to raise its standing.

Andy McCulloch
Andy McCulloch

Spiritualized’s music has soundtracked my adult life. Being in a cultish fan group at the band’s inception was deeply thrilling and pretty cool. Having avidly read Jason Pierce’s interviews and marvelled at his encyclopaedic musical knowledge it felt like I was being led, musically speaking, to a world of possibilities. Red Rat, Patsy Cline, Sun Ra, Van Dyke Parks, The Gun Club, Junior Kimbrough. Just a few acts I may not have discovered without Pierce’s namechecks.
During the band’s formative years, it was brilliant when the ravers and clubbers started digging the sound. Then the wider public as well, crowned, for me, when Spiritualized appeared on a tea-time Chris Evans’ show. Evans’ socks were well and truly blown off.
Now, nearly 30 years after the release of Spiritualized’s debut lp, the band’s first four albums are being reissued. Please read on for an insiders’ account of the making of the incredible Pure Phase.
Feel free to provide your thoughts in the comments. Enjoy.

Introduction

Summer 2020. The publishers of the 33 1/3 classic album series held an open book proposal. I pitched Pure Phase by Spiritualized. The more obvious choice would’ve been the band’s breakthrough album Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space, which was a commercial and critical success and thrust the band into the public eye.# However, I thought I could argue more convincingly for Pure Phase as I prefer that album, as much as I love LAGWAFIS. The publishers weren’t convinced and didn’t commission my idea.

So, it has come to pass that Jason Pierce has sanctioned a re-issue of a sizeable chunk of his back catalogue and, with Pure Phase re-released this week, it seemed a good time to publish the sample of my writing required for the pitch. I decided to write about the album’s astonishing final track ‘Feel Like Goin‘ Home’.

While researching my topic, I was excited to discover a text book* Four Musical Minimalists by Keith Potter, Senior Lecturer in Music at Goldsmiths College, University of London. “Musicians subsequently influenced by Young include Brian Eno – who says that Arabic Numeral was ‘the first piece of music I ever performed publicly’, as early as 1967, and who once proposed that ‘La Monte Young is the daddy of us all’ – and, more recently, the English rock group Spiritualized.”1

I thought this work could provide serious intellectual heft to my thesis as I planned to use the phasing technique as the book’s bedrock and the minimalist approach to music as applied to Pure Phase. For me, Spiritualized were moving out of the indie scene; the musical vision was so much broader.

To support my case I approached the central figures. In terms of the recording artists, I contacted but received no word back from Pierce, keyboardist Kate Radley, or bassist Sean Cook. (I held out no hope on them replying.) However, Mark Refoy, Jonny Mattock, Leon Hunt, and Alexander Bălănescu were happy to share their experiences of the sessions. My sincere thanks to them. Gratitude also to the various contributors, in the third section below, who were happy to talk about the LP and what it meant to them.

Mark Refoy, Jonny Mattock, Kate Radley, and Jason Pierce

© Colin Bell

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