Gabrielles Wish 20th Anniversary Review

Gabrielles Wish 20th Anniversary Review

By Rob Haynes

It’s been a long and far from straightforward journey for Gabrielles Wish, and twenty years on from their inception their four studio albums are being re-released, capturing key points in a complex history. They were uncovered and championed by Manchester scene legend Rob Gretton, and what was planned to be their debut album, Processed (produced by Martin Hannett’s right-hand man Chris Nagle in 1997) fell into limbo upon Gretton’s death. Its belated CD release finally came in 2010.

 

 

The band’s early sound was based around the huge grinding bass lines of Darren Moran, like a scabrous Peter Hook, over which vocalist Robert Corless barked nowty North Manchester litanies amid a blizzard of Paul Ryan’s guitar and Paps’ Hawkwind-like splashes of keyboards and samples, nailed down by the thumping drums of Nick Harris.

Tracks like Manhole and Guppy churn out layers of dense noise, creating the kind of psych-rock whirlwind that these days is practiced by fellow Mancunians Gnod. Like all bands starting out, their initial influences were plain, a DNA splice from the coolest bands in their native city. Joy Division / New Order comparisons would never be far away, and Corless’s accent and attitude made comparisons to Shaun Ryder inevitable. Tracks like Always Absent conjures the inevitable spectre of The Fall, a band with whom GW would go on to share many a bill. Nevertheless, Processed was worth a release in its own right, although by the time the world finally got to hear it, the band’s sound had moved on considerably.

While Processed lay in the vaults the band would have to wait until 2003 to make their studio CD debut (1997’s Live and Bobbins was a cassette-only release sold at gigs). When it finally arrived, Portal was a far sleeker, polished creature. A crisp, professional production from Mark Burgess collaborator Yves Altana was matched by considerable musical progress on the band’s part, notably the introduction of the lithe, fluid drumming of new recruit Bo Walsh. Blue Skies is a confident, anthemic opener with Moran’s bubbling bass propelling along underneath a wash of synths, recalling the epic surge of Chameleons.

 

 

Vinegar Milk almost nudges pop territory, admittedly from a somewhat lairy angle; Dateless Wonder spreads Corless’ Manc snarl over an urgent piece of bass-driven venom, while their growing confidence led to some unexpected experimentation. Orange Light is as moody and nocturnal as its title suggests, and the album closes on the Eno-esque calm ambience of Human Arms.

Portal was their definitive statement of arrival. After numerous false starts this was an assured and highly effective way to make a belated debut - and worth the wait.

By the time of 2006’s Reformer the band had undergone further change, with former Wonky Alice keyboard player Karen Leatham joining and the record being released on another new label, Small Adjustments.

 

 

The expanded musical palette that had opened on Portal was further explored here, although to less immediate effect. The brooding Claw is far from obvious choice for an album opener, even though it crunches up a gear for its finale. New York Girl has the swagger of old and a riff that grabs the listener by the scruff of the neck, but more often it’s the unexpected turns which capture the imagination - Say is like a dream fragment, a surprising and affecting slice of Durutti Column-ish whimsy. Optical One reveals further steps into ambient experimentation before exploding back into an unexpected horn-laden climax, and atmospheric closer Position Oldham St Manchester is an extended instrumental streaked with the sound of tyres on wet road surfaces which could have been a film soundtrack for a Northern film noir.

It’s a long distance from their psych-splurge beginnings for sure, and overall made for quite a difficult album - one which requires repeated plays to give up its undoubted rewards.

 

 

A mere year later Circa saw another personnel change with Steve Bunn replacing the longstanding Paul Ryan on guitar. The results were a grittier sound and more focused songs, perhaps in reaction to the previous record, perhaps simply due to the new blood in the band. Whatever the reason, the album opens with Cunning Stunts, as punchy a track as the band had recorded. Moran’s bass leads many of the songs although lying more democratically in the mix than the dominant sound of before.

If You Want or the impressive Into The City married the band’s musical advances with an assured songwriting confidence. It was a short album, with little of the extended experimentation of before - but it has to be said that this was to the record’s benefit.

Gabrielles Wish go into 2013 planning a new album but change would seem to be the only constant in the band, with Leatham and Walsh both recently departed. The future of this tenacious and enigmatic group remains ever unpredictable, but take this opportunity to savour their intriguing past.

Rob Haynes

 

 

Guest reviewer Rob Haynes is a freelance writer, formerly Art Editor at Big Issue, Robs music career has seen him play for Gold Blade, Inca Babies, Membranes and Boz Hayward.

To find more info on Gabrielles Wish check out their website at www.gabrielleswish.net

  • Skinny Blue
    Comment from: Skinny Blue
    27/01/13 @ 04:37:13 pm

    Great band and a fair review by Rob Haynes, although i wish he’d spent more time on ‘Reformer’ its by far the bands best album so far. I saw them live when i went to see the chameleons at xmas time and both bands blew my mind. My only criticism toward Gabrielles Wish live is that i can never hear the singer.

  • gareth the neck roberts
    Comment from: gareth the neck roberts
    28/01/13 @ 10:44:13 pm

    what can i say? simply fantastic enough said…

  • Skinny Blue
    Comment from: Skinny Blue
    07/02/13 @ 10:55:12 pm

    yeah i agree they are a good band but the singers voice has always been too low in the mix. ive been watching them live since 1995 so i know what im talking about. also, this new drummer they had, he was ok, but he shouldn’t be playing songs that Bo Walsh wrote, he should try new stuff because aping Bo Walsh aint a game your gonna win. but as i said before, they are still a great band.

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