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Toll - Christ Knows

Christ Knows is a great scoop for the Cold Spring label following somewhat related releases from Sutcliffe Jügend, Novatron (Anthony Di Franco of Ramleh/Skullflower). Toll was Gary Mundy's short lived mid-eighties project following the cessation of activities from his power electronics outfit Ramleh in 1984 believing they had achieved all that they could.

Originally issued on vinyl on Mundy's own Broken Flag label in 1986, Toll featured Gary Mundy, Matthew Frith, Tim Soar with guest contributions from around the globe including Tim Gane (Un-kommuniti, who'd later gain acclaim as part of Stereolab), Controlled Bleeding and Pacific 231. Toll represented a strong move away from the power electronics of Ramleh, replaced by a loosely structured song based material to free-flowing noisescapes.

There's a harshness and spontaneous feel to much of Christ Knows which at times throws up the dense, sludginess of sound that would be elaborated upon by the reactivated Ramleh and in Mundy's work with Skullflower. On Christ Knows though it's created through a bass heavy sound, pounding drums (both real and processed) and vocals that are firmly pushed deep into the mix. 'Broken Frame', by far the most structured of tracks here, unfurls to a slow paced Swans like dirge, with uncharacteristically upfront vocals. It like many of the tracks here are underpinned by experimental soundscapes often shrill and piercing. Harsh drones, violin shrieks and controlled guitar squall provide a bedding for the unintelligible hollering of 'Out From Your Skull', while the dense fogginess of the title track with its muddied vocals is right outta the Skullflower songbook. Pacific 231 and Controlled Bleeding supply convoluted electronics to a track a piece, with the droning 'Brute Freeze' the pick of the collaborations but Christ Knows is at its best when pushing noises and effects against the loose improvised structure, as they do on 'Matter of Fact' which eases from melodic electronics to discordant sound washes with a collection of colliding voices, recalling, strangely enough, the original formation of Death In June partly due to the pounding drums and bass sound. Much more experimental is 'Parched' which plunders strings over an incessant deep throb and a concoction of voices that creates something quite haunting.

In hindsight Christ Knows is something of the missing link between the two very different manifestations of Ramleh. It surely must have raised some eyebrows when originally released in 1986. It's a less easily identifiable sound broaching harsh soundscapes, the sludge-rock type of things - with electronics! It's certainly deserving of wider exposure, especially amongst industrial archivists. Christ Knows is reissued by Cold Spring with three previously unreleased tracks and new artwork. For more information go to www.coldspring.co.uk