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Whilst Climbing Thieves Vie for Attention

Originally formed with the intention of being a live band, P'o hastily recorded this album when Peter Price announced plans to emigrate. The impulsive nature of this decision is evident in many of the tracks, which often seem partially improvised.

It begins with the laid back Time and Time. If it were not for the industrial noises that appear, this might pass for a pop track. The simple lyric from Graham, coupled with Angela Conway's ghostly vocal textures create an effective 'voice', something of a contrast to the previous Dome release (3) with its anti-language phonetics. Back to Back is less melodic but more energetic, highlighting Price's ethnic drumming style which appears in several other tracks.

The exquisite Vanite provides one of the albums best moments. A monophonic electric piano plays over a rhythm that sounds like it was recorded underwater. Lush chords build under Lewis and Conway sweetly singing 'Vanite'. Price provides a dissonant counterpoint, shouting a heavily echoed rant.

In complete contrast is the annoying and appropriately named Mhona that drones on for three-and-a-half minutes and is thankfully followed by the album's second undisputed high point, Blind Tim. Tidball's wonderful monologue sounds like someone struggling with thoughts, spitting them out as they rise to the surface.

The bulk of this collection is very listenable but too many tracks rely on mangling a pop riff and playing ethnic drumming over it. Some of the ambient tracks are reminiscent of Leer & Rental's The Bridge and the screwed up pop numbers will be familiar to owners of Alone on Penguin Island. If you're a fan of either of those productions or Dome you'll find this a worthy purchase. The album's vague pop leaning (at least in the fact that there's no out and out abstraction) may also tempt more conventional listeners to another side of the 'greater Wire' story.

Craig Grannell (1998)

Cover artwork