SANS PAREIL – Lucky 7.
LUCKY 7 is the feature where we ask bands to name their 6 favourite songs by others, and a lucky 7th song of their own. Today we feature Sans Pareil!
For ten years, Pariah, now Sans Pareil, has been Thomas Dowse and John Casey. Backed by a new, larger ensemble in 2016, Dowse’s downbeat narrative and feral croons weave in and out of Casey’s maniacal guitar lines, like a tweaked-out Withnail and I fronting Swans. Tales of small town desperation, crime, sleaze and poverty beat down hard; there’s no sleek metropolitan romanticism of London or Manchester, this is JG Ballad, this is David Cronenberg shooting a Ken Loach script… It is Chatham at 3am (VS started life in neighbouring town Gravesend, so we know how rough this can be), a Grimsby pub-fight on a Friday night… it is bleak, grim and writhing with the parts of life you don’t want to see. The pair have spent the better part of a decade creating this ‘scumbag panorama’, and now Sans Pareil gift Velvet Sheep a fascinating insight into the songs that shaped them.
Over to Thomas Dowse from Sans Pareil for his Lucky 7!
1. Juno – ‘When I Was In____’
Juno only ever made 2 albums and disbanded but i think this small body of work is heavy enough. This track in particular bares out the inner machinations of a man contemplating and coming to terms with his own existence. Arlie Carstens actually spent a year in hospital after breaking his spine and it’s said that he wrote much of ‘A Future Lived In Past Tense’ while there. This is unguarded music, free of irony or any other device to remain cool and detached. He’s telling you what he discovered – “It’s all a matter of struggling/believe me it’s nothing/believe me it’s everything you ever needed it to be/this can’t be an afterthought/this right here is all I want.” Just as he says that last word, the guitars burst open and it’s frankly sublime.
2. The Microphones – ‘The Moon’
I could pick many many songs by Phil Elverum but this one really typifies for me the unique way he thinks about songwriting and recording. He somehow manages to weld the small and intimate with the very massive and cosmic, all played in a simple, loose, unpretentious way. What starts as a simple little classical guitar riff gets suddenly swept away by a tidal wave of drums and keyboard but the real sweet spot is when those saxophones jump out at you, piercing the flow.
3. Protomartyr – ‘I Stare At Floors’
Being a socially anxious person prone to introspection and my own skewed ways of coping with that, I have never found slow, sombre, miserable music ever did anything to articulate these feelings for me. The inside of my mind is often raging while unable to outwardly display anything of use. Thats what drew me to hardcore; temporal catharsis, escape for a moment. This track blasts the hinges off the trapdoor and I more often than not cry in the final section where, harrassed by his thoughts he desperately pleads “Why do they come?/ Why won’t they die?/ Why won’t they die?”
4. Dirty Projectors – ‘My Off White Flag’
This one crawls inside your head and doesn’t leave. I actually can’t stand the hi-fi twiddly stuff they became more widely known for, I find it irritating. But here, on a more intimate plain the real soulful force of his singing just whacks you. Instrumentally, he does a lot with the bare essentials and those wooly bass stabs that punctuate the choruses are the shit!
5. Middle Class – ‘Introductory Rites’
Criminally overlooked, Middle Class have some claim to releasing the first “hardcore” 7″, ‘Out of Vogue’. I don’t know if that’s true or not but they’re rarely included in histories of that scene. I love the sheer tautness of it, achieved with guitar stabs and that odd ringing out bass, as if everyone is holding their breath for the whole thing. The vocals bare that out too. He sounds tensed – spitting it out like a machine but with all the spite and verve still in.
6. Pageninetynine – ‘The Hollowed Out Chest Of A Dead Horse’
I used deliver Pizza around the Medway towns in an old Ford Escort and would usually be listening to some concoction of Grind/Metal/Noise/D-Beat to cope with the experience. You’d see the full range of Medway nightlife doing that job. Occasionally you’d find yourself out in the countryside that surrounds those towns and I’d pull up and have a joint. Thats when the muck and strife of this track ground to a halt and something bigger began to take shape. From a single repeated guitar line, the rest of the band wind themselves in creating this massive pulse. Only the bass is free of it and plods out this beautiful melody (something O think the bass is singularly predisposed to do) before collapsing into gigantic sheets of noise, “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”
Lucky 7: Sans Pareil – ‘Codename: Tarantula’
This was the first song we wrote after finishing ‘Night Glare’ and it was the antidote to everything that album wasn’t and everything we weren’t before. It started as that moody pulse until John laid the main guitar figure on it and everything erupted in my head. I could see the characters, the places, the colours, the seedy things they were doing. It was the first time I’d managed to wrench myself free of my piddling concerns and jump with unwavering conviction into my imagination. I haven’t been back since.