Crass - Ten Notes on a Summers Day - The SwansongMuch has been written over the years, politically, musically and culturally, on Dial House and the work of Crass. “Ten Notes on a Summers Day” was described by the band themselves on the sleeve as:

“Crass’s last formal recording. We shall continue to make statements both individually and as a group, but no longer feel obliged to be limited by the inward looking format of the ‘band’”.

The album was written, according to Penny Rimbaud, in 1984 whilst he was working as a pool attendant, and was initially conceived as a poem.

The 20 minutes that make up “Ten Notes on a Summers Day” was originally, it seems, built upon a piano track that Rimbaud, who could not actually play piano, used as the template for what was to become the final product. The music itself is as far removed from what would traditionally be recognised as Crass, as could be plausible. There are no fraught, screaming vocals, no abrasive guitar and no hectic drumming. Instead “Ten Notes on a Summers Day” appears to be a collage of spoken word passages, lines of pastoral, orchestral harmony, discordant piano, and improvised electric guitar almost in the style of the late Derek Bailey. Indeed, the track as a whole has the sense of avant-garde jazz and Musique Concrete. The second section is purely instrumental, which, in the same vein as the first section, owes more to European free jazz and atonality, than the rasping, spitting vocal of their earlier work.

This “Crassical” reissue of the album is bolstered by 4 tracks not on the original release. “Acts of Love No. 37” is a short bewildering piece that is a showcase for the disharmonious vocal, and is punctuated with stabbing keyboard lines and discordant shards of found sounds. “Pills and Ills” is an altogether more harmonious affair, with the characteristic vocal style riding across a disco beat, and luscious waves of melodious keyboard. “Rocky Eyes” is a straight forward piece of classical guitar, almost in the flamenco style, which acts as the basis for a further tirade of abrasive poetry which contrasts with the instrumentation to make the listening experience complex in the extreme. The final track “Outro Including Acts of Love No. 39” is pure choral harmony, teetering on the familiar, which descends into a cacophony of sounds such as clunking guitar, laughter, flamenco guitar and comical keyboard lines.

As a cohesive piece of art, “Ten Notes on a Summers Day” continued the subversive theme of previous albums in that it defied categorisation, and showed the “band” progressing with their sound even further. From angry rock and roll, to avant-garde noise, from free-jazz to neo-classical atonality and belligerent poetry, there was never, on close scrutiny, a sound that did ever truly define Crass. And that is what makes these reissues both culturally and musically significant.

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