Durutti Column – Sex And Death
Released 23 April 2021
Deluxe 2CD reissue of Durutti Column’s 1994 album, their 11th studio LP in total. This 12 tracker was produced by Stephen Street and was originally the first release on Factory Too, Tony Wilson’s 1990s attempt to revive the Factory name. This version is newly remastered and includes 10 rare bonus tracks on a separate disc…Ian Canty ponders two of life’s grand dramas…
By 1994 it appeared that Vini Reilly’s Durutti Column had effectively come full circle in the 16 years they had been in existence, with them heading up Tony Wilson’s recently launched Factory Too. This was a label aligned to the London imprint, with which Wilson sought to replicated the original Factory Records ethos. Tony was still acting the band’s manager at this time and it was only natural that DC were invited aboard and released the debut long player of the label Sex And Death, the band’s first since Obey The Time four years before.
Though by this time Durutti were to all intents and purposes a duo of percussionist Bruce Mitchell and VR, Sex And Death also includes contributions from Manchester fellow travellers Peter Hook of Joy Division/New Order fame and Martin Jackson, who played drums on the early Magazine records before becoming part of 80s hitmakers Swing Out Sister. There were also guest spots for long-term DC cohort viola player John Metcalfe and vocalists Rob Gray, Carrie Eastwood and Ruth-Ann Boyle.
The debt that Durutti Column owed Wilson as a mentor and constant supporter is recognised by the very first track presented here entitled Anthony, a lovely echoing piece of prime Durutti guitar meditation with added lyrical horn arrangement. This album effectively brought the band out of limbo and this melody was a truly chilled way to get Sex And Death underway. The Rest Of My Life has some lovely, evocative work by Vini over a static beat and For Colette builds up patiently through an electro pulse, with some gentle strings and Reilly’s guitar hovering behind coolly.
The Next Time is the first tune with a vocal, including some soulful skat singing playing off Vini’s typically understated voice. A big drum beat and some soloing, which gets close to metal even, marks this one. With a more dance-orientated, downbeat feel, Beautiful Lies uses both acoustic and electric guitar, plus a fractured voice. The calm of My Irascible Friend is in many ways textbook Durutti Column, with Latin guitar flourishes being deployed at a careful pace.
The second half of Sex And Death begins with the happy flutter of Believe In Me, a sparsely vocalised number. Then comes the ghostly echo guitar of Fermina. Where Should I Be is again more song-based, a lovely unguarded fragment with well-judged female vocals and this leads into the album’s genuine pop song Fado, which would have made a great single. A short but pretty Madre Mio leaves the classy and reflective Blue Period to end what is a very satisfying snapshot of 1990s Durutti Column. They are always instantly recognisable through Vini’s one of a kind guitar style, but it acts as the anchor allowing Durutti to develop the sound into other areas in a gentle and natural way.
The second CD of this set features 10 rare tracks, with 6 of these being previously unreleased and sourced from Tony Wilson’s personal collection. These bonus tracks feature a couple of early versions of Believe In Me, with the second take being particularly fine. The other eight pieces were recorded around the same time as Sex And Death, but ultimately were not favoured for inclusion on the album. My Only Love (aka Duet) immediately grabbed me with its wordless, rhythmic vocal sounds plus lovely jangly guitar and Picking Guitar For The Shrimp is a great example of Vini’s solo, echo-laden and beautifully realised instrumentals.
Get Me To The Beat On Time is far more in a dance mode, though I felt this offering slightly too busy for me. I suppose that sort of sound was all the rage at the time, but I can also sort of see why it went unissued. Slightly less of the vocal would have rendered it a touch sleeker in my view, because under that, there is definite dance potential. Jumble Drums, Growling Bass And The Whammy Bar is the very descriptive title of the following track, but this has some carefully deployed, bright ambient moves which I really liked.
There’s a touch of funk in For Cameron de la Isla that is underpinned by an electro rhythm and in contrast War Torn is a vocal folk tune given a Durutti touch, with Rob Gray’s singing full and clear. The Celestial Bar, the final track of this set, seems a sequel to War Torn and follows the same pattern. Vini’s guitar paired with Rob’s voice works well.
The accompanying booklet features fragments of three 1995 press interviews with Vini, which help to set the scene nicely. It notes that this album was released that year as a CD-ROM and reveals that Wilson clearly but incorrectly thought this format was the future. Fortunately Sex And Death has held up rather better than that piece of technology.
This set has been expertly remastered by Peter Beckmann at Technology Works and the sound is uniformly excellent. Sex And Death is an album that showed the continuing development by Durutti Column at their own pace. They kept the core strengths and that enabled them to add gently different ideas and sounds. This reissue is highly pleasing in its quality, which is something you would expect from Factory Benelux. It sounds like a dream and if you wanted to check Durutti’s progress having lost touch with them since the early days, Sex And Death is as good a place as any to start catching up on their progress.
All words by Ian Canty – see his author profile here