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Five rail-thin longhairs from Reading, England, Chapterhouse was first linked to the space rock likes of Spacemen 3 and Loop -- the connection with the former being inextricable during the band's youngest months, thanks in part to vocal support from Sonic Boom. Early on, the two bands also shared the same management and gigged together. As the years transpired, Chapterhouse would eventually be identified as a shoegaze band, thrown in with the so-called "Scene That Celebrates Itself," as alternately championed and ridiculed by the U.K. press. Until their unfortunate slip into an overambitious, ill-fitting, increasingly dance-reliant sound with unconvincing gospel references, Chapterhouse could switch from bliss to dread in an instant, with steady downpours of guitars and buried vocals that were either phased into haunting drones or ecstatic rushes of melodic noise.
The band formed in 1987. Drummer Ashley Bates, bassist Jon Curtis, guitarist Simon Rowe, and vocalists/guitarists Stephen Patman and Andrew Sherriff allegedly called themselves Incest early on but made a smart decision to change the name. Long before they laid down their first demos, they rehearsed and honed their live show. One 1988 gig, performed in their home base of Reading, won a supporter in Sonic Boom. The Spacemen 3 member wanted to release the band's music on his Bop-a-Sonic label, but that never materialized. Instead, the band signed with BMG's Dedicated subsidiary -- home of Cranes, Global Communication, and (ding ding) Spacemen 3 (if only for 1991's Recurring). By the end of 1990, the band replaced the exited Curtis with Russell Barrett and had a pair of four-song singles -- Freefall and Sunburst -- released and reviewed with mostly favorable results. A third single, early 1991's Pearl, gained them even more attention, featuring an oft-used John Bonham sample and background vocals from Slowdive's Rachel Goswell. This set the stage for the full-length debut Whirlpool, also released in 1991. While it didn't capitalize on the band's building popularity quite as hoped (the rise of grunge made sure the group didn't have more than a small, if rabid, cult following stateside), they were able to stir up a couple low-charting singles and a sizeable fan base in England.
After the Mesmerise single closed out 1991, the band went silent for over a year before reappearing with 1993's Blood Music. "She's a Vision" and "We Are the Beautiful" were successive, successful singles; the album from which they came otherwise sunk. It was accompanied by a slew of remixes, many of which came from Global Communication. (Initial copies of Blood Music -- meaning most of the copies that are floating around, since it wasn't a blockbuster -- came with a bonus disc of nothing but remixes.) The band was then laid to rest, anthologized in 1996 by the handy double-disc Rownderbout compilation. Sherriff continued to work with electronic music with the Bio.com and Bionic projects; Barrett later became part of Inner Sleeve; Rowe joined former Slowdive members in Mojave 3; Bates went trip-hop for 4AD's Cuba (aka Air Cuba). ~ Andy Kellman
- Reading, England
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