This album, originally released in 1989, was for a long time the definitive answer to the question ‘what do Thinking Plague sound like?’ It was ten years before In Extremis presented a new line-up and a changing sound to the record-buying public (sans legendary founder-member Bob Drake) – and let’s face it, bands as daring and un-commercial as this tend to communicate with their audience more by the medium of recordings than by live performance. Cuneiform Records, with whom Thinking Plague have been since that follow-up, characterise this album as the band’s ‘stylistic coming of age’, and that certainly seems a fair …
A combination of electro-acoustic and programmed sounds are used here to create a sound that pays clear homage to African polyrhythmic percussion music, unpitched attacks mingling with sounds similar to idiophones or lamellophones, although they might come from almost any source. Then there are the synths, guitars and lo-fi samples… No Security Through Numbers is far too complex to glibly summarise with a juxtaposition of stylistic labels or a list of other bands I think you might have heard of. Towards the end of ‘Super Symmetry’ a series of fusionesque stabs appear
If you describe Tamara Parsons-Baker’s practice as a formula, it doesn’t inspire much excitement: simple, mainly diatonic guitar strums; emotive vocals; songs about unsuccessful love affairs; we have heard these elements before. However, the five songs on Lover proceed from a somewhat more warped perspective than this formula might suggest, lurking with mischief aforethought behind the placid surface of a nice friendly singer-songwriter. The opening songs on the EP require close attention to the lyrics to reveal their disturbing character, but when we get to ‘I Stuck It Out’ Parsons-Baker’s full weirdness emerges, in a frighteningly witchy evocation of a relationship haunted by madness and murder
I’m not sure what Marie Craven is sorry about. Without overcoming my innate laziness and conducting a proper analysis of the lyrics, it’s hard to say whether she’s expressing regret, making an apology, or meditating on the nature of transgression. In fact the title is a little ambiguous itself: does it refer to a transcendence of the terms of transgression, or a violation of surpassing seriousness? Either way, bracketing this release with two versions of its title track makes her mournful declaration a key aspect of its meaning, and the structural linchpin of its narrative arc.