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Baker's Dozen

Burn Again: Lawrence English's Favourite Albums
Kate Hennessy , November 19th, 2015 10:52

After celebrating Room40's 15th birthday, the label head and ambient composer pauses in his hometown of Brisbane to go from Swans to Japanese court music in taking Kate Hennessy through his 13 "foundational" records


Nine Inch Nails - The Downward Spiral
In April 1995, I saw Nine Inch Nails on The Downward Spiral tour as part of a short-lived Australian festival called Alternative Nation. With a name like that it was destined to be short-lived, let's face it.

That show remains a seminal live experience. Nine Inch Nails were at the height of their abusive phase, I suppose, and the band seemed like it was going to fall apart at any moment, but somehow managed to hold together. That tension of the constant threat of self-destruction was revelatory for me. It represented a kind of assault on the suspension of disbelief that persists often at concerts. That things just are, and you don't question how they are becoming - it's happening and that's enough; you're invested in it. It felt that night as though at any point everything could fail. It didn't fail that night but the threat was appealing.

That's what appeals to me about great free improv too… that it could all come apart. The pressure to keep it in motion is really appealing. 

The Downward Spiral still echoes through me now. Production-wise it's still one of the great industrial records, for want of a better anchor term. It is rich with buried texture and sound design but utterly rooted in song and melody. There's still moments where I hear some masked sound for the first time and I value that in records.

Trent Reznor is a great pop songwriter and Pretty Hate Machine is one of the great dark pop records of the 1980s. He has a sense of melody that is his own - occasionally discordant but ultimately evocative and engaging. I respect his career, too, as he's converted Nine Inch Nails successfully over the years. I saw them again last year and it was such a well-oiled machine. Impressive to witness a band so comfortable in large-scale performance too.