Sunday, March 05, 2017

Are you Experienced?

Countless bands have made one album then gone their separate ways, whether imploding spectacularly or merely drifting apart. In very, very few cases does that one album even come close to matching the sole full-length recording by Lift To Experience.

The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads was extraordinary in many ways - not least the fact that it was a double LP and concept album about the Second Coming of Jesus and the apocalypse. As a vocalist, Josh T. Pearson sat somewhere between Mark Lanegan and Jeff Buckley, while he and his bandmates crafted sublime epics that drifted between brooding post-rock and shoegaze thunderstorms.

In the years since the record was released, in 2001, its reputation - and that of the trio that made it before disbanding - has grown and grown to the extent that it now seems hard to believe that they had difficulty in arousing any label interest. Thankfully, Cocteau Twins Simon Raymonde and Robin Guthrie stepped in, sufficiently impressed by the band's performance at SXSW in their native Texas to put the album out on their Bella Union imprint - but incredibly, as Pearson has revealed in a recent interview with Drowned In Sound, the LP has never had a US release.

The interview was prompted by the fact that Mute have just put out a remixed version of the album, which interview Marie Wood argues is now "the immersive journey it was always meant to be". I'm intrigued to hear how it improves on the original, but Pearson and his bandmates were clearly dissatisfied with the initial mix. That and the fact that Bella Union have lost the master tapes (with Pearson even questioning their trustworthiness) indicates that the relationship with Raymonde has evidently soured - a real shame, given that he and Guthrie were among the first people to truly believe in what they were doing in the face of general incomprehension and indifference.

What of the prospect of a follow-up to a record that would seem impossible to follow up? Pearson says "nothing would make me happier than being able to lock in a room with those dudes and beat up some songs for a couple of months", as long as they were "politically viable and relevant". What's more, they have reunited under the Lift To Experience banner, for 2016's Meltdown Festival. You wouldn't pick Elbow's Guy Garvey, the curator of last year's bash, as one of the band's biggest champions, but it turns out their paths crossed on tour way back in the day, enduring friendships were formed and Garvey rates Pearson as "the best male vocal that's singing today" and his outfit as "the gnarlyest three-piece I've ever seen". So, if a second album does ever emerge, then we know who to thank.

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