Pharmakoi / Distance-Crunching Honchos With Echo Units
by The Refo:mation
REVIEWS and COMMENTS
THE CHURCH REFO:MATION!
The enigmatically named 'Pharmakoi: Distance Crunching Honchos With Echo Units' is a brilliant creation of Steve Kilbey, Peter Koppes, and Tim Powles of The Church released as The Refo:mation in 1997. So rich, atmospheric, rockin', and cool, it feels like a Space Travel Rock'n'Roll Motion Picture soundtrack. 'All See it Now' and 'Stop' are killers! Kilbey's vocals are to die for as usual and Koppes guitar sounds are awe-inspiring. We love their perfectly suited promotional tag line from then 'refo:mation automation meditation space station hesitation elevation excitation relaxation information!!!' Yeah!
This release is actually a look into the future of the Church with Tim Powles production techniques taking center stage. This album, while containing the Church sound (minus MWP) there's just as much texture to supplement Steve Kilbey's songwriting style. I would imagine that this is a favorite of favorites for collectors. Only if this could be re-mastered with MWP's guitars layered underneath.
Basically three quarters of the church without Marty. A great CD, if you can track it down it is worth having in your collection. Be warned though it is not the usual Church sound and if you are expecting something along the lines of Under The Milky Way, forget it. Interesting variety of styles and sounds blended together with Steve's imagination and unique vocal sound. I, in fact, prefer this to many of the mainstream church releases of the 90s. A bit ahead of its time. If it was released today by an unknown artist, the critics would probably be raving about it. 9 out of 10.
These reviews were collected from Seance, The Church mailing list.
Pharmakoi is fantastic! The Sound reminds me of bonus tracks on the Russian Autumn Heart ep. I must say that this is head and shoulders more enjoyable than MATS. This album feels more cohesive than the last two Church albums, and I agree with some other reviewers on this page that there are some Jack Frost sounds to it as well. I think that this is the best Church related material since P=A. Sometimes when I'm listening to The Moon and The Sea, I feel like I'm in the middle of a really great and forgotten Grateful Dead jam. Peter is just phenomenal on this record. The Church needs him in the band. Not to take anything away from MWP's contributions to the group; this record shows PK's brilliance. I've missed him in the Church. A couple of weeks ago I got Water Rites and Iridescence and was just amazed at how much better they were than Into the Well and Manchild and Myth.
I absolutely love the Refo disc. The material is so cohesive. I really hope that this is the form in which the new Church records follows. My fave tracks are The Moon and the sea, Don't Move, Traitor, well the whole disc....So, if by any chance you happen to talk to Steve in the near future please tell him how well received this disc is with the fans..I really wish this disc could get the just airplay that it deserves.....
Just received the Refo CD. The packaging is great, although I would have prefered the back art on the cover. My overall impression is that it reminds me very much of a soundtrack for some kind of futuristic all-the-world-is-in-a-mess kind of movie. This is one of those albums which is a collective whole - like Starfish or P=A as opposed to a collection of songs. It's very guitar-driven (like Jack Frost) and Steve's voice sounds really stripped down (again like Jack Frost) (not like his thicker, richer voice on "Welcome"). I'm also very impressed with the structure of the songs (many do not follow the standard verse, chorus, verse, chorus, instrumental solo, verse, chorus). My favs are the more straight ahead rockers like Get Over It, Don't Move, that really raucous one after She Comes in Singing, and 5:28. Tim's voice does not sound out of place on the album and it's great to see that the Church website address is included on the back.
I've recently received my Refo:mation CD (Kylie you are truly a goddess). Very first impressions were favourable, but a bit perplexed. Then I played it loud and liked it a lot more.
I think the whole dynamic of "Don't Move" is FAB and very Church-like. I think "Traitor" is actually really good, too, because it sort of blends together a whole lot of different styles - Kilbey and Co. really do push the boundaries of what is perceived as "rock/pop" music and do make something that's uniquely their own. The cruel irony is that it's not "Pharmakoi" that's being pushed onto the British record buyers, but the rather ordinary Oasis LP, and "Pharmakoi" leaves this for dead - that much is certain.
I would like to hereby be acknowledged as Tim Powles' biggest fan. Actually, I prefer the sound he uses on the snare over the sharper sound that is also available on the drum (by making a small adjustment) I makes it seem like he's in my living room for some reason, and I'm tellin ya - his drum style and Steve's bass playing go together so well it's like they're making love. SO actually, it's Steve and Tim together that I really love; I don't know how Tim would sound with another bass player. Does anyone know how to get ahold of Tim? I think he should be made aware that he has a fan!
Jay Dee was great too, but having now heard Tim on MATS, Snow Job, Refo, (SA doesn't really count because I believe the drums were added later so it doesn't have the groove) I think Tim is THE drummer for the 90s Church. I know there's one other guy out there who agrees with me. Anyone else? Also - it's a pretty safe bet that "Traitor" is about a specific individual in the music business. Does anyone have any idea who the Traitor is? Any guesses?
The first thought was that it sounded a lot like the last Jack Frost album. I really like SK's and PK's solo work, so I thought that maybe it would sound like a combination of that or like a church album prior to SA/SE. But I think there are surprisingly little similarities.
I think there are two things that form my impression of it being different. First, the singing is different, it's not so "melodic" like for example "Almost with you" or as rhythmic as for example "Myrrh" any more there is a more kind spoken feel to it.
Secondly, the drumming is very different to pre P=A church and to SK's and PK's solo work, Richard or drum machines. Both the style and especially the snare sound is really different with Tim. I must say that I miss Richard's drumming. I would even have preferred a drum machine.
But I like the album anyway, it's just different from what I thought it would sound like.
...my opinion is that 'who is the one' is drop dead brilliant and one of their best songs ever. I mean that, does anyone else realize it's brilliance. I listened to this one in headphones and it just grooves. it definitely has the Kilbey signature on it, of which I am most interested in, but it is the most complete work on the album and Tim and Pete fill in better than anyone else could.
it occurred to me, after all the talk about this sound becoming the church's, that as the refo:mation suggests... this is a completely separate body of work for any of the member's of the church. to expect this sound to carry over is not what I think any of them have in mind, or they would have invited Marty along. it is just amazing to me that Steve can consistently change up his sounds with every new project. not one thing sounds the same... who else in music is able to do this? i'll answer this one for you... nobody.
Well, I've been listening to it for some time now and here is my version of events....
My biggest criticism about this album is that there's a bit too much stream of consciousness lyricism going on. I think Steve's very good at that sort of thing, but I also think he needs to take a second look and cut out some of the more Neil Youngian kind of rhymes. At other times it's like trying to listen to Yes (this, in my opinion, is most definitely not A Good Thing) - a sort of profound nonsense.
Traitor has a most excellent dustbin-lid rhythm from Tim Powles. I think old Tim gets a gold house point for mixing and engineering too. Someone mentioned Steve's sinister maniacal laughter - my own thought about this is that he simply cracked up when he realised he had come up with the appalling, non-sensical line "she'll never remember/if she's dismembered" whilst ad-libbing. Not sinister, just silly. And yet, I still love it.
She Comes In Singing - I think this piece of music is utterly superb, but once again it suffers from some lazy lyric writing (sorry Steve). Which brings me to another theory. I seem to remember this album being put forward as an instrumental when we first heard about it. I get a definite sense of some of these tracks having vocals added to move it from the "ambient" pigeon hole. I think that's a shame. I would love to hear this track with either no lyrics, or Steve at his best. "A taste like Florentine"? Isn't that something cooked with spinach? [Note: This led to a wide-ranging discussion on what this line meant.]
Get Over It is great and so is The Moon and the Sea, which sounds to me like the only track Steve actually already had lyrics for, or that he actually sat down and tried to write lyrics to.
Overall, I think it just confirms to me what a great ability PK has at giving things depth and colour. There are no real solos on this album, but hundreds of textures drifting in and out. One is constantly aware of a guitar, but never in a dominant way.
Nice one, Pete. And Steve, and Tim, but can we have some proper words on the next one?
Hi, I just received my copy of Refo:mation yesterday in the mail and have listened to it four times now, (from start to finish. ) It took a week to receive because it had to come all the way to Montana where I live. I enjoyed the album by the time that I got through it the second time. My wife and I are both Church fans, but her criticism has always been that all the Church albums sound the same, I never see it that way, We both agree that this album is a major departure from anything that Steve, Pete or Marty have ever done in a collaborative effort. Marty is noticably absent from the sound of the album, but it is such a strong statement, that I can forgive Steve, Pete and Tim for excluding him this time. There are a lot of really "smooth" songs on this album and it just flows together. I have no favorite song.
I don't quite get the vibe of 'Traitor' either. The music is cool, but the lyrics and delivery are quite negative and unempowering. Who wants to listen to music that calls them a traitor? Kilbey sounds like he's in pain on 'She comes in Singing' too. More and more I wonder at times if Kilbey is really trying to help. Dark lyrics are great, but some of them are a bit much. I always try to think of how I would feel if I was on massive psychedelics and how listening to these lyrics would make me feel. Anyone have any interpretations on these songs???
OK, I have the lyrics on the screen as I write, and "Traitor" seems to be mining the same vein as "Limbo" and "Lost My Touch" (for instance) - complaining about the "company man" who is subject to the whim of "every little trend" etc; it is certainly not calling the _listener_ in general a traitor. I love the song actually; I think the textures in it (especially the way the "you should have realised" verse is sung) are brilliant.
I think it is positive and empowering to explore the dark side and to make and listen to art that makes valid complaints about things like trendiness and commercialism. The day the Church (or subsets thereof) feel any need to be "positive and empowering" in some other kind of way (ie deliberately censoring out stuff that might offend or depress) will be the day I stop listening.
"She Comes In Singing" - sounds to me more spaced out than anything else. Very surreal and sketchy. There's not really much to go on - nine lines, and most of them could be about anything.
Have to say "Don't Move" is awesome. I'm also increasingly impressed with "Trying to Get In" (I mean, how far out can these guys go?) and "Who Is The One".
OK, after a little headphone session I had with Refo: last night I have to say that 'Don't Move' is one of the most wonderful songs put out by our boys in years. On the downside of that, 'Traitor' should've definitely been left on the cutting room floor.
I got the Refo album on Monday (Thank's Greg's Music World - Took just a week to get to my UK address!!) - Most of the songs sound great with some fab guitar work - At least two of the songs reminded me of early eighties band Japan (or is it this unusually hot spell doing my head in!)
As I'm now into my 8th or 9th listen, thought I'd add my $.02 worth... This album grabbed me from the first minute, whereas Magician Among The Spirits took a bit longer.. but already I have too say that this is going to a favorite. Florian Trout, I can play over and over again, there's just something quite haunting about it. She Comes In Singing, is becoming my favorite track....What can I say, I love it!
The Refo:mation disc showed up on my doorstep just as I returned from a business trip to Colorado, and I'd no sooner kissed my girlfriend and dumped my bag on the floor, before I ripped into the box and shoved it into my cd-player. Initial reactions? Wow! Um, that's just one unbiased opinion. :)
Actually, I think it's some of the best work out of Kilbey, etc. that I've heard for quite a while. And, as I listened to it, I had to reflect on the recent "not church" thread that's been making the rounds [on the Seance mailing list].
This is, most decidedly, not a Church record. It is, however, an interesting collaboration between Steve, Peter and Tim.
"1:07" was a great way to open the record, I thought. It was a swirling, instrumental hint of what was to come. While I haven't got the song titles committed to memory, the second track, with its gradual build, reminded me of "Unforgettable Fire"-era U2. Even so, Steve's singing is as sharp as it's ever been. And Pete's guitar playing was first-rate.
But, while I've never seen him live, I was kind of underwhelmed by Tim's drumming. I have to admit that I've been having a hard time thinking of him as a permanent member of the band. Heck, I was just getting used to Jay Dee when he took off. Tim's singing, however, was pretty good and kind of sounded like I expected it to sound. What's next, a cover of "Beth," maybe? :) I think, given time, and if he sticks around for more than one record, I may accept him.
Some minor complaints about the disc's production. I had to turn my cd-player up real loud to hear the record. It kind of sounded like it was recorded at a very low level. The mixing, on the whole, though, was pretty good, I thought.
And, just a side note, my girlfriend got a real pained look on her face when Steve sang about the girl who was remembered for being dismembered. His chuckle at the end of that line sounded positively maniacal!
But, I have to say, I missed Marty not being on this record, and had to put in "Seeing Stars" to make up for his absence. That's what clinched it for me: it's not a Church record without Marty around, and his absence on P/DCHWEU is palpable. On the whole, an entirely respectable effort, and it makes me long for a full-band album.
Goddam! I love this album! I'm listening to it for the first time as I write. I got it today in the mail, thanks to Greg's Music World!
Right now I am listening to "Florian Trout." Good stuff!
I'm agreeing with Drew's exuberant comments on the Refo: album - get it if you can! I keep playing it over and over - a good sign!!!
Ok, on several listens here's my $.02
Its definitely NOT the Church, but its still definitely a good thing. (though its definitely missing the hooks of a certain MWP!)
I could live without 'Traitor', and I think 'Florian Trout' sounds suspiciously like a Jack Frost song, 'Breakdown' maybe? So far my favourites are 'Don't Move', Trying to Get In', Take Your Place' 'Towards Sleep'... OK so I like all of them except 'Traitor'...
I ordered Refo:mation a week ago from phantom and already got it! This thing is fucking incredible! Worlds better, I would say, than any Church of recent memory.
on my way [from buying the album] home triple j played 'all see it now'. = fave at the moment with 'traitor', a post apocalyptic angst etched kick ass song (reminds me of the UK sci-fi flick 'hardware' & PIL's 'this is what you want, this is what you get').
if you have liked any church output from p=a onwards, you will not be disappointed with this album. koppes definitely adds something special to the mix, and I eagerly await the true reformation.
Didn't stop listening to this all weekend. Unbelievable. I think I am listening to the best thing I have ever heard! At the risk of offending the band and most of the list I am going to compare it to U2 - This is their Joshua Tree. (ps: I am not a U2 fan at all)
1.07 = a fake symph or giltish trip
Don't Move = Great build up and riff and it only gets better from here
Traitor = a little bit like I don't owe you anything. awesome riff great vocals effect on chorus. hit written all over it
She Comes In Singing = DReamy guitars, interlude-ish? textbook Church.unbelievable-no chorus either.
All See It Now = big guitar pop song loud with a quiet chorus and a nice turkey neck riff in the background. Hit written all over it!!!!
Trying To Get In = interesting track with some interesting guitars/sounds
Florian Trout = another hit single!!! by now they have a grammy for album of the year and we are only half way.
5.28 = you guessed it, an instrumentalish song with an ocassional voice sample saying the time this is 5.25 pm???
Who Is The One = great stuff
Get Over It = my favourite track at the moment has only one verse one chorus and one not long enough instrumental ending. This is the track I wish had hit written all over it! When will I get over it.
And I have ran out of time with still four more tracks to go. Tim even sings one. And yes, they are all awesome. Every time I listen to this album I find myself trying to figure out what are the best tracks. It changes every listen. Great stuff.
Well, I have had only one listen at this stage so I am not too familiar with all the songs, so here goes. I don't think there would be anyone on this list who won't love it! Much of the album is very dreamy, it's laid back and mostly mellow. It's different, it's also not always mellow. The vocals are improved, guitar lovers heaven. The guitars are a real standout, then again so is everything else. It's very arty! I also think its very '90s Church (eg Seeing Stars, guitar more '80s feel). It's a very very professional package and body of work. There is plenty of radio potential on this album. There are commercial songs, but they are still different and not a blatant attempt at a hit. There will be alot of arguments about what would have been the best single, etc.
Sorry if I have confused everyone. It's basically just great music! And music couldn't get much better than this.