Of the nine songs on offer here, three have been featured in the French supernatural series ‘Les Revenants’, which won an International Emmy for Best Drama Series a couple of years back. Steeple Remove’s music is a natural choice for such purposes, with its ominous, claustrophobic feel no doubt serving the TV show well.
If you are not familiar with the band’s sound, think The Chameleons fronted by Bauhaus‘s Peter Murphy and you would be at least part way there. ‘Mirrors’ begins the album at some pace, a pefect ‘Side One, Song One’ choice, while ‘Silver Banana’ employs some obtuse (English) lyrics such as ‘A silver banana in my hand / It’s good enough for you it’s good enough for me’ over a frantic repetitive keyboard / bass motif which is highlighted by early New Order-ish keyboards that really work well and add a glint of light to the shade.
If all this is sounding quite eighties or retro…well, it is in some ways, but also sounds very much of today – there is something unique here, the above influences notwithstanding.
It is a brave band or artist that attempts a Psychic TV cover, but that is precisely what Steeple Remove have done with their excellent version of ‘Unclean’; if Genesis P. Orridge comes knocking on Steeple Remove’s door, it will be to congratulate them rather than berate them. The band have stated Orridge’s previous band, the uncompromising Throbbing Gristle as an influence in the past, and they are not afraid to embrace their sound here.
‘Sunshine’ comes across as a deranged relative of The Beatles‘ ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’, unlikely as that may sound, while ‘Invisible Lights’ is a slow and moody almost-instrumental track full of heavily reverbed guitars and feint reversed vocals which are used more as another instrument than singing as such.
The aptly-titled seven-minute instrumental ‘Home Run’ closes the album out in style – starting off as probably the lightest track on the album, at around the five-minute mark it unexpectedly morphs into low-fi territory and gradually fades away into the night.
Steeple Remove’s first two albums came out on legendary French label Sordide Sentimental (which released Joy Division and Throbbing Gristle records amongst others) and three members – Walter, David and Arno (who has since changed his name to Van Colen!) – have been in the band since the early 1990s. The information that David also works as a driving instructor does possibly destroy the enigma slightly, but Position Normal is a really coherent and highly listenable album.