charles bullen

This Heat, a keyboards-bass-guitar trio, coined a unique style that borrowed from progressive-rock, jazz-rock, electronic music, industrial music and, last but not least, German avant-rock of Can, Neu and Faust. Tape loops, overdubs, sound effects and noise abound on their first album and masterpiece,This Heat (1979). The austere and erudite approach to composition, and an impressive repertory of musical tricks, amounted to little less than a manual of new harmony. Abandoning the difficult rhythms and returning to the song format, Deceit (1981) popularized the idea in the era of synth-pop.

This Heat were formed in 1975 by percussionist Charles Hayward, a veteran of the Canterbury school of progressive-rock who had already played on Quiet Sun's Mainstream (1975), guitarist Charles Bullen and keyboardist Gareth Williams (tastiere, basso, chitarra). The trio diverged from the ruling rock and jazz aesthetic in that it focused on studio sound, not live sound. Tapes, sound effects and production tricks were part of the arsenal of instruments. The cerebral way in which songs were deconstructed evoked German bands such as Can,Faust and Neu. This Heat were technically members of the “new wave” generation, but morally they represented the liaison between Canterbury and industrial music.

Hayward and Bullen had already started in 1974 the project Dolphin Logic. This Heat was born when Williams joined them. Wiliams brought a cosmopolitan sensibility to Hayward’s passion for electronic music and Bullen’s almost classical composure. Made Available (These Records, 1997 - ReR, 2007) is the 1977 John Peel sessions. During 1978 and 1979 the trio performed at several venues, generally supporting political causes or accompanying multimedia events.

The trio’s first official album, This Heat (Piano, 1979), recorded between february 1976 and august 1978, was the manifesto of an austere art of making music out of electronic, looped, overdubbed and atonal sounds. 

Out of Cold Storage: This Heat box set

(Even shorter version originally published at All Music Guide, 2006)


This Heat
Out of Cold Storage
(RER Megacorp)

Like many of the more acute post-punk bands, This Heat had only scant musical connection with punk. Punk may have espoused a seditious DIY ethos, but the sonic results were largely conventional, even retrograde; in stark contrast, This Heat were authentically revolutionary. They experimented with the possibilities of rock, infusing it with dissidence on a formal level, whereas punk’s radicalism often extended only to sloganeering lyrical content.

Ironically, much of This Heat’s innovative strength derived from a musical heritage that punk’s most ignorant element would have deemed reactionary and slated for purging – namely, a fertile, heterogeneous tradition of genuinely progressive art-rock comprising the likes of King Crimson, Roxy Music, Soft Machine and oppositional avantists such as Henry Cow, as well as influential Germans Faust, NEU! and Can. Indeed, drummer Charles Hayward came out of that tradition: he played in Quiet Sun in the early ‘70s, with former schoolmates Phil Manzanera and Bill MacCormick (of Roxy Music and Matching Mole respectively), before joining forces with Gareth Williams and Charles Bullen in This Heat in 1976.

All of This Heat’s original releases are collected in this box set, along with a live CD and an image- and text-rich booklet that traces the band’s history, providing insight into its creative processes. The Health and Efficiency and Repeat EPs and Made Available (the trio’s John Peel sessions) highlight This Heat’s uniqueness during the already vibrant and diverse post-punk period. However, the two studio albums (This Heat and Deceit) remain the most complete and compelling illustrations of the band’s distinctive aesthetic, which fused jazz and avant-garde sensibilities, folk and ethnic nuances, electronics and rock and approached the recording environment as an instrument in itself.

From slightly different angles, the first two albums capture the unsettling, dread-filled zeitgeist of the early Thatcher-Reagan era. The self-titled debut is composed of a series of dark, complex collages, juxtaposing manipulated textures, musique concrète and jagged rhythms, that occasionally coalesce into a semblance of rock. Hewn from similar materials, Deceit moved toward more conventional song structures, without compromising the band’s experimental spirit.

Unfortunately, this box set includes no unreleased studio work, which must be lurking somewhere in the archives; although such material would have perhaps held more interest than the live disc, the 1980 and 1981 performances collected here do provide an excellent document of This Heat onstage. Minor quibbles aside, Out of Cold Storage is a worthwhile testament to a band that, despite its post-punk context, was already post-rock. (Wilson Neate)

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LIFETONESA good side” (1983)

Brilliant song by Charles Bullen solo lp released on Tone of Life Rcd. Original member of avantguarde art-punk band THIS HEAT, Bullen did an amazing solo carrer in the 80’s mixing rock, jazz, minimal and experimental music to created, like his project LIFETONES with Julius Samuel, such a unique sound.