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BLUE ORCHIDS (Buy CDs by this artist)
Agents of Change EP (UK Rough Trade) 1982
The Greatest Hit (Money Mountain) (UK Rough Trade) 1982

This Manchester quartet, which included two early members of the Fall — guitarist/singer Martin Bramah and keyboardist Una Baines — used organ as its main instrument, but at times on The Greatest Hit it sounds as if Baines is playing a different song from the rest of the band. There are many overlapping layers in the deceptively simple sound; the long organ washes are interrupted by guitars lurching to the fore. Bass and drums keep the steady beat, but the others don't necessarily fall in line behind them. Vocals are half-sung, half-spoken and full of poetic pretense, but it's the mesmerizing music that captures the listener in bright swirling folds. While The Greatest Hit can be simply tagged as neo-psychedelia, that doesn't cover the full scope of this fascinating band's music.

The EP, packaged in a printed plastic shopping bag, offers four very nice subsequent tracks that are at once subtler and more conservatively structured, sounding like nothing so much as the pretty side of early Velvet Underground.

The Blue Orchids didn't last long, and the members dropped out of the spotlight. In 1989, however, occasioned by Brix Smith's departure, Bramah rejoined the Fall in time to play on Extricate.

[Ira Robbins]