45 45s #14 Blue Orchids – The flood (Rough Trade, 1980)

Blue OrchidsWhen Martin Bramah and Una Baines splintered from the original incarnation of the Fall, they began creating music of a darker bloom, as the title of one collection of the Blue Orchids’ work has it. Bramah and Baines have obviously not had Mark E Smith’s long-ranging influence, but certainly they created music which possessed its own particular magnificence. Their musical muscle and work ethic honed through their contributions to the Fall, the new direction owed as much if not more to early Floyd than to Mark E’s shake, rattle and roll tendencies. The resulting psychedelia was shot through with punk, but also something other, something elusive and idiosyncratic, a kind of earthy mysticism at odds with the flowery brands on offer in the sixties, at once transcendental and firmly attached to a particular place at a particular time – Manchester in the early eighties. A duality which even the very names of Martin Bramah and Una Baines seem to bear out.

On their second single, ‘Work’, Martin Bramah would sing, ‘We’ll be the salmon swimming against the tide, the golden salmon swimming against the tide of life’ in what feels like an explicit tirade against what was expected of young salmon back then. Debut single ‘The flood’ is more diffuse, dangerous, out of control. The haunting melodic lines swirling out of Una Baines’ organ are the perfect foil for the ache and fire in Bramah’s imperfect voice. ‘SYMBOLSCRASH’ shouts the back of the sleeve, and they do, in all senses. There is a biblical element to ‘The flood’ which casts Bramah as a Macunian Noah; and then there is the strange audio sample at the beginning of the song, about which this helpful piece of commentary is put forward on YouTube:

‘In case anyone wonders what the sample in the beginning is, I can tell you it’s from a Swedish reciting of the Corinthian Letters, 13:3. They’re chanting “Och om jag gåve bort allt vad jag ägde till bröd åt de fattiga, ja, om jag offrade min kropp till att brännas upp, men icke hade kärlek, så vore detta mig till intet gagn.”

The 1984 international standard translation of this is; “If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.”’

They were that kind of group.

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