ESG (Emerald Sapphire, Gold) - ESG


Now here’s a great record by a band I got to know through another band. Las Kellies’ cover of Erase You pricked my interest a year or two ago, and then seeing the same song listed on this LP meant I gave it a spin: just one of those small things that lead to something else. Since then I’ve played this LP, the Factory single they did and the compilation (called Dance to the Best of ESG) a lot, but – in a strange way, and I suppose fitting with the band’s history (they seem to have had more than their fair share of difficulties over the years) I only come to sing their praises in the mag criminally late.

ESG is a record that originally came out in 1991, containing a mix of old and then new material; (including UFO, produced by Martin Hannett), as a way of re-establishing themselves as a band proper, rather than a goldmine for hip hop samples: they seem to be one of the most relentlessly plundered bands in this respect, also, sadly with no profit coming their way. Regardless of when the material was written it hangs together as a record incredibly well, mainly because the sound - regardless of who is producing it - is based on the toughness and directness of the songs, and the use of the band’s incredible sense of rhythm. It’s all in the beat.

So, the groove is all important with ESG – whether it’s a sticky slice of funk or smart use of polyrhythms, or a straight, no nonsense thumping of the skins. Sometimes it’s used simply as a matter of balance: with I Wanna Dance and Standing in Line the rhythm is the point on which everything hinges, and Erase You’s slanging match would be half as effective if it didn’t have such a strident, well ordered beat. Elsewhere it sets the mood: Get Funky, New Day and Moody use sultry polyrhythms and beat schemes to very different effect. It’s a record of moods too; they don’t need to say much to get the message across: sparse and sultry tracks like Hold Me Right and I are incredibly powerful – and highlight what’s truly great about ESG – namely the complete lack of any dry, academic, “clever” approach that seems to be all over a lot of alternative music these days. Even when they get the art house treatment – as with UFO - the overall feel is still that of “cut the crap” directness. This is a record (and a band) that will catch you out; you’ll end up playing this over and over again.