“I shoved fistfuls of ice into my eyes and mouth and thought: “Now I am away from it all.” The air is warm, is black, smells of vinegar acids – wanting to dissolve to a vapour, to disappear, to be ice; no, sharp, to cut, to sear, to burn, but the light frays my nerves, hurts my eyes and then it’s over. You’re ill; I’m drinking, it’s morning…
My skin blisters from grey to pink to scarlet. The taste is new on my lips, is coppery, burns my tongue. The air is warm, is black, smells of vinegar acids, as a hand of spindle-thin bones cuts through my own. And through the red-light zone, I want you to walk me home, but you snatch your hand away, you say… and the light frays my nerves, hurts my eyes and then it’s over. You’re ill; I’m drinking, it’s morning….”
The lyrics from Meanwhile, Back in Communist Russia’s ‘Delay-Decay-Attack‘… The song haunted me during the summer of 2001. The track was unsettling, dark and troubling but most of all, I fucking loved it. The female narrator had the most soothingly beautiful voice, but spoke of the most brutal events and had laid them clinically bare for me to hear. The music was achingly perfect, mixing glitchy electronics, pulsating rhythms and, overall, adding a joyous density to the tenebrous spoken-word vocals. That Summer I discovered a band that I have played daily for almost two decades..
MBCIR formed in Oxford in 1999 and released two albums and three singles during a five year period. The band became a favourite of John Peel and received exposure through the BBC, and on compilations, but disbanded quietly and left a small legacy that only a few clung to, but those that did held those records in very high esteem.
During the summer of 2001, I was travelling into London by train for work daily; MBCIR became a soundtrack to my journeys and life in the city. Watching the world fly past during those mornings of tiredness and hangovers on the way into place that I hated, I needed music to take my mind off ‘things’. MBICR were so engrossing that I got some respite, and actually wanted to get out of bed and the house in the morning so I could put my headphones in and be aurally transported to somewhere else.
‘Delay-Decay-Attack’ was my first taste of MBICR, and instantly I wanted to hear more. I remember an ex-girlfriend playing me the song and I knew straight away that this music wasn’t for shared listening. I wanted to be alone so I could take in every word and nuance on the Indian Ink album. The lyrics were like prying into a secret diary, but on the one hand you wanted to help the writer, and on the other you were scared to tell her that you knew what she had been through – I kept listening and listening, hoping that things would get better for her and to this day, I still don’t know if they ever did…
Musically MBCIR could be described as electronic post-rock, but they pre-dated many that have since trodden that genre path. There are hints of Slint, splashes of Aphex Twin and, for a more recent moot point, there’s a lot of what Mogwai showcase with their more electronic tracks. Indian Ink ranks up there as one of the great lost albums of the early 2000’s, and one that certainly deserves more attention.
The band released their wonderfully titled second album, My Elixir, My Poison, in 2003, and unfortunately in the eyes of the critics, the album didn’t stand up to the band’s incredible debut release. My Elixir, My Poison again more than highlighted the fact that MBCIR were a band that had huge talent, and that the critics really didn’t ‘get it’.
Tracks like ‘Heliotrope’, ‘Anatomies’, and ‘Chinese Lantern’ are the pick of an album that stands up to the test of time, and towers above what is now deemed ‘classic’ post rock. The first album was dark but My Elixir, My Poison plummeted much more murky depths, and may have been too bleak and introspective for some. I for one adored it – the album penetrates your mind and takes it on a journey of exquisite lyrical despair and striking dense soundscapes.
After two albums, two singles, three Peel Sessions, a support slot with Pulp and a session on XFM, MBICR called it a day. One of their last performances was for a regional TV show, and during the live recording the band experienced bad technical problems in the studio. Frustrations rose to the surface and during the performance the band stormed off stage and left, with the station vowing to never have live bands on again – A tumultuous end to a wonderfully tempestuous band.
My Elixir and My Poison.
Words: Nick Vivid