Reviews

Ut In Gut’s House 2xLP

While UT formed as part of the somewhat amorphous late ’70s New York art and music scene that was eventually pegged as No Wave, they’ve always been an outlier within the context of common narratives and conceptions of that (anti-)movement—a downtown Manhattan trio who were most active after they had relocated to London, and who started out in 1978 (the year of No New York) but didn’t release their definitive albums until the second half of the ’80s, years after many of their No Wave peers had gravitated to other avenues like free jazz or modern classical. But the guiding principles of No Wave were those of rejection and opposition, which were duly reflected in UT’s dismantling of some of the most basic tropes of being a modern “rock band,” with a songwriting process rooted in collective improvisation, and members Nina Canal, Sally Young, and Jacqui Ham all rotating between instruments and microphone duty from track to track. The off-kilter vocals, wiry, detuned guitar scrape, and skittering drums of the group’s 1987 LP In Gut’s House imagined the possibilities of a union between the MARS/DNA-oriented Downtown 81 school and early Rough Trade-backed UK femme-punk practitioners, resulting in a bleak, art-damaged sprawl not far removed from that of their Blast First then-labelmates SONIC YOUTH. There’s plenty of friction and atonality in the more abstracted, noisy tracks like “Hotel” and “Landscape,” but In Gut’s House just as often gives way to more subdued explorations like “Shut Fog,” which mixes scratchy violin and sparse, tom-heavy drumming to a haunting RAINCOATS-ish effect. A little too late for No Wave’s heyday and a little too early to follow SONIC YOUTH down the path toward alternative nation superstardom, UT were essentially undeserving victims of time with this record, but it’s a true late ’80s post-punk classic now conveniently reissued for 2020 consumption.