Formats Available: 2xLP, CD & Digital
07. Always April
12. Chalkboard James
13. Strand of Paul (live)
14. Sounds Like Suzie (digital only)
15. Brazil 66 (digital only)
16. Jetpacks for Julian (digital only)
"Dozen" - Official Video
Manufactured Recordings is proud to be presenting a reissue of Alison's Halo's Eyedazzler - a retrospective of the band's recordings originally released on CD only in 1998. As the latest installation in the Shoegaze Archive series, Eyedazzler will finally see its vinyl debut on 2xLP, as well as a limited edition first run of CDs with a track list expanded to include the band's outstanding1995 7” release, “Dozen” / “Calendar." An even further expanded track list is available digitally.
ALISON’S HALO: BEAUTIFUL NOISE FROM THE ARIZONA DESERT, FROM THE ORIGINAL, GOLDEN ERA OF SHOEGAZE
They came out of Phoenix two decades ago, when Americans beyond Anglophilic centers finally noticed an incredible, dreamy “shoegaze” explosion bubbling in Britain. Led by spouses Adam and Catherine Cooper, Alison’s Halo trafficked in similarly spectacular, effects-laden, ethereal guitar majesties, but were distinguished by Catherine’s lovely vocals (like Cocteau Twins’ Liz Fraser, Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell, and Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval), as shimmering as their six-string mélanges.
Sadly, the foursome only released one 7” single in 1995, on Bruce Licher’s hallowed Independent Project Records, and a 1998 retrospective. But thanks to starring appearances in two legendary Phoenix Beautiful Noise festivals, 1995 and 1996 (flying in from New York, I loved Alison’s, IPR’s Half String, For Against, and Licher’s Scenic, Apples in Stereo, etc.), Internet buzz, and now this timely Manufactured Recordings reissue, they’re not forgotten — unlike many hyped groups. Which says it all!
Their story begins windswept. Adam and Catherine met in 1990, marrying only three months later (they’re still together). Indeed, their whirlwind romance is captured in the lyrics of “Dozen”’s B-side, “Calendar” (“Thirty dizzy days/Spinning us away”). Soon Adam — who’d published a fantastic fanzine, Whirlpool — added his talented wife to The Dead End Brandos, formed from his Wedding Present/Lemonheads-like The Violet Hour (who’d released a cassette EP and played with Gin Blossoms). “That band was a mix of Trash Can Sinatras, The Sundays and The Association,” describes Adam.
After a year, the assemblage morphed again, becoming Alison’s Halo. “We formed in October 1992 and played our first show December 22, 1992, at an Odd Fellows Hall,” Adam explains. (Openers Jimmy Eat World also debuted that night, with Adam’s brother, Mason, drumming. Adam soon commandeered their parents’ living room to record JEW demos.) This lineup was Catherine - vocals/guitar (a month after she’d begun playing), Adam - guitar, Lynn Anderson - bass, and an Alesis drum machine dubbed “Alison.”
“We burst onto the local scene quickly — our third gig was with Ultra Vivid Scene,” recollects Adam. “Our sound was well-developed. We had been messing with pedals and rack effects. Our writing process and that discovery really fused.” Asked for the genesis of that resplendence, Adam reveals, “I had been a fan of William Reid (Jesus & Mary Chain), John Ashton (Psychedelic Furs), Dave Davies (Kinks), Johnny Marr (The Smiths), Terry Bickers (The House of Love) and Graeme Naysmith (Pale Saints).”
All that was needed was a release, which resulted from a fortuitous meeting with Savage Republic guitarist Licher, known for IPR’s stunning letterpress sleeves. “We met Bruce at the first Beautiful Noise after we’d played our set,” says Adam. “He said he really enjoyed the songs, mentioned his label, and told us to send a demo. We were beyond honored. It motivated us to buy our first 4-track and start recording.”
Recorded with drummer Thomas Lancer (bye “Alison”), the quartet’s September 21, 1995 “Dozen” single was heaven. In my Big Takeover review, I called the 7” “indispensible,” writing, “’Dozen’ combines spectral guitar passages with playful, sonorous vocals from enchanting Catherine. That and ‘Calendar’ are as splendid in their long, enveloping instrumental passages as when she sings her way into your consciousness.” Backed by copious college airplay, the group – now the “classic lineup” with Dave Rogers (bass) and Roger Brogan (drums) – toured the West Coast, adding extraordinary gigs in New York at Brownies and Coney Island High.
Frustratingly, despite five years of stunning-in-retrospect bills with Brits Boo Radleys, Curve, The Verve, and Stereophonics, plus Medicine and Adam’s New Zealand crush, Bailter Space, “Dozen” was their only recording issued while extant. Sighs Adam, “Its recording was challenging. Our sound man offered to record us if we’d finance a cabinet-maker to build a rolling console for his recording gear, this massive thing we hauled to our rehearsal spot every time we wanted to track something. The process was slow and fraught with technical issues — otherwise it would have been a 5-7 song EP.”
Ultimately, after the Coopers embarked on later projects (e.g. The Pastry Heros, Kitten Factor and, after relocating to Chicago, Insta), stalwart Michigan label Burnt Hair released the eye-opening Eyedazzler, 1992-1996 on September 21, 1998, belatedly documenting the classic lineup’s ghostly wonders. (Said my BT review: “Underneath Adam’s pedals and Catherine’s dynamite, siren-call vocals, Rogers’ bass and Brogan’s wonderful, tom-heavy drums keep the rhythms tasteful yet propulsive. Better late than never, AH prove that even earthbound by 2-, 4-, and 8-track tapes, they were an aural feast.”)
Laughs Adam, remembering Eyedazzler’s sessions, “The bulk were done in a huge warehouse practice space, surrounded by auto shops which worked late. Every time we ‘planned’ a recording session, it was thwarted by revving engines and power tools. So most sessions were done between 1am and 5am. Being sleep-deprived and/or drunk shaped the feel, and it was all spur of the moment. Sometimes Roger would come knocking at our apartment, wake us up at 2am, and see if we wanted to play!”
As to why AH split, he avers, “Parting ways with Roger in ’97 slowed our momentum. With less gigs, I concentrated on writing new songs that were pure ambient or straight-up pop. We never really broke up; we just shifted direction and renamed ourselves.” More recently, 2009’s Jetpacks For Julian EP of 1996 recordings exhibited another shift “to a cleaner and poppier sound.” And regrettably, AH’s reunion for 2013’s Beautiful Noise Phoenix festival with Half String was cancelled for illness. Darn!
Will there be another? Adam doesn’t know, but he’s proud of his group. “Without a bigger label to promote us, we felt it was our songs that did all the talking — it certainly wasn't deep pockets that generated the hype. We promoted ourselves, bought our own recording gear, recorded ourselves, financed short tours, etc. I loved every aspect, even though we really didn't have a choice.”
As a concluding statement, he adds, “A generation of kids missed out on our music, so having it released on Manufactured Recordings is thrilling — and on vinyl, incredible! There’s plenty of interest in spacier bands these days. These songs have held up pretty well over time, too.
See for yourself.
—Jack Rabid, editor/publisher The Big Takeover