Comus – a band I had completely forgotten until I read something that reminded me.

I knew about Comus back in the early 1970s. They tended to get lumped in with people like the Third Ear Band, because of their general weirdness, and also with the Incredible String Band.

Anyway, I knew about them and my cousin liked them a lot, but he was weird. He liked the Holy Modal Rounders as well.

I was reminded of them yesterday because I was looking up Opeth on Wikipedia and that led me on to look at the article about Storm Corrosion, the Steven Wilson/Mikael Åkerfeldt collaboration from a couple of years ago. That article mentioned Comus as an inspiration for the Storm Corrosion album. I made a mental note to check on YouTube to see if their first album was there and, lo and behold, here it is.

I think that some people here might like it, certainly I think it will strike a chord with Beth and maybe Chris too.


15 thoughts on “Comus – a band I had completely forgotten until I read something that reminded me.

  1. I did spend some time (in ages past) cross-leggedly rapt in front of both the mesmeric Third Ear Band and the delightful ISB, but I never heard Comus. Heard of them, I think.

    I don’t like the voices on the first track. That would probably prevent me from exploring further but I will persevere. The next tracks are much more interesting.

    I did continue further along your Schoenberg playlist, Carole. A lot of stuff I rather like, especially the ones that retain a morsel of ‘conventional melody’. I realise now that it’s the singing that put me off Pierrot Lunaire: I simply can’t tolerate operatic voices.

    • I’m glad you listened to the Schoenberg, Chris.

      Singing in atonal and serial music is always difficult. I think it is harder for our ears to listen to a voice that has lost tonality than just instruments.

      Pierrot Lunaire uses a vocal technique called Sprechstimme which is a kind of declaiming in song and is more like speech than actually pitched singing. It must be difficult for a trained singer to sing without reference to a key, though.

      • Trained opera singers seem to have all the humanity expunged from their voices. I don’t like the Roger Chapman-esque warble in the Comus’ singer’s voice but I can at least tell it’s made by a human. The objective of opera training seems to be to make all voices sound like an instrument. To then make that contrived thing ‘talk’ is perverse, empty and insurmountably alienating to me.

      • Trained opera singers seem to have all the humanity expunged from their voices. … The objective of opera training seems to be to make all voices sound like an instrument. To then make that contrived thing ‘talk’ is perverse …

        NAILS IT!!!!
        Finally, someone skewers in two sentences what I’ve been struggling to define and express for years. Thank you VERY much, Chris.
        Goddammit, where’s a ‘Recommend?’ button when I need one?

  2. I do indeed like Comus, in relatively small doses, I had no idea they influenced Steven Wilson or Opeth, as they seem sonically miles apart, but perhaps in spirit there are similarities. Have you heard the new Opeth yet? I haven’t, but looking forward to the apparently more proggy direction.

    • Beth, yes, I’ve heard the new Opeth. I bought it last week and only had the time to listen to it once properly, although I’ve played it twice.

      It is a proper prog album, lots of keyboards and with, to my ears, more than a tinge of Steven Wilson (he mixed it and sings backing vocals) to it. It has echoes of Genesis, Caravan and a little bit of Crimson, but manages to sound like modern prog, not just an exercise in retro.

      I am going to see them at the beginning of October, so I shall be listening to it a fair bit more.

      • I had forgotten that I had listened to a couple of tracks when they had it streaming earlier in the month. Are you seeing them in Bristol? I wondered about that, but the time doesn’t really work with my family commitments, unfortunately.

  3. Been a Comus fan ever since David Tibet was namechecking them around the turn of the 80s and covering “Diana”. First Utterance is great but the follow-up, To Keep from Crying, was a sad disappointment, as was their recent reunion.

    • I listened to the reunion release yesterday on Spotify, I think they should have left it, but I do still love Diana and a couple of other tracks by them.

    • “First Utterance” certainly has something special about it. OK, it is a bit Grand Guignol/Hammer Horror so far as the words go, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Musically it does interesting things. The violin playing is fascinating because it reminds me of a lot of 20th century classical music, particularly people like Bartok.

      The album seems to fit in with the wilder fringes of prog more than folk.

  4. I was aware of them at the time but never acquired any of the albums. I did like Bobbie Watson’s voice and a few years back had the chance to interview her and her husband Jon Seagroat on Resonance FM where they played some tracks with their band Drift. Jon became the ‘unoriginal’ member of Comus when they reformed in 2008. I liked Drift’s “ambient electro funk” but they petered out (I don’t think it was anything we said or asked!) and Bobbie and John have moved on to to the funkier ‘Colins of Paradise’

    Bobbie Watson

    Jon Seagroat and Soundcloud tracks from Drift and The Colins

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