80sObscurities presents: Cranes - 'Joy Lies Within'

Posted on 29/04/13

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80sObscurities presents: Cranes - 'Joy Lies Within'

This 80sObscurities was founded by DJ Rexx Arkana to showcase old, often unknown or forgotten acts and tracks from the decade when electronic music was truly the new wave. Rexx Arkana has been a club/radio DJ and promoter since the mid-80s and headlined festivals on several continents and currently holds a residency at DEFCON, NYC's current longest-running weekly scene party. He is also the founder and lyricist of Brudershaft and one half of harsh electro act FGFC820.

Welcome to another week of 80sObscurities, friends. It’s a damp and dreary day in New York City, so I’ve opted for something of a suitable soundtrack for our selected showcase. Cranes were formed in Portsmouth, England in 1989 by multi-instrumentalist Jim Shaw and his captivating, quirky sister, Alison. Adding Kevin Dunford on guitar, the trio named themselves after the myriad of mechanical cranes scattered along the city’s docks. The band financed the recording and production of their debut themselves, self-releasing the “Fuse” cassette in 1986.

Three years later, their release of the “Self Non Self” mini- EP on Bite Back Records led to their first appearance on John Peel’s BBC Radio 1 show. A series of EPs in and their debut full-length album, “Wings of Joy”, (#52, UK Albums Chart) followed in the early 90s. After being picked up to open for The Cure on their world tour in 1992, Cranes’ popularity dramatically increased, culminating in the release of the sophomore album “Forever” (UK No. 40), and their biggest hit single, "Jewel" (UK No. 29).

Their moody music has been described as “atmospheric” and “gothic” (a classification the band themselves publicly disputed, not surprisingly); whilst they were also occasionally associated with the self-reflective “dream pop” and “shoegazing” styles. Without question, however, the band is best known for Alison’s high-pitched, child-like vocal expression, which drew comparisons to both Elizabeth Fraser of Cocteau Twins and Harriet Wheeler of The Sundays. Shaw’s beautiful sultriness is tempered by an innate innocence of vocal tone, the conflictory nature of which made her more mysterious and desirable to the band’s male fan base.

The potential appeal of Shaw’s mewling magnetism did not go unnoticed by the band’s primary label, Dedicated, who marketed the outfit accordingly. As a side note, I once had the pleasure of interviewing Jim and Alison from their London flat and I can report that the singer’s lure can be as intoxicating via telephone as it is on record. Without further ado, here’s Cranes with 1989’s “Joy Lies Within.”

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If you've got a favorite musical memory from the 80s that you'd like to share, email Rexx your requests at rexxarkana@gmail.com . Rexx Arkana's 80sObscurities previous playlists are also available on Facebook and YouTube.

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