Soul Merchants

During the past two decades, producer/engineer Bob Ferbrache has assisted the Fluid, 16 Horsepower and many of Denver's most interesting acts. Before establishing his mile-high reputation, however, he recorded and played with the gothically in-clined Soul Merchants, and the listenability of this remastered two-CD compilation testifies to his skills.

The Joy Division-influenced band was as overtly derivative as it was relentlessly dour. Indeed, labeling one disc here as "light" and the other as "dark" is an inside joke, since both are pitch black. Unsurprisingly, some cuts now sound silly, including "Mary Had," a disconsolate rewrite of "Mary Had a Little Lamb." But others, such as "Armoured Faction," with its attack on "right-wing fucking fascists," offer a minor twist on a familiar formula, and the overall sound is dense, ominous and effective, even though Ferbrache captured it on primitive equipment — namely, a four-track cassette recorder.

Clearly, the gear isn't nearly as important as the person using it.

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