Insides, a couple (in the romantic sense) and duo (in the musical one), consisting of Kirsty Yates and Julian Tardo, formed in 1992 out of the husk of their previous incarnation, Earwig; releasing their debut album, ‘Euphoria’ on 4AD Records’ imprint, Guernica, at the end of 1993.
In an interview with Andrea Parra from The American Music Press in September 1993, 4AD Records’ founder and (then) head honcho, Ivo Watts-Russell, described the intention of Guernica, as “to be less predictable. Things were getting too traditional… I was inspired by the Too Pure label. I was inspired by their spontaneity. It’s getting back to basics… the best of the demos I had. I can be far less precious about it,” he laughs, sheepishly. “Three releases per year, one-offs only, only albums, no singles.”
To my ears, Guernica was where Ivo threw things at the wall and saw what stuck. Only, very little did. Albums by Unrest, Underground Lovers, That Dog and Bettie Serveert failed to set even the most devout 4AD fan’s heart alight (I being that fan). Spoonfed Hybrid, a collaboration between Pale Saints’ frontman, Ian Masters and Chris Trout, formerly of Kilgore Trout/AC Temple was more promising but for me, it’s Insides who’ve really weathered time. And that they are making music and playing concerts again after almost two decades off radar delights me no end, not least because (thanks to a particularly stubborn traffic jam) I never got to see them the first time round.
Brian Eno, clever man that he is, claims that almost every genius of art history came out of a fertile scene that encouraged creativity and thus, would be better referred to as a “scenius.” Insides were in good company in 1993, surrounded by a new breed of like-minded sonic architects – amongst them, Seefeel, Disco Inferno, Moonshake, Long Fin Killie, Pram – who defaced rock’s well-thumbed rulebook with electronica. Melody Maker magazine even stuck it’s neck out to champion this new movement of sublime, intelligent “post-rock” (a term first coined by Simon Reynolds when writing about Insides around this time). Across London, pub backrooms were transformed into veritable art spaces for inventiveness, beauty, dynamic. And then, in a flashbulb, all gone. As vehement as writers like Reynolds and Neil Kulkarni were, the masses perhaps weren’t quite ready for a new dawn and most of these bands, unable to sustain themselves, let alone their art, on 1000 or even less sales, simply dissolved.
Broken down, ‘Euphoria’ essentially sets Tardo’s persistent, rhythmic sequencing and “dreampop” guitar framework against Yates’ silky, soft core though candid, vocals. And it’s the chemistry of lovers that makes Insides work so beautifully – two people who know each other so intimately that any music they make has an almost erotic charge.
Yates certainly doesn’t fuck about with her lyrics : “I almost come the moment I’m inside you” or “You’re skinny. Way too skinny. All arms and legs and what’s there for me to sink my teeth into, and wrap my tongue around, to get my hands on?” (Skin Divers)
Indeed, there’s a fly-on-the-wall perspective on the body and sex generally with ‘Euphoria’ – the oft-quoted line in reviews at the time was the more comic/sad observation from ‘Darling Effect’ : “I hate lovers. I hate the way they go to the bathroom in shifts after they’ve fucked.”
I love Tardo’s layering. The programming works to a simple, Reichian rule of incessant repetition but his choice of sounds is thoughtful and evocative and thus, never jarring. Seam on seam is overlaid to tremendous hypnotic effect, particularly on the follow-up, 1994’s 38 minute dreampop colossus, ‘Clear Skin,’ which still sounds like a landmark proclamation of where music should’ve/could’ve gone but sadly didn’t.
In Simon Reynolds’ interview with the band in Melody Maker magazine, “late 1993” (source below), Yates insists, “We’re not interested in being experimental or difficult. I see ‘Euphoria’ as this Astrid Gilberto thing, or even like the Bjork album: something pleasant, something nice.”
Following ‘Clear Skin,’ Insides took their time with an unloved, rather jazzy long-player, ‘Sweet Tip,’ in 2000 on Third Stone Records. And then they submerged. Until now. In July 2016, the duo posted (and later deleted) a new song, ‘Ghost Music,’ online – much closer to the seductive tones of ‘Euphoria,’ which itself was re-released on vinyl by the US label, Beacon Sound, for Record Store Day, in 2019. A brand new album, ‘Soft Bonds,’ is imminent.
Reviews from 1993 :
“If Brian Eno created music for airports, and today’s ambient crusaders build moods for biospheres spinning round distant moons, then Insides soundtrack bedrooms where the furniture’s arranged like an art installation; austere but weirdly, paradoxically intimate.” John Mulvey, NME
“Another aspirational tendril on the green shoots of Ambient dream pop’s curling wishplant…Euphoria leaves you ravished.” Rob Young, The Wire
“Insides make ‘nervous systems music’: while their techniques and textures parallel the lulling hypno-loops of systems composers like Philip Glass and Michael Nyman, their aura is agitated…if Insides have any real peers, they belong in that zone of post-rock/post-techno experimentalism that encompasses Disco Inferno, Seefeel, Aphex et al. Basically, Insides make delectable non-retro pop…one of the albums of the year”
Simon Reynolds, Melody Maker