In every race, the also-ran, in every play, the understudy, at every festival, a bottom of the bill. And so to Pacific. You won’t find any of their music on Spotify or iTunes, they’re represented by a single song on Bandcamp and their record covers didn’t so much as bear their name. Neither is there any mention of them in David Cavanagh’s definitive biography of their label, ‘The Creation Records Story : My Magpie Eyes Are Hungry For The Prize.’ And then there’s that name, lost, literally, in an ocean of priority Google rankings.
During Pacific’s tenure, at the end of the 80’s, Creation was, at least critically, in great shape. Between 1988 – 1990, the label had released noteworthy, era-defining records by My Bloody Valentine, Felt, Ride, Primal Scream, House Of Love, The Weather Prophets and label head Alan McGee’s underlooked own band, Biff Bang Pow! These greatly outweighed those by the label’s featherweights – Emily, Apple Boutique, Revolving Paint Dream, Tangerine, The Times, The Jazz Butcher, Counterfeit, Something Pretty Beautiful and The Telescopes. Likewise, Pacific were no big cannon for Creation. In 1990, high on acid house, ecstacy, chart success for Ride and Primal Scream’s, the label most likely forgot Pacific’s ‘Inference’ on release. Hence, the near-impossibility of finding this record today on vinyl, or any form. It’s a shame because for those with a predilection for the output of say, Factory, Sarah and él Records around that time, it’s well worth searching out.
Pacific, born out of Brighton-based jangle pop group, The Doris Days, was primarily the vision of Dennis Wheatley, alongside then-partner, Vanessa Norwood, her younger sister Rachel, Nick Wilson and Simon Forest. After an audition for McGee in Wheatley’s bedroom, they signed to Creation.
‘Inference’ is not so much of an album as a compilation of almost the band’s total output.
Side 1 consists of the 1988 EP, ‘Shrift.’ The title track was recorded and produced by John A. Rivers at his Leamington Spa studio, Woodbine. Rivers was most notable for his production jobs on Felt and Dead Can Dance at this time and ‘Shrift’ sounds pretty good – a high bpm pop song sitting somewhere between Section 25 and Frazier Chorus; driving sequencers, violins, trumpet, drums and Trevor Horn-style symphonic brass “hits.”
‘Barnoon Hill’ on Side 2 carves a similar furrow – upbeat, poppy, melodic and marrying the crisp indie pop jangle of the time with new-classical frills. These bleating Spanish trumpets, xylophone, cello, cornet, violin, acoustic guitar help make ‘Inference’ one of Creation’s more interesting production jobs of the time. In that respect, Pacific had peers in, say, Shelleyan Orphan and the aforementioned Frazier Chorus, in that they were an “indie band” reaching high out of the standard drums/guitars/bass/vocal restraint.
Elsewhere, there are contemplative instrumentals that evoke foreboding storms, choppy seas and cathedrals in Spain. A liberal sprinkling of samples adds narrative effect – Indian folk singing, snowy Japanese radio broadcasts, the shipping forecast, Parliamentary debate, rainfall. One of these narrative instrumentals, ‘Mineral,’ is a highlight for me, as it shifts through it’s simple passages of soft keys, struck piano, debonair, pastoral strings.
In the Youtube comments section for ‘Jetstream,’ Wheatley injects, “…lovely that people still respond to this.. its possibly the most enduring thing we did.. (apart from the nasty sounds from our little synth). The lyrics for this were written moments before recording so they kind of surprised me too which was nice. I love found sounds.. the short wave radio snippet provoked a moral dilemma in the studio .. was it a distress call .. was it bad taste to use it etc.. we found out much later that it was a kind of coded language used by the east german stasi!”
“Pacific made a couple of EPs for Creation. Played a few gigs the first and biggest being the ‘Doing it for the Kids’ all day show at the Forum (Town and Country Club as was then) in London and a tour with the House of Love.
We left Creation because there wasn’t the money to fund a big production in the studio to make an album .. which at the time I felt we needed.
We signed as Pacific to EMI/Capitol and Pacific shrunk from 5 to 3 to eventually 1: me.
We had a decent advance and spent it all on a couple of weeks recording one song in Sarm East and West Studios, London and not really having anything to show for it.
£30,000 gone from the budget so I had to record at home and the only thing that was ever released on EMI was 2 promo 12″ by Pacific titled ‘Compassion.'”
– taken from a career-spanning interview with Wheatley on the Cloudberry Records website
Wheatley later went on to record drum ‘n’ bass under the name Atlas, before forming a Latin/lounge/jazz/electronica band called, appropriately enough, Shrift. Listen to the rather lovely ‘Lost In A Moment,’ from the album of the same name here :
He also worked with The Associates’ Billy MacKenzie shortly before the latter’s death in 1997. I’m rather fond of this demo of the Paul Haig (Josef K)-penned, ‘Give Me Time,’ (eventually re-recorded for the posthumous album, ‘Beyond The Sun’) :
Creation may be remembered mostly for the biggest sellers, Oasis. Primal Scream, My Bloody Valentine, etc but for me, the attention is in the details, the bands who fell between the cracks.
Pacific’s ‘Barnoon Hill’ is available as a free download on Bandcamp
All the other tracks from ‘Inference’ are available on Youtube.
2. Autumn Island
4. Barnoon Hill
5. I Wonder
6. Henry Said
Formats : CD (CRECD 087), Vinyl LP (CRELP 087)
Another track, the rather messy, ‘December, With The Day,’ featured on a split, covermount flexi single with My Bloody Valentine in The Catalogue music distribution trade magazine (1989).