Originally formed in the north of England in the early 90’s by Ian Masters (recently disembarked from Pale Saints) and Chris Trout (of AC Temple and Kilgore Trout), The Long Lost quickly mutated into Spoonfed Hybrid, signed to 4AD offshoot imprint, Guernica (alongside my beloved Insides) and released this eponymous debut album in 1993. Working alongside Hood producer Duncan Wheat, the duo produced an album that’s both more varied and sonically untethered than any of their previous incarnations, the noisiness of their previous groups consigned to the corner, allowing a vast space for a plethora of electronic and acoustic instruments to interact, meander and contort. Often, the production and not the song, is the star here. It’s no bad thing either. Though ostensibly a dream pop record, great care has obviously been taken to keep the listener not just engaged but on their toes. I love the creative use of panning, the clever exchanges of fuzzy electric and chiming acoustic guitars, the cascading synth strings, the plasticity. It’s also nice to know that, despite the melancholy tone of most of the songs here, they weren’t taking themselves too seriously – sleeve notes include “Cello (Queasy), Acoustic Spoon, Ticking Thing, Voice (Fake) and Guitar (Very Noisy).”
Masters’ voice as often been described as that of a “choirboy” or a “fallen angel,” perhaps too fey, too C86 to be taken seriously but I find it quite a lovely, unique, crystalline thing. Trout, too, sings lead but once, on the somewhat elegiac, ‘A Pocketful Of Dust,’ his voice somewhere between Bowie and Oakey?
“I never knew until I read Martin Aston’s ‘Facing The Other Way’ a couple of years ago that Ivo had refused to release Spoonfed Hybrid on 4AD proper because he didn’t like my singing on A Pocketful Of Dust. I don’t like it much either, to be honest, it was much better on the demo. So it goes.” – Chris Trout
It’s essential to put this record in the context of the time it was made. By 1993, the thin veneer of shoegaze had long since cracked, the Madchester circus was running into deep mud and grunge had, arguably peaked with ‘Nevermind’ two years earlier. Even so, 1993 was the year of Björk’s ‘Debut,’ Aphex Twin was betwixt his ‘Selected Ambient Works,’ Disco Inferno were working on their groundbreaking (though largely ignored) ‘DI Go Pop’ and a whole new generation of musicians were finding evermore creative ways to meld their guitars with electronics, which were not only becoming more and more affordable but also more flexible. For me, seeing the likes of DI, Moonshake or Insides play live at that time was revelatory – they’d kicked the doors wide open and now surely, music could go forward? But it wasn’t to be. Oasis were just around the corner and with them, a legion of retroists, more than happy to accompany them back to Penny Lane. If you weren’t The Beatles, you were The Kinks (Blur) or The Rolling Stones (Primal Scream). Art rock (for this was an art) was suddenly lost in the shadow of this Union Jack umbrella. Cleverness just didn’t sell and magazines can’t survive on bands that don’t sell. Neither can record labels. As Ivo Watts-Russell withdrew from 4AD, Guernica was packed away; by 1994, it was no more.
Masters moved “further North” and the spoonings became more sporadic – a 7″ single, ‘Scary Verlaine’ on shortlived French label, Le Tatou Colérique in 1995 and a CDEP, Hibernation Shock on the US label, Farrago in ’96. Since then, it’s been hard to keep up with Masters (now living in Japan). Not only has he been exceptionally prolific, he’s existed very much in his own groove. In 1994, he teamed up with His Name Is Alive auteur, Warren Defever and birthed ESP Summer, ESP Continent and ESP Neighborhood. The subsequent years have seen him release as Friendly Science Orchestra, Wing Disk With Mark Tranmer of Gnac), Sore & Steal (with David Rothon), I’m Sore, Oneironaut, Sore Pink Steal, Two Sun Tears, Ashioto and more recently, where he currently lives in Japan, as Big Beautiful Bluebottle with Terao Terako. A new ESP Summer EP was released in August 2020 on the Onkonimyaki label and you can hear Masters in the guise of Onkonimyaki Labs here.
Trout busied himself with, amongst other things, Bear, Lazerboy, Coping Saw and Smokers Die Younger, though he’s been very quiet since 2006.
Sources/more info :
Chris Trout quote from this excellent, in-depth, track by track interview with Trev Elkin (all you ever need to know about the background of the album) : http://www.godisinthetvzine.co.uk/2018/11/12/the-story-behind-spoonfed-hybrids-1993-self-titled-debut-album/
You can follow Ian Masters’ activities on his Institute Of Spoons website here : https://sites.google.com/view/institute-of-spoons/home