The Compilations and Live Albums
If you’ve been paying attention to the ‘Singles and Versions’ texts, you might think there’s some collecting to be done (or do what 90% of the human race do now and head for Spotify). Luckily, many of the limited edition and CD single tracks have been collected together at various points. Here’s a summary.
The Early Years (89-93) was a compilation of previously-release Pitchfork songs from the first three albums, mainly aimed at the US market who’d previously had little knowledge of the band – early discographies on the 90s internet listed this as their debut, a sign of how US-Centric things were back then (and often still are). They certainly picked the right tracks – the definitive versions of ‘K.N.K.A.’ and ‘Souls’, and otherwise picking the keynote songs from a mixed bunch of albums. Curiously, three tracks from ‘Corps D’Amour’ made it on, despite being 2 years newer, probably just to make sure it too got something of an American release.
The early 00s saw two double-CD compilations. Collector: Lost and Found is an assortment of early demos and sonic experiments, many predating the Spilles-Scheuber meeting that saw the bands official start. Some of these appeared on the various ‘Little’ 3” CDs that came with Pitchfork’s 90s albums, but as these are rare collectors items now, having them all in one place is still useful. It’s interesting to hear the Projects (sic) origins in tracks like Demoniac Puppets (original name for the project, thankfully discarded) and Nuclear Attack (how 80s is THAT!). The birth of their slightly-odd melodic sense is apparent here, for sure – this is just as much Jean-Michel Jarre as it is Skinny Puppy influence-wise. Also some tracks from side-projects that I’ll cover in another article, and excerpts from an unused film theme. Don’t bother with this until you’ve tried the actual albums, but the early discs in particular piqued your curiosity, this is where you’ll find out where ‘that sound’ came from.
Collector: Fireworks and Colorchange covers the B-sides and remixes from the late 90s. Disc 1 contains all the exclusive tracks. They’re largely in the whole Chakra-Eon-Daimonion style – there’s fan favourites here for sure, one of them (Teardrop) is even a semi-regular live track. But none of the tracks made me go ‘This Should Have Been On The Album!’ – also two tracks are repeated from the last compilation and two were on Daimonion, so the rarity value isn’t as high. You’re probably more interested in CD2, which features most (but not all) the remixes from the same era. A lot of big names here, and each track has at least one good version – DJs in particular will want to check this out. No Pitchfork track ever got such a good spread ‘external’ remixes again. It’s still a pity they skipped the radio edits as some of these (Timekiller, I Live Your Dream) are quite different from the album versions and are worth hearing.
For a career-spanning selection, you’d naturally gravitate initially to First Anthology. Another 2CD collection, this time covering the band’s work up to and including Daimonion – in other words, all their genre-defining hits are here. Or rather should be. I can understand something like Go Further getting the chop, but what’s a 90s Pitchfork comp without Requiem? The album versions of K.N.K.A. and Souls are here rather than their stronger counterparts from the singles. Most of the tracks are remastered, a few are ‘Restored’, though in the case of ‘Renascence’, the life has been squeezed out of it in the process. It’s a real pity – this could have been the ‘killer’ to sell this band to the unconverted, but with too many iffy selections and some suspect tweakery, it misses what should have been an open goal.
Second Anthology covers the era from the Nun-Trilogy to Blood. Another 2CD collection, though this one has more re-recorded tracks, a decision forced upon the band by awkward contractual technicalities too boring to go into here. They take the chance to remodel some of the tunes to their new sound – I Am is considerably less guitar-heavy in this version, for instance. Despite this, this collection is actually the stronger of the two anthologies, with more sensible track selections at each stage and a chance to get some of the ‘limited edition 2CD’ exclusives without the need to trawl Discogs (Tempest in particular is a welcome inclusion). The ‘previously unreleased’ track What Have We Done is a little bit self-conscious in it’s ecological statements compared with some, but people who read this far down long-form articles are still going to want it.
They’ve also issued a couple of live albums (I’m not covering bootlegs). Live ‘97 dates from the Chakra:Red! Era, but sadly little of the album features here. It’s actually close to a greatest-hits-to-date setlist, although apart from a few extended intros on Conjure and 2069AD, it really sounds more like a slightly lo-fi ‘Best of’ album – there’s not much that can be done to many of these songs live to make them more notable when performed on stage. Live 2003/2001 has higher highs but lower lows – out-and-out megahits like ‘Timekiller’ and ‘I Live Your Dream’ meet tedious obscurities from the ‘Nun’ triology. So if you want to sample this band live, just wait until they turn up at a German festival. They’ll be back. You know it.
There’s a number of old VHS tapes of early Pitchfork shows out there, but there’s no way I can track those down any more. As far as contemporary formats go, there has only been one Pitchfork live DVD to date – Live 2003. The crowd, being German scene veterans, still go for it, but given everything else they’ve done, it seems a pity that they picked this tour to capture on film (or digital equivalent) due to the number of conceptual tracks that make even less sense here than on the albums. Some video clips are also featured, although their highest quality videos are reserved for the Collector – Adapted For The Screen disc. Only 6 clips, but the EastWest/WEA budget is quite apparent here, especially in the Spilles make-up and costume department. For their later videos, well, it’s called YouTube, I’m sure you can find them.