K.C. Accidental may be familiar to most people as the title of the opening track proper to Broken Social Scene’s breakthrough LP You Forgot It in People; yet the name comes with its own baggage and history, serving as the moniker behind which Kevin Drew and Charles Spearin operated in the late nineties. Curiously reissued by the band’s scene-inspiring label Arts & Crafts at this moment in time, rather than capitalising on the peak of the mid-decade Pitchfork-induced BSS mania, this double-pack of the band’s two self-released mostly-instrumental EPs – 1998′s Captured Anthems for an Empty Bathtub and 2000′s Anthems for the Could’ve Bin Pills – is an intriguing insight into the development of one of the noughties’ most acclaimed groups.
A distant ancestor of this year’s storming ‘Meet Me in the Basement’, ‘Nancy and the Girdle Boy’ kicks Captured Anthems off with a bang, as a pair of Eno-patented swooping Warm Jets guitars pirouette between two HUGE-sounding chords for five minutes. After such a gargantuan intro, the rest of the record seems tame by comparison, in thrall to the band’s formative influences in a big way; scattershot ratatat drums come over like organic reworkings of Autechre’s more human moments, and the spaced-out arrangements and dubby bursts of brass are pure Tortoise. Then again, the languid acoustic ballad ‘Save the Last Breath for Me’ sounds like an offcut from Mogwai’s masterpiece Rock Action, albeit three years before that album’s release, and the injokey ‘Kev’s Message for Charlie’ cleverly updates Sonic Youth’s ansaphone-ambient classic ‘Providence’ by incorporating a crude piano sketch left by Drew as a voicemail message into a gorgeous, fully-fledged song in its own right, all shimmering guitar lines and lightly-brushed cymbals (also, kudos to Spearin circa 1998 for having Pink Floyd’s ‘Interstellar Overdrive’ as his machine message). Still, the EP’s blissed-out analogue production works like a charm, coating its instruments in a crisp snow of static, but leaving the tracks on just the right side of lo-fi.
Fast forward two years to the arrival of K.C.’s second-and-final record Anthems for the Could’ve Bin Pills, which polishes up the production, expands the band’s musical palate and its lineup, incorporating dreamily floating chord sequences, and flourishes of horns and strings; indeed, both the washed-out pianos of ‘Ruined in 84′ and ’Residential Love Song’ – a longing waltz, awash with fuzzy acoustic guitars and skittering synths- could soundtrack any painfully indie romcom. Most significantly of all, however, is ‘Them (Pop Song #3333)’ – to all intents and purposes, the first embryonic flashes of Broken Social Scene as we know it. The band’s solitary vocal track – a duet between Drew and Emily Haines which comes over like a calmer take on the barnstorming ‘Almost Crimes’ – unassumingly judders out of the speakers, snaking through your head for seven minutes of meditative drums, snatched vocal samples and heart-melting strings. Of all the tracks on these two EPs, it’s on this one that it all falls gently into place, from its deadpan title on down (Forgiveness Rock Record, anyone?), and it’s a genuine thrill to hear a band’s sound practically crystalise right before your ears.
Both albums’ titles point the way to a track like ‘Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl’, which takes this basic template and turns it into something far more accessible – even though its vocals are heavily-vocodered, there’s no arguing with how emotional and personal that song sounds. Hearing these familiar elements in an unfamiliar context will be fascinating for any Broken Social Scene fan and, while you’d never pick Captured Anthems over your battered copy of Broken Social Scene, these two early experiments are definitely worth hearing.