The Wisdom of Harry

The alias of highly regarded English singer/songwriter Pete Astor and a small group of close associates, The Wisdom Of The Harry were formed in 1997. Initially an outlet for Mr. Astors burgeoning skills with the Atari console, 8-track tape recorder and junkshop sounds from long forgotten easy listening LPs, the band allied these elements with Astors flair for the perennial Velvet Underground stylings gleaned as leader of Creation Records pioneers The Loft and The Weather Prophets. This potent new hybrid was soon attracting the buzz of critical approval - for many, it seemed, the directness of song and the alien murmur of electronics were equally alluring and The Wisdom Of Harry had all the angles covered...

With well-traveled multi-instrumentalist David Sheppard welcomed to the fold (the duo simultaneously launched their more abstract, but still thriving Ellis Island Sound franchise), Astor led The Wisdom Of Harry out with 7" singles on vaunted labels such as Wurlitzer Jukebox ("Pure Gold Henry"), Static Caravan ("Valley Boy"), and Motorway ("Fragments Of a Harris" was a 1998 NME Single of the week) as well as more expansive contributions to a lavish Mind Horizons compilation ("23 Sky", "Hansa Toy Corporation"). A mini album, 'Staying In With The Wisdom Of Harry', on Londons Lissys imprint, drew plaudits, and the phone at Astors Bigfoot studio soon began ringing.

One such caller was Matador Records, to whom the band signed in 1998. A debut album,' Stars Of Super 8' (compiling most of the various early singles) soon followed, attracting a flurry of great reviews and propelling Astor into the features sections of the broadsheet newspapers. With percussionist Chris Summers fleshing out the line-up, The Wisdom Of Harry began playing live, sharing the boards with the likes of Cornelius and Yo La Tengo, as well as leading NME-eulogized nights of electro-rock'n'roll exotica at Londons Heavenly Social.

A follow-up album, 'House Of Binary', appeared in summer 2000 to rave reviews. A further blending of Astors stark songwriting and some shimmering electronic flourishes, the band spent much of the year touring the album in the USA and Europe, also completing a memorable UK tour with Broadcast. December 2000 found Astor celebrating Christmas with fan John Peel, playing live at the venerable BBC DJ's home as part of his festive broadcast.

Much of 2001 was taken up with Ellis Island Sound activities (the band signed to Heavenly/EMI for a one-off album deal in late 2001), but Astor, with David Sheppard once again in the ranks, soon returned to Bigfoot to record some new Wisdom Of Harry material. These sessions rekindled enthusiasm for the power of the voice, the flow of air around microphones and drum skins and the thrill of capturing performances in a room. Using a retinue of electric guitar sounds, drum machines and Bigfoots numerous sound processing units as well as such unlikely apparatus as a four-note childs piano, a blackboard and a malfunctioning junior drum kit, a new Wisdom Of Harry album was rapidly taking shape.

'Torch Division', as the album was christened, proved to be both a return to the literate songwriting and soulful guitar-playing with which Pete Astor first gained notoriety, while retaining resonant traces of the intimate electronic atmospheres that framed the bands first two albums. It is, all who have heard it seem to agree, the best and most coherent Wisdom Of Harry album yet.
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