delta

Formed in 1993 from the ashes of cult Sarah Records indie band The Sea Urchins, the core lineup consisting of brothers James and Patrick Roberts on guitar and vocals. A 10” for Che and three singles for Dishy Records followed before the band signed to the Acid Jazz Records subsidiary Focus, which effectively put the band’s career on hold for almost five years, with no material being released. They eventually broke free of the contract and returned to Dishy, who put out a tremendously received compilation of B-sides and demos called Laughing Mostly in 1998. The Guardian proclaimed it to be a work of genius, describing it as “the last great album of the millennium.” This momentum allowed them to forge ahead and release Slippin’ Out in 2000, which was lauded by the NME for its “songs of aching wonder” and named as one of that magazine’s Top-50 albums for the year (#22). It’s successor Hard Light (2002) was similarly championed, the Sunday Times keenly observing that “in an era when Coldplay’s oops-I’ve-just-grazed-my-knee melancholy dominates, this kind of authentic, feverish hurt on display here is irresistible.”

Reviews

All Music Guide

Bliss Aquamarine

Exclaim!

nme 9 out of 10

Those who have found their way to Delta will need no encouragement to buy this marvelous collection of their early recordings. Formed from the remnants of the Sea Urchins, their classic line-up (featured here) were – to be serious for a moment- quite simply one of the finest bands to emerge in the U.K in the 90s. Even if geography and a notorious truculent streak weren’t enough to blight their path (the band doggedly refused to leave their Mosely enclave to find fame), they were also hampered by a bad luck streak to match the best of them, which culminated in being dropped weeks before the release of their major label debut ‘Hard Light’. Yet, hearing these recordings again, few could ever doubt Delta were capable of a magic which will endure years after their so-called peers have long been forgotten. Parallels with Nick Drake are hard to avoid when James Roberts launches into the heartbreaking ‘Take Away My Pain’, while when Robert Cooksey launches the guitar overload of ‘Make it Right’ you wonder how- with such wild mercury in their arsenal, and in a climate where Cast and Ocean Colour Scene prospered- stadiums didn’t fall at their feet. Maybe some things just aren’t meant to be. Heartbreaking. (9/10)
—Paul Moody (July 2004)

Kapital Ink Magazine

Yesterday started tomorrow with this brilliant opus, which crinkles its way thru a prairie full of smoky tunes crisper than anything Neil Young has done since Crazy Horse were sent to the glue factory… a smoldering masterpiece of tumbleweed-scattering proportions that ranks with the best late sixties drugstore cowboy rock, from the bluesy Little Feat warble of “Fall Apart” to the Blind Faith exorcism of “Cowboy Raga” (the name says it all) to the later-Airplane (think Bark) haze of “Tonight” to the tremor-filled Tim Buckley quaver o’ Take Away My Pain.” At times they twinkle like Spirit or heave like Free, or stumble around stoned like the Pure Prairie League, but in almost every case Delta transcends their influences. Positively great guitar all over this album, be it of the chiming country-rock or sprawling Neil wah-wah/reverb variety. Great production too, as deep and mercury-filled as the denser San Fran groups (the ones who got signed to Capitol anyway… Steve Miller, Quicksilver, Mad River etc.) Actually this is the best alb of it’s type since Beachwood Sparks’ Once We Were Trees. Let’s hope they get as much credit as the usual vultures hovering around Gram Parson’s grave (just look at any issue of Harp magazine to find out who they are).
—Joe S. Harrington (July 2005)

Blow Up

Res immortali come Sea Urchins per aver inaugurato con Pristine Christine il catalogo Sarah, nella loro rinascita immediata del ’93, come Delta i fratelli James e Patrick Roberts hanno incontrato più difficoltà ad entrare nelle grazie dell’audience indie. “Singularity” ripercorre i loro primi passi col nuovo moniker, mettendo insieme singoli ed Ep dal 10” per Chè ‘Sugared Up’ sino a Make It Right per Dishy del ’95. Poche similitudini con i più tardi “Slippin’ Out” e l’assai apprezzato “Hard Light”, con la formazione di Birmingham decisamente meno pop oriented e con i sedimenti dei tempi dei Sea Urchins che già qui appaiono piuttosto labile, se si eccettua Butterfly, peralto un demo, con un suono che si svela acutamente psichedelico e dale maculature blues con frequenze captate inequivocabilmente dai sixties discendenti e da albori ’70 ma con altra genuinità rispetto a quella di revivalisti ben pitù fortunate come Gomez. (7/10)
—Paolo Bertoni (April 2004)

The Big Takeover

About 15 years ago I went to a gig by The Sea Urchins. My main recollections are that they were (a) short of stature, with one or two members wearing medallions, (b) very drunk, and (c) given to fisticuffs, initially amongst themselves, and, as the gig progressed, with various members of the audience standing at the edge of the stage. Of course, I was immensely thrilled. Bellicose, drunken short people wearing medallions and playing janglepop—yes, these are the waters from which I sup. Many years after the fall of their label, Sarah Records, the prime movers of the Urchins are still making music as Delta. They’ve dropped the pop thing of yore, replacing it with a bluesy swagger that makes me think of Primal Scream and The Charlatans. Although the sleeve photo reveals no medallions, they do look short and drunk and, quite possibly, in the mood for a fight. I find that somehow comforting.
—Terry Banks (November 2004)

Plan B Magazine

From the ashes of The Sea Urchins’ early Nineties burn-up there arose the phoenix of Delta, a band who pieced together all kinds of early Seventies influences that were deeply unfashionable at the time, but that in hindsight sound really rather fine. This collection of early singles and EPs shows that Delta must have been scouring the secondhand stores and digging the likes of Bronco Bullfrog, Twin Engine, Rockin’ Horse and Badfinger years before Mojo or Uncut were fuelling the salvage operations of the reissue industry. And maybe it’s my age, but these tunes delight me now in a way they never could before.
—Alistair Fitchett (September 2004)

Dagger Magazine

Wow, Ben from Elephant Stone Records scored with this! This UK based band has released three fantastic full-lengths (well, I have two of them so I can tell you they are awesome but I have only heard their 2002 record Hard Light is killer). This band consists of James and Patrick Roberts (of Sarah Records’ The Sea Urchins). This is the band’s first US release and it’s older material as this culls songs from an old 10″ (that was released on Ché) and a few of the bands 7″s for the UK-based Dishy label. This is anthemic psych-rock with strong hooks and slurred/cool vocals. Fans of Brian Jonestown Massacre would probably dig this. Now I gotta dig up Hard Light.
—Tim Hinely (April 2004)

NME

roberts_nme

Fufkin

This British band sniffed the rarified air of major labeldom back in the ‘80s. The best comparison for Delta, I suppose, would be Gomez, in that Delta was also a band with firm blues rock roots, and was trying to do something fresh with them. That sometimes meant using the blues as a foundation for atmospheric tracks that floated along with solid guitar picking, such as “Dealt Out”. However, the music on this compilation that goes out towards the margins is less compelling than the tracks that are evocative of a modern version of Free or Traffic, and, on a couple songs, the Allman Brothers Band. Songs like the slinky “Sugared-Up” and the majestic “Cowboy Raga”, full of excellent dual guitar work, conjure up the ghosts of free form FM playlists past, with more brevity than their predecessors. The other thing that is striking about Delta’s music to my new-to-Delta ears is how they avoid cliched blues rock trappings without undermining their faithfulness to the spirit and the sound of the music. No need to throw in grit for the sake of grit, or even worse, sounding like a modern Chicago blues band, while they succeeded with lead vocals that may not be authentic, but fit well with the tunes. For example, I’m listening to “All My Life”, and while this is merely a variation, rather than a reinvention, of the ol’ wheel, damned if it isn’t heartfelt and pointed, with gospel inflected backing vocals and more of those killer guitars. I’ve listened to this over a dozen times and I’m more impressed with each spin.
—Mike Bennett (August 2004)

Discography
Sugared Up EP (Che) 1993
Gun EP (Dishy) 1994
All My Life EP (Dishy) 1994
Make It Right EP (Dishy) 1995
I’m Getting Darker EP (Focus) 1996 (promo only)
Laughing Mostly (Dishy) 1999
Slippin’ Out (Dishy) 2000
The City’s Bigger Than Both of Us EP (Dell’Orso) 2001
Could You EP (Mercury) 2001
Hard Light (Dell’Orso) 2002
Singularity (Elephant Stone) 2004