- Torch Division - ole-592 - 2003-10-06
- House of Binary - - 2000-08-29
- Stars of Super 8 - - 1999-09-06
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. Astor’s 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 Astor’s flair for the perennial Velvet Underground stylings gleaned as leader of Creation Record’s 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 London’s Lissy’s imprint, drew plaudits, and the phone at Astor’s 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 London’s Heavenly Social.
A follow-up album, 'House Of Binary', appeared in summer 2000 to rave reviews. A further blending of Astor’s 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 Bigfoot’s numerous sound processing units as well as such unlikely apparatus as a four-note child’s 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 band’s first two albums. It is, all who have heard it seem to agree, the best and most coherent Wisdom Of Harry album yet.
Stars of Super 8 – Faux-Lux/Matador 1999
House of Binary – Matador – 2000
Torch Division – Matador - 2003
"Anglo-Gothic majesty, for the dark spaces in your everyday." — Wimchester Journal
"Menapausal tin pan folk for the crocodile-shoe wearing indie trainspotter in your life"
— Sheppards Quarterly
"Well above average" — Harringay Times
"Marvellous. I laughed all the way home."
— Regional Stage
House of Binary
The Wisdom Of Harry first came into being in the mid-nineties when Pete Astor, former mainstay of Creation acts The Loft and The Weather Prophets, dreamt of a sound that could be somehow both lyrical and cinematic, of a band that would sound good whether you were either stoned or speeding. With the help of an old Atari, a couple of reel-to-reels and some guitars, Bigfoot Studios was born. This is where the machines that make The Wisdom Of Harry noise were first introduced to each other and, with the help of some elastic bands and a large degree of faith, the first steps were taken. Prompted by his admiration for various acts on the excellent Wurlitzer Jukebox label (Mogwai, Broadcast and Plone, to name but three), Astor contacted them and the first of a series of hard-to-find, vinyl-only releases began on a selection of fine and obscure labels such as Lissy’s, Static Caravan, Motorway, Liquifaction Empire and others. Released to mounting critical acclaim, this first stage of The Wisdom Of Harry’s journey was marked by the release of Stars Of Super 8, a collection of these early releases, which also drew praise from many quarters, from style bibles and fanzines to The Times and The Observer.
Following live excursions with everone from Andrew Weatherall to Cornelius, Astor retreated back into Bigfoot to begin work on the first album proper. He emerged with the House Of Binary, an record which draws together the many strands of The Wisdom Of Harry’s sound and forms their most realized album to date.
Stars of Super 8
03/10/04— Upcoming shows, more
Pete Astor will be playing a solo set under The Wisdom Of Harry tag this Thursday night (11 March) at London's Water Rats in support of The Broken Family Band. Continental dates to follow include 13 March in Covo, Bologna, and 23 March at Paris' Nouveau Casino, in support of Laika.
Cherry Red (UK) will be releasing a compilation CD of material from Pete's prior band, The Weather Prophets, 'Blue Skies & Free Rides (1986-19989) in April.
12/12/03 — New Videos
No fewer than THREE new videos have been posted: two from the new album, namely "Great Inventor", and "Ladies and Gentlemen", and a fourth, a cover of the Blue Orchids' "Sun Connection". All on the musicpage.
11/24/03 — First MP3 posted
The first MP3 has been posted from 'Torch Division'. It's entitled 'Sports Boy' and it's a doozy. Download from the music page.
08/06/03 — New album done
"moody", "cinematic", "mysterious" -- these are all words that have been used to describe the creepy old fucker who runs the movie projector at my local cinema. Pete Astor, on the other hand, is a friendly, effusive music nut who also happens to be one of our fave singer/song-scrawlers of the past 20 years. The new album from his most song-y vehicle, The Wisdom Of Harry, is coming out on Matador Europe this October. With the fetching title, 'Torch Division', Astor's 3rd TWOH album is preceded in September with a 7"/CD single of "Crash Helmet" a tune so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes. Or perhaps that was just the tear gas (the police are looking for that projectionist). The Wisdom Of Harry will be supporting The French at London's Bush Hall on August 14. If that's too long a commute, you can check out some quicktime video shot by Gerard Cosloy of The Wisdom Of Harry performing "Great Inventor" from the new album, and a cover of the Blue Orchids' "Sun Connection" at a recent London show opening for M. Ward.
04/14/03 — "We've been playing music in our shed and working up songs from our forthcoming album, 'Torch Division', as well as some older stuff and covers from Randy Newman, The Blue Orchids, Richard Hell & Anne Briggs.
The new line up is:
Pete Astor - guitar, electronics & singing
David Sheppard - drums
Tom Hodges - baritone & soprano sax, harmonica
& we'll be playing live at the following places & times:
May 16th at the Betsy Trotwood Farringdon Road, London EC2 with Alan Tyler & the Lost Men of Littlefield and Darren Hayman playing records
May 20th at the Buffalo Bar, Highbury Corner, Islington, London N1 with the Chap.
The Wisdom of Harry have just completed their debut Matador album, House of Binary and those who do what they do have deemed it to be released in the early Autumn, just in time for us to claim our share of the university scholarship pie that I used to call "the music fund." To get you through the lazy days of summer, you have to suffice with the new three-track "Coney Island Of Your Mind" 7", a steaming slice of electro 'n' roll, detailing the decent into psycosis & delusion of an ex-caberet performer marooned in his twilight years in a dying, windswept resort (which is what his head actually feels like...). "Hal Choc" is the soundtrack to the bizzare murder riddle of a man dressed as a cowboy found floating in a lake in lancashire and "Vent Aziz", which rounds off the record, comprises a lock groove detailing a view of the world from inside the mind of a family pet.
New The Wisdom of Harry single under the name “Atari Priest”
Led by vocalist / guitarist / all-around-instrumentalist Pete Astor, The Wisdom of Harry have released a series of awe- inspiring singles for the Faux Lux, Motorway, Lissy’s and Static Caravan labels. These hard-to-find pop artifacts have been collected for mass consumption on the Stars of Super 8 compilation. The group's own Faux Lux label will be releasing this album in the UK, while Matador will be doing the job throughout the rest of the free world in August of this year.
Their music has been described by one commentator as “scuffed, unsettling soundtracks, full of unexpected jolts of noise and intense atmospherics, backlit by still-life projections.” The same guy claimed “they build a sound that's equal parts Sparklehorse, Suicide and Underworld,” but that’s a bit much, isn't it?