Dif Juz: Time Clock Turn Back
Joel Hanson, July 23rd 2017
In a YouTube video entitled Finding Dif Juz, Bella Union co-founder and ex-Cocteau Twins bassist Simon Raymonde unearths two rare 12-inch singles by the early 80’s instrumental group Dif Juz and claims that the origins of post-rock are found in the grooves of these low-fi recordings. While that may be true, as evidenced by the spacious, bass-driven jams anchoring the band’s intriguing sonic landscapes—which don’t necessarily lead you anywhere emotionally—it’s the exploratory, dub-sounding bass of Gary Bromley (and later, the saxophone of Richard Thomas on the 1985 4AD releaseExtractions) coupled with occasional Caribbean influences that gave the band its distinctive sound. (For example, listen to the track “Soarn” on the Vibrating Air 12” for what sounds like a steel drum about halfway through the song). Whenever the chiming, delay-pedaled guitars of brother Alan and Dave Curtis were added to the mix, Dif Juz sounded a bit like Disco Inferno almost a decade before that band existed.
Unaware of other recordings besides the aforementioned EPs, a record called Who Says So? and their full-length album on 4AD, it was a pleasant surprise to discover Time Clock Turn Back, a cassette-only collection of demos Dif Juz released in 1983 just before they signed to 4AD—and were posted to youtube in late 2015. While there aren’t any standout tracks on this 52-minute demo that will instantly turn you into a Dif Juz convert (Liz Fraser’s lovely voice on “Love Insane” from Extractions might be the ideal place for an introduction), if you listen long enough you’ll hear the traces of sounds and moods that influenced post-rock bands like Bark Psychosis, Mogwai, and Explosions in the Sky—a rich compositional palette some claim the band wasn’t around long enough to fully develop.
After Dif Juz’s short-lived career, the Curtis brothers dropped off the post-rock musical map they undeniably had a hand in drawing, while Richard Thomas worked with The Jesus and Mary Chain, Felt, and Butterfly Child (among many others) and, most recently, on a project with Simon Raymonde called Lost Horizons that will release its debut album Ojala in November.