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Shunning the burgeoning alternative rock movement, Cul de Sac intertwined elements of surf rock, Krautrock, Middle Eastern trance and folk music, post-rock psychedelia, and avant-garde to create a unique blend that garnered immediate critical attention. Formed in the early '90s by guitarist Glenn Jones, multi-instrumentalist Robin Amos, formerly of the Girls, and Bullet La Volta drummer Chris Guttmacher, Cul de Sac released their first LP, Ecim, on the independent Northeastern label. Bassist and filmmaker Chris Fujiwara played on the release as well and became a permanent member of the band. In addition, steel guitarist and fiddler Ed Yazijian and tape manipulator/collagist Phil Milstein performed on Ecim. Dredd Foole guested on vocals, but most of Cul de Sac's material on this and later releases was instrumental. According to Jones, Yazijian left the band because they were "too loud"; he later joined Kustomized.
Early live shows were enhanced by the experimental films of Fujiwara and A.S. Hamrah, adding to the band's eclectic mystique. After a series of singles, a compilation of rehearsal jams was packaged and released as a second LP in 1995 as I Don't Want to Go to Bed, an interesting low-fi collection. Cul de Sac collaborated with the legendary John Fahey on 1996's China Gate. Three years later the group released the full-length Crashes to Light, Minutes to Its Fall. The members of Cul de Sac steadfastly oppose categorization. Their original compositions and recordings have been enhanced by instruments of their own creation, including the Contraption and the Incantor.