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Obscure even to most fans of dark, moodily romantic U.K. post-punk rock, Breathless deserves kudos both for its persistence and for its enveloping music. Founded in the early '80s, the quartet has maintained almost the same lineup through 2000 and beyond, pursuing its own particular music with both dedication and a willingness to experiment and try new approaches over time.
Two of the four band members, keyboardist Dominic Appleton and guitarist Gary Mundy, knew each other from school and had played earlier in a group called A Cruel Memory, as well as backing Anne Clark on her first album, The Sitting Room. Appleton's path later took him to a job in London's Virgin Megastore, where he met Ari Neufeld, a college student who also played bass in a variety of small groups. Neufeld recruited Appleton for his keyboard talents for a band she was currently in, but the two soon realized that while they were happy making music together, the band as a whole didn't please them. Sensibly they split away from the group and started working on songs, with Appleton suggesting Mundy for the guitarist role. Initial rehearsals proved successful, while Appleton himself began singing and turned out to have a strong, dramatic vocal style. The name was chosen from Jean-Luc Godard's French New Wave film classic, and the band was soon off and running.
After initial auditions, an acquaintance of Neufeld, Tristam Sayer, took over drums, but left in 1986 to be replaced by ex-Danielle Dax drummer Martyn Watts. Breathless' lineup hasn't changed since, while the group has also kept total control of its own destiny via the Tenor Vossa label, set up specifically to release the group's music. The quartet's musical career has been kept at its own pace since then, releasing albums and singles as it goes and caring nothing for prevailing trends. The majority of Breathless' work has squarely fit into a lush vein of haunting, epic music unafraid of a moody theatricality, with sonic links to the likes of Echo and the Bunnymen and the Chameleons, but possessed of its own unique identity.
Appleton himself became the most famous member of Breathless, thanks to his appearances on the second and third albums by 4AD project This Mortal Coil, where his passionate, strong vocals easily fit into the studio group's hushed power. Mundy had his own share of underground attention due to his concurrent work running the Broken Flag label, home of such extremists as MB and Satori, not to mention his lead role in the aggro-rock/power electronics outfit Ramleh, which has connections to such bleeding edge types as Skullflower and Ascension. His work there has no sonic connection at all to his
Breathless contributions, though he himself has described the split career as 'good discipline...in creating different kinds of music.'
After a string of fine albums, including Three Times and Waving and Chasing Promises, Breathless released a career overview with Heartburst in 1995. After some years, they re-emerged in 1999 with a new landmark, Blue Moon, showcasing a new interest in psych/drone rock merged with the band's shadowy, strong approach. As of early 2001, another album was in the cards for this underappreciated combo.