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Black Tambourine

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Biography

The short-lived Black Tambourine endure among the truly seminal American indie pop bands of the 1980s, creating a dark, feedback-rich sound that predated the shoegazer movement of the decade to follow — a period when the now-defunct group's members all went on to enjoy even greater recognition within the flourishing Amerindie scene. Formed in Washington, D.C., in 1989, Black Tambourine were comprised of vocals from Pam Berry and music by Velocity Girl's Archie Moore and Brian Nelson and Whorl's Mike Schulman. In defiance of the D.C. scene's predominantly punk aesthetic, the group drew inspiration from Phil Spector's classic Wall of Sound productions of the 1960s as well as contemporary British noisemakers like the Jesus and Mary Chain and the Shop Assistants.

Black Tambourine debuted in 1990 with "Pam's Tan," a contribution to the 7" What Kind of Heaven Do You Want?, the first release on Schulman's own Slumberland label. Another track, "We Can't Be Friends," appeared on spinART's One Last Kiss compilation before the group issued its first official single, the Pastels homage "Throw Aggi Off the Bridge," on the fledgling Audrey's Diary imprint. "By Tomorrow" followed on Slumberland, but with just nine officially released songs and four live performances under their collective belt, Black Tambourine dissolved in 1991.

From there, the peripatetic Berry shuttled through a series of bands ranging from the Shapiros to Glo-Worm to the Castaway Stones, earning perhaps her most enduring fame as the co-founder of the influential fanzine Chickfactor. Meanwhile, after recording a handful of singles for Slumberland, Moore and Nelson's aforementioned Velocity Girl signed to Sub Pop, becoming one of the more beloved indie bands of the early '90s. As for Schulman, Slumberland continues as one of the preeminent American indie labels, with a catalog that spans from Rocketship to the Aislers Set to 14 Iced Bears; in 1999, the label issued the Black Tambourine retrospective Complete Recordings.

In 2009, when Slumberland began planning for a new reissue of the group's complete output, they decided to record some tracks they had originally featured in their live set. The four songs (two originals and covers of Buddy Holly's "Heartbeat" and Suicide's "Dream Baby Dream") were included along with demos for "Throw Aggi Off the Bridge" and "For Ex-Lovers Only" on 2010's Black Tambourine collection.