Mission of Burma

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Mission of Burma_table_infobox_0

Mission of BurmaMission of Burma_header_cell_0_0_0
Background informationMission of Burma_header_cell_0_1_0
OriginMission of Burma_header_cell_0_2_0 Boston, Massachusetts, United StatesMission of Burma_cell_0_2_1
GenresMission of Burma_header_cell_0_3_0 Post-punk, indie rockMission of Burma_cell_0_3_1
Years activeMission of Burma_header_cell_0_4_0 1979–1983, 2002–2016Mission of Burma_cell_0_4_1
LabelsMission of Burma_header_cell_0_5_0 Ace of Hearts, Taang! Records, Matador, FireMission of Burma_cell_0_5_1
Associated actsMission of Burma_header_cell_0_6_0 Moving Parts, Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic, Volcano Suns, Kustomized, Peer Group, Consonant, Shellac, Trinary SystemMission of Burma_cell_0_6_1
WebsiteMission of Burma_header_cell_0_7_0 Mission of Burma_cell_0_7_1
MembersMission of Burma_header_cell_0_9_0 Roger Miller

Clint Conley Peter Prescott Bob WestonMission of Burma_cell_0_9_1

Past membersMission of Burma_header_cell_0_11_0 Martin SwopeMission of Burma_cell_0_11_1

Mission of Burma was an American post-punk band formed in Boston, Massachusetts in 1979. Mission of Burma_sentence_0

The band was formed by Roger Miller (guitar), Clint Conley (bass), Peter Prescott (drums) and Martin Swope (tape manipulator/sound engineer). Mission of Burma_sentence_1

Miller, Conley and Prescott share singing and songwriting duties. Mission of Burma_sentence_2

In early years the band's recordings were all released on the small Boston-based record label Ace of Hearts. Mission of Burma_sentence_3

Despite initial success, Mission of Burma disbanded in 1983 due to Miller's development of tinnitus caused by the volume of the band's live performances. Mission of Burma_sentence_4

In its original lineup, the band released only two singles, an EP, and one LP, Vs. Mission of Burma_sentence_5

Mission of Burma reformed in 2002, with Bob Weston replacing Swope, and has since recorded four more albums, ONoffON, The Obliterati, The Sound The Speed The Light and Unsound. Mission of Burma_sentence_6

History Mission of Burma_section_0

Formation and early history Mission of Burma_section_1

Mission of Burma's history began with a short-lived Boston rock group called Moving Parts. Mission of Burma_sentence_7

The band included Roger Miller, who had moved to Boston from Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Clint Conley, who came from Darien, Connecticut. Mission of Burma_sentence_8

When Moving Parts broke up amicably in December 1978, Miller and Conley began practicing. Mission of Burma_sentence_9

Auditioning new drummers was accomplished, as Michael Azzerad puts it, "by playing 'out' music, such as Sun Ra and James Brown, until the applicant left." Mission of Burma_sentence_10

They eventually recruited ex-Molls drummer Peter Prescott, who had admired the music of Moving Parts. Mission of Burma_sentence_11

They took their name from a "Mission of Burma" plaque Conley saw on a New York City diplomatic building; he thought the phrase had a "sort of murky and disturbing" quality. Mission of Burma_sentence_12

Mission of Burma made their debut on April 1, 1979 as a trio, performing at The Modern Theater. Mission of Burma_sentence_13

Later that month Miller wrote a song, "Nu Disco", that he felt would be improved by a tape loop. Mission of Burma_sentence_14

Miller then contacted Martin Swope, with whom he had earlier written some John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen-inspired pieces for piano and tape. Mission of Burma_sentence_15

Swope was immediately enlisted as the group's live audio engineer and occasional tape-effects artist. Mission of Burma_sentence_16

His latter role grew gradually, until by 1981 he was adding tape work to most of the group's songs, and was regarded as an integral part of the group, appearing in group photographs and receiving equal credit on recordings. Mission of Burma_sentence_17

From the start, Mission of Burma received support from local music magazine Boston Rock, which printed a lengthy interview with the band before they released their first record, and MIT community radio station WMBR. Mission of Burma_sentence_18

The station played Conley's "Peking Spring" repeatedly, and it became the station's most-played song of 1979. Mission of Burma_sentence_19

Mission of Burma wanted to release the song as a single, but by the time they had found a label, they felt the song had run its course. Mission of Burma_sentence_20

Signals and Vs. Mission of Burma_section_2

By 1981, the band signed a record deal with the Boston-based record label Ace of Hearts. Mission of Burma_sentence_21

Their debut single was Conley's "Academy Fight Song", with Miller's "Max Ernst" (titled after the dada artist) as the B-side. Mission of Burma_sentence_22

Rick Harte's layered production was far more refined than the band's ragged live performances, and the band initially objected to the single. Mission of Burma_sentence_23

However, the first pressing of the single sold out quickly, and the band thereafter trusted Harte's judgment. Mission of Burma_sentence_24

Their debut release, the EP Signals, Calls, and Marches, was released in 1981. Mission of Burma_sentence_25

By the end of that year, the EP had sold out its initial pressing of 10,000 copies. Mission of Burma_sentence_26

In 1982, Mission of Burma released their first full-length album, Vs.. Mission of Burma_sentence_27

The album has since seen wide praise; one review notes "very few American bands from the 1980s released an album as ambitious or as powerful as Vs., and it still sounds like a classic". Mission of Burma_sentence_28

Breakup and aftermath Mission of Burma_section_3

In 1983, after the release of Vs., the group disbanded due to Miller's worsening tinnitus, attributed in large part to their notoriously loud live performances—during their farewell tour, Miller took to augmenting his usual small foam earplugs with rifle-range earphones onstage. Mission of Burma_sentence_29

A live compilation, The Horrible Truth About Burma, was assembled of recordings from the farewell tour and released on Ace of Hearts in 1985. Mission of Burma_sentence_30

In 1988, Rykodisc released a compilation album, Mission of Burma, the first compact disc to exceed 80 minutes of playing time. Mission of Burma_sentence_31

Miller and Swope then turned their attention to their side project, the quieter Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic (co-founded with their old friend Erik Lindgren, who had played with Miller and Conley in Moving Parts), which they both left in the 1990s, Miller to produce several solo efforts and film scores, and Swope to semi-reclusion in Hawaii. Mission of Burma_sentence_32

Prescott remained active in the Boston music scene, forming Volcano Suns and later Kustomized and The Peer Group. Mission of Burma_sentence_33

Other than producing Yo La Tengo's debut record, Conley dropped out of music (working as a producer for Boston television station WCVB's newsmagazine Chronicle); in 2001 he returned with Consonant. Mission of Burma_sentence_34

Reunion Mission of Burma_section_4

While disbanded, Mission of Burma accrued a larger fanbase. Mission of Burma_sentence_35

In the 1980s and 90s, Taang! Mission of Burma_sentence_36 Records and Rykodisc kept the band's music in print via reissues of the Ace of Hearts catalog as well as unreleased recordings. Mission of Burma_sentence_37

Mission of Burma was also one of the 13 groups featured in Michael Azerrad's book Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground, 1981–1991, marking them as an iconic group in the American indie rock canon. Mission of Burma_sentence_38

In 2002, Mission of Burma reunited but without Swope as he declined to join. Mission of Burma_sentence_39

Conley, Miller and Prescott instead played reunion shows with Bob Weston of Shellac (and formerly Prescott's Volcano Suns bandmate) replacing Swope at the mixing board and tape manipulation. Mission of Burma_sentence_40

In an interview Miller relates that "when we approached Bob Weston to fill Martin's position, we told him he could use current digital technology which accomplishes Martin's antics in an easier fashion. Mission of Burma_sentence_41

However, Bob opted for maintaining the original integrity, and uses a tape deck." Mission of Burma_sentence_42

Weston began using a digital looping box from Electro-Harmonix in 2007 during live performances, but still uses actual tape loops in the studio. Mission of Burma_sentence_43

Weston regularly joins the band onstage during encores, playing bass while Conley plays second guitar. Mission of Burma_sentence_44

The band initially planned on playing just two reunion gigs, one in Boston and another in New York. Mission of Burma_sentence_45

When tickets sold out very quickly and concert dates expanded to two nights in New York and three in Boston, Mission of Burma decided to re-form more permanently to tour and record new material. Mission of Burma_sentence_46

A new album, ONoffON, was produced in 2004 by Weston with Rick Harte and the band, and released by Matador Records in May. Mission of Burma_sentence_47

The album finished 90th in the Village Voice Pazz & Jop critic's poll. Mission of Burma_sentence_48

They also released Snapshot, a live recording of the reunited lineup, through online digital channels. Mission of Burma_sentence_49

In September 2005, the band returned to the studio with Weston for an album tentatively titled (among other names) Aluminum Washcloth and rechristened The Obliterati. Mission of Burma_sentence_50

Released in May 2006, again on Matador, it ranked #33 of best records of 2006 by Pitchfork Media and placed 50th in the Pazz & Jop poll. Mission of Burma_sentence_51

In 2006, a documentary about the band was released entitled Not a Photograph: The Mission of Burma Story. Mission of Burma_sentence_52

In March 2008, Matador re-released remastered versions of Signals, Calls, and Marches, Vs., and The Horrible Truth About Burma from the band's original era. Mission of Burma_sentence_53

In a September 2008 interview with the L.A. Mission of Burma_sentence_54 RECORD, Prescott explained that the sheer physical exertion involved in performing Mission of Burma songs meant that the band could only play together for a "couple more years at most." Mission of Burma_sentence_55

In March 2009 the band recorded 14 tracks for their fourth full-length studio album, The Sound The Speed The Light. Mission of Burma_sentence_56

Matador released a two non-album songs on a 7″ single in August and the full album in October. Mission of Burma_sentence_57

In January 2012, Mission of Burma parted ways with Matador and recorded their fifth full-length album, Unsound, for Fire Records. Mission of Burma_sentence_58

The album saw release in July 2012, preceded by the single "Dust Devil". Mission of Burma_sentence_59

In a June 2019 Facebook post, it was revealed that the band has no plans to make further albums. Mission of Burma_sentence_60

As of June 2020, the band was officially finished. Mission of Burma_sentence_61

Musical style Mission of Burma_section_5

Miller's songs were typically more unorthodox, both lyrically and structurally. Mission of Burma_sentence_62

Critic Franklin Bruno described Conley as a "hook machine". Mission of Burma_sentence_63

"That's When I Reach for My Revolver" has been covered by Moby, Graham Coxon, and Catherine Wheel. Mission of Burma_sentence_64

Though Miller and Conley handled most of the singing and songwriting, Prescott contributes a few songs per record as well. Mission of Burma_sentence_65

Live performances Mission of Burma_section_6

Prescott explained Swope's methods in a 1997 interview: "What Martin did ... was tape something that was going on live, manipulate it, and send it back in (via the soundboard) as a sort of new instrument. Mission of Burma_sentence_66

You couldn't predict exactly how it would sound, and that got to be the really fun thing I think we all liked. Mission of Burma_sentence_67

We wanted to play this hammer-down drony noise stuff, but we also wanted another sound in there." Mission of Burma_sentence_68

Swope's tapework ranged from subtle and nearly subaural (such as the quiet shifting feedback sounds in Conley's "That's When I Reach For My Revolver"), to prominent and even jarring (such as the high-pitched two-note squeal in Miller's "Red"). Mission of Burma_sentence_69

Journalist Michael Azerrad later wrote: "A lot of people never knew about Swope's contribution and were mystified by how the musicians onstage could wring such amazing phantom sounds from their instruments." Mission of Burma_sentence_70

Though his contribution is widely considered an integral part of Burma's sound, Swope very rarely appeared onstage, only occasionally appearing to play second guitar during encores. Mission of Burma_sentence_71

Their live performances were notoriously hit-or-miss, and were usually far more rough-edged than their recordings; the Horrible Truth of their live album (The Horrible Truth About Burma) being an in-joke about their inconsistency. Mission of Burma_sentence_72

Boston critic Tristam Lozaw described Mission of Burma live: "When they were good, they were very very good, but when they were bad they were horrid ... Mission of Burma_sentence_73

But that was the nature of the beast ... Because they took chances, you never knew whether you were going to get one of the most spectacular experiences of your life or if it was going to be a ball of incomprehensible noise." Mission of Burma_sentence_74

While the band's improvisational side and the unpredictable chaos of Swope's tape work contributed a little to this inconsistency, the two main factors were (as Lozaw implies) the live sound and the pacing and timing of their sets. Mission of Burma_sentence_75

When faced with a venue where the sound system or room acoustics weren't up to the task of conveying clarity along with the band's trademark volume, Swope always refused to compromise, and opted for volume. Mission of Burma_sentence_76

The band's set lists (composed by committee a few minutes before going on stage) could range from well-constructed to seemingly picked at random, and (aside from "Secrets" as a frequent opener and "All World Cowboy Romance" or a cover as an encore) there was a general reluctance to repeat any song placement or sequence that had worked in the past. Mission of Burma_sentence_77

Legacy Mission of Burma_section_7

Many bands and musicians have cited Burma as an inspiration, including Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters, Superchunk, Jawbox, The Grifters, R.E.M. Mission of Burma_sentence_78 , Miracle Legion (the last two have even covered "Academy Fight Song": the former on their Green tour and the latter on their debut), Thurston Moore, Drive Like Jehu, Throwing Muses, Yo La Tengo, Pixies, Sugar, Guided by Voices, Shellac, Catherine Wheel, Graham Coxon, Pegboy, Moby and Down by Law—the last five of which have covered Conley's "That's When I Reach for My Revolver". Mission of Burma_sentence_79

In 2009 the city of Boston declared October 4 to be "Mission of Burma Day" in honor of the band's work in a ceremony held at the MIT East Campus Courtyard. Mission of Burma_sentence_80

The indie rock band Versus took their name from the Mission of Burma album Vs. Mission of Burma_sentence_81

Discography Mission of Burma_section_8

Main article: Mission of Burma discography Mission of Burma_sentence_82

Studio albums Mission of Burma_section_9

Mission of Burma_unordered_list_0

Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mission of Burma.