In Memoriam: Women's Chris Reimer

Blake Gillespie

In 2008 I was green to the storied vibes of psych-rock, having not dipped my toes into that part of history quite yet. During this modern boom of psych-resurgence, I undertook extensive research, both in theory and practice. But I was reminded of my näivete after digging up my review of Women's self-titled debut, in which I called the genre “campy or misleading”. While I had plenty to learn, what I did not lack was intuition. The moment I heard Women's record, I felt a shift in the plot. This is apparent in the review, as I applaud the Calgary boys for their lack of synths and samplers. Psych and surf-rock blew the fuck up, and in that span, before we all fell back in love with synths, Women book-ended the era with two incredible records.

I remember my first day with Public Strain. It was a sober afternoon spazz-out session at my laptop as I struggled to care about whatever band I was supposed to write a post on that day, and then a hot-boxed car session with a friend later. We reached our destination but remained in the vehicle, too capitvated to kill the engine. (Months later Pitchfork ran a Special Presentation with Women in an abandoned warehouse that earned a rare tip of the hat from me. It captures the horror and claustrophobia of the band, mostly in the “Drag Open” video, that I've felt since my first listen to “Upstairs”.) It's my duty to spot a potential classic record or to laud a fine body of work as inching towards that high water mark. This is not the time nor place to make a list of who's reached that golden grace for me. But, I know, without the equation of trends, without investment and without hesitation, that Public Strain will be a classic record and part of the canon of rock 'n' roll history. I'll shout it from the corners and drop the needle for every curious or innocent ear until it's understood.

Alas, it's also a terrible collection of dirge, begging to be chained down by history. It hurt a little to listen to Public Strain after Women broke up. It's even more of a downer with the unexpected passing of guitarist Christopher Reimer. Uneasiness is the immediate feeling. A 26 year-old is not supposed to die in his sleep from an existing heart condition. But, it happened. Women breaking up felt like an elipsis more than a period. A week ago that changed.

I've had a lot of experience with death and at each viewing or funeral at least one person has encouraged me to remember the good times. It's common, but the repetition is comforting. In the spirit of remembering the good, Jagujaguwar is streaming the Women records back to back starting at 3 p.m. EST today here.

There's also many fine recountings of Chris Reimer's impact and shared good times at the Christopher John Joseph Reimer Memorial website set up by his sister Nikki, including this fine letter from Chad Van Gaalen, who recorded both Women records:

“Hello Nikki.

“My name is Chad Van Gaalen and I have some words to say about your beautiful brother.

“I started hanging out with a group of feral newborns in 2006, introduced to me through Matt Flegel when we started recording the first Women record. Chris was by far the shyest of the bunch, but this didn’t last long. We soon realized we shared a common interest of listening to what most people would consider to be total noise. Soon after realizing this, we swapped CDR’s of nonsense and that is when I discovered Chris was a sonic motherfucker. I couldn’t believe he had so much beautiful music that he had shared with so few people. This made more sense to me as I got to know Chris better over the years.

“He was so sonically curious and had such vision in his mind, that the bar was always going up. He was so humble and was always talking about microscopic improvements he could be making. Or the tone questing that had to be done on compositions that were absolutely flawless to anyone else that listened to them. On top of that, finding out that he was making most of these sounds with just a guitar… This to me is the mark of a true artist.

“He inspired me. He set an example of what could be done with sound. He reminded me to keep having fun searching for noise on a planet of noise.

“I loved your brother Chris.”

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