|Origin||New York City, New York, U.S.|
|Genres||Post-punk, experimental rock, alternative rock|
|Years active||1983–1990, 2017-present|
Safe House Records
|Associated acts||The Situations, Crop, Carnival Crash, Live Skull, Swans, the Honeymoon Killers, Ultra-Hug, Elliott Sharp's Carbon, Rhys Chatham, False Prophets, Reed Ghazala, Sweet Lizard Illtet, the Shockley Brothers, Big Hat No Cattle, Confunktion Junction, ex->tension|
|Past members||Andrew Nahem|
Ritual Tension is an American experimental rock band that formed in 1983 in New York City. They released two studio albums and an EP, all recorded at Martin Bisi's BC Studio in Brooklyn, and a live album taken from shows at CBGB, before their initial dissolution in 1990. At the same time, various configurations of the band members took part in art performances around Manhattan at venues such as Pyramid Club and PS 122.
Ritual Tension began with brothers Ivan and Andrew Nahem (sons of baseball player Sam Nahem). They had played together in a band they formed called Crop at San Francisco punk rock clubs in the late 1970s. Ivan had previously played drums in The Situations. Crop's lineup also included former Situations roadies Tom Paine and Mark C. Ivan Nahem, Paine and C. moved to New York City in 1980. Displeased with the direction of the band in the new location, Ivan left to form Carnival Crash with longtime friend John Griffin Morrisey and Norman Westberg (the latter had auditioned for Crop at C.'s loft). Carnival Crash split up while recording in the studio and Ivan released a 1983 single, "Edge of Night", under the name Ivan X. Paine and C. subsequently formed Live Skull, while Westberg joined Swans.
Andrew Nahem then moved to New York City and the brothers began rehearsing together in the East Village. The band, as Tension, made their live debut on May 5, 1983 at the Speed Trials music festival at White Columns. Reviews were positive for their 25-minute performance of "All Wound Up", performed with drum machine, guitar, effects and vocals.
Claire Lawrence-Slater was added on bass and eventually Michael Jio on drums. They began playing East Village clubs, rehearsing in the Honeymoon Killers studio. Lawrence-Slater left the band, later playing with Honeymoon Killers and Ultra-Huge. She was replaced by Marc Sloan.
Now known as Ritual Tension, the band recorded their first album, I Live Here, at Bisi's studio. It was released on their own label, Sacrifice Records, in 1986. After the album's release, Michael Shockley replaced Jio.
The next recording with Bisi was the 1987 EP Hotel California, released by Safe House Records. It featured an eight-minute cover of the title song by the Eagles, a deconstruction and salute to their roots by the Nahem brothers, who grew up in northern California. It also included Ritual Tension's signature song, "The Grind". The EP and the debut were also reissued together by Sacrifice as I Live Here/Hotel California.
As the band gained popularity in the East Village scene, playing clubs like The Ritz, Pyramid Club and The Bottom Line, they came to the attention of CBGB owner Hilly Kristal, leading to headliner slots and a live "off the board" album recorded in 1986 at CBGB, titled The Blood of the Kid and released in 1987 by CBGB/Celluloid Records.
Expelled was their final studio album, again recorded with Bisi and released in 1989 by Safe House. The group disbanded in 1990, but played a final reunion performance in Hoboken, New Jersey in May 1993.
Past Tense, a 15-track collection of Ritual Tension material, was issued on Sacrifice in 1999.
In 2016, Ivan Nahem began working on remixing "All Wound Up".
In 2017, Ivan Nahem began working on a project with Pittsburgh noise artist Gregg Bielski that came to be called ex->tension. Bielski initially asked Nahem to put spoken word vocals atop his soundtracks, and eventually the latter's Ritual Tension bandmates were enlisted for separate collaborations, with Andrew Nahem's guitar on three tracks and Sloan and Shockley contributing to one track each. The resulting album, The Kiss, was released on RORER 714 Records, followed by performances by Ivan Nahem and Bielski with other members of Ritual Tension. This in turn led to a reformation of Ritual Tension in late 2017, without guitarist Andrew Nahem. They played their first reunion date at Century in Philadelphia on February 23, 2018, followed by a show at SideWalk Cafe in New York City on March 15.
Ritual Tension's releases were critically acclaimed, mostly in fanzines but also in more mainstream press, although critics had a hard time categorizing the band. In Spin, Andrea 'Enthal wrote: "Then there are the bands who aren't part of any movement. They are the leading edge of the underground... Ritual Tension make noncommercial music outside of even punk's accepted norms. It takes some listening to figure out how to hear their sound". Robert Palmer wrote in the New York Times: "The rhythm section is fluid but packs a punch, and Andrew Nahem's guitar work is distinctive and full of energy." Robert Christgau of The Village Voice said: "'Here' is the Lower East Side… Surprisingly, this parochial approach is good for music more intense and universal than, to choose the relevant example, the Bush Tetras' 'Too Many Creeps'". Trouser Press said: "Recorded in 1988, the excellently self-produced Expelled is the finest display yet of the band's offbeat musicianship. The dissonance is so vibrantly arranged and performed that it actually becomes catchy".
Sloan played extensively with many collaborators, including Elliott Sharp's Carbon, Rhys Chatham, False Prophets and Reed Ghazala. He currently works with drummer Simon Fishburn in Forever Moonlight.
Shockley played in Sweet Lizard Illtet, and currently performs in the Shockley Brothers, Big Hat No Cattle and Confunktion Junction.
Ivan Nahem has published stories, essays and poems in various magazines, and was the founder/editor of Yoga Teacher Magazine.
- I Live Here (1986, Sacrifice Records)
- Expelled (1989, Safe House Records)
- Hotel California (1987, Safe House Records)
- The Blood of the Kid (1987, CBGB/Celluloid Records)
- I Live Here/Hotel California (1987, Sacrifice Records)
- Past Tense (1999, Sacrifice Records)
Post-Ritual Tension collaborative album
- The Kiss (2017, RORER 714 Records)
- "Speed Trials, A Week at the Races, East Village Eye". whitecolumns.org. June 1983. Retrieved 22 April 2016.
- Lou Reed (2000). Schwann Spectrum. Stereophile, Incorporated.
- Ira A. Robbins (1991). The Trouser Press Record Guide. Collier Books. pp. 558–. ISBN 978-0-02-036361-3.
The Blood of the Kid (CBGB-Celluloid) 1987 … Live at CBGB. The Blood of the Kid presents Ritual Tension in a most conducive atmosphere. More intense than on I Live …
- Option. Sonic Options Network. 1987. pp. 98–.
RITUAL TENSION: The Blood of the Kid. Recorded live at CBGB's in late 86 this is a guitar, bass, drum thrash unit, fronted by a David Thomas (Pere Ubu) fan who desperately and theatrically sing-talks his way ...
- "Andrea 'Enthal, Underground". Spin Magazine. September 1986. Retrieved 22 April 2016.
- "Robert Palmer, Shared Roots Feed New Rock's Variety". nyytimes.com. June 29, 1986. Retrieved 22 April 2016.
- "Robert Christgau, Consumer Guide Reviews". robertchristgau.com. 1986. Retrieved 22 April 2016.
- "Ritual Tension, Marc Sloan, Gawk". trouserpress.com. 1989. Retrieved 22 April 2016.
- "About Us". Yoga Teacher Magazine.