Posts Tagged ‘Bearsuit Records’

Bearsuit Records – 27th September 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Edinburgh-based Bearsuit Records has established itself as a reliable source of weird stuff, a large proportion of which comes from Japan, a country renowned for producing some of the most brilliantly bizarre music. Needless to say, I’m a fan, and admire label owner Dave Hillary’s unswerving commitment to giving niche artists a home.

A trilling fairground waltz with stuttering microbeats provides the backdrop to the ethereal vocal on the title track, leading the listener into the weird and wonderful world of Haq, which is a collaborative musical vehicle for Japanese duo N-qia (Nozomi and Takma, the latter of whom is renowned in certain cult circles for his eight albums released under the Serph moniker) and the ultra-prolific Ediburgh based enigma that is Harold Nono.

Evaporator is a quintessential Bearsuit release – meaning, it’s way, way out there, strange and bewildering, in the most otherworldly sense. Evaporator is an album that more or less defines cognitive dissonance. It’s a headfuck, but that’s not a criticism. We need to be challenged: all too often, we’re presented with sonic chewing gum and shrug and think ‘yeah, that’s ok’. Ok is not ok, of course: we’re swimming in a sea of mediocrity and we need to break free of is tireless tide.

It’s all going on – at once – on ‘Dustboy Horrorshow’, which collides dreamy post-rock with pounding double-speed beats before taking a brief turn for the heavy in the midsection, before the industrial grind is dispersed in a ripple of fairy-lit world music to fade. And it only gets weirder and more incongruously juxtaposed from hereon in.

Ballistic beats and floaty mellowness collide, and often, as they explore the space between The Cocteau Twins and the Prodigy and somehow, in their state of dementure, attempt to bridge it by fusion. This shouldn’t work, and in places, it doesn’t, but that’s all the more reason to celebrate their efforts: experimentation and collaboration shouldn’t be about perfection, and even necessarily about the end product. The creative process is what matters.

That said, the end product, weird and baffling as it is, has more than its share of moments, and this five-tacker comes with a bunch of remixes of the EP tracks as well as an alternative mix of ‘Bees in My Feet’ from 2013’s Nocturnals. The approaches to remixing are ide-ranging and varied, and serve to highlight just how eclectic the composite elements of Haq’s original compositions are.

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Haq – Evaporator

Bearsuit Records – 1st November 2018

James Wells

This one seemingly pinged in from nowhere finds BBC (that’s Black Bear Catapult, which consists of Ippu Mitsui and Jimmy Finlayson) deliver a slice of strangeness that combines hyperactive electropop backing of spacey synths which wibble and warp against a drum machine which flitters and stutters frenetically as if its programmer is on a rush of sugar and caffeine, bursting into double-time seemingly on a whim. Jittery, jumpy, overenergised, this release positively twitches with a stroboscopic kineticism.

There’s a nice strolling bassline that emerges here and there during ‘Leopold Checks In At The Laughing House’, and while the overall tone is playful and a little bit daft, it’s something you can groove to. And I’m down with that!

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BBC - Laughing

Bearsuit Records – 20th October 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

The word ‘poets’ would seem to imply plural, but according to the accompanying text, The Moth Poets is the work of Edinburgh based musician, Billy Gilbert, who’s played in a few local indie bands and released a split LP with Japanese artist / musician Swamp Sounds, whose presence has graced this site on a previous Bearsuit release, as well as featuring in another Bearsuit-released act, Anata Wa Sukkari Tsukarete Shimai (AWSTS). Yes, once again, Bearsuit is the conduit for all of this uber-fringe creative activity from around the world, but mostly bringing Scotland and Japan together.

Doll is a magnificently idiosyncratic work which assimilates a broad range of styles and influences, and as a consequence, belongs nowhere specific or readily positionable. The eight compositions, in their titles and in their sound, convey a certain sci-fi undercurrent, infused with a twist of surrealism and plain abstraction.

‘A Hole in the Mothship’ starts the album with some spaced-out, opiate prog, a mellow, reverby instrumental which plods ponderously before trickling into the title track, where the drum machine kicks into overdrive and the soporific guitar mutates into a wildly meandering fizz of fuzz that sounds like J Mascis on a cocktail of acid and amphetamine. And this provides the backdrop for a vocal that sits somewhere between shoegaze and slacker, pitched low in the mix so as to render the lyrics indistinct. It doesn’t detract, and if anything, adds to the blurred, lo-fi layering that imbues the song with a hazy, dreamy quality.

As the title suggests, ‘Mothship Song’ is something of a companion to the opener, laying some echo-heavy guitar picking over a muffled heartbeat drum track and low, buzzing synth bass before going a different kind of strange, sort of like the into to ‘Frenz’ by The Fall, but with an oriental vibe and some synth stylings stolen from Stereolab.

‘Orange Peel Teeth’ goes grainy ambient with slanted analogue synth scrapes slipping through the rumbling atmospherics at skewed angles, and it’s this juxtaposition of tones and textures which provides Dolls with a much-needed sense of cohesion. Whether it’s prog, pop, or ambient – all performed with an experimental edge and an overt rejection of convention – Gilbert renders the pieces with an attention to less-obvious details that’s nothing if not distinctive.

All of the album’s disparate elements coalesce on the noodly, whacky weirdo wig-out of ‘Someone Put a Time Bomb in My Submarine’, the vintage drum machine sound – thudding bass, whip-crack treble top end snare – bounce it along nicely and keep things pinned to a groove that’s consistent and insistent. And because of this, however far-out The Moth Poets go, here’s always something to cling to. This is perhaps the key to keeping Doll on the right side of the line of (in)accessibility, and the reason it’s ultimately a success.

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The Moth Poets – Doll

Bearsuit Records – 14th July 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

The Bearsuit philosophy is, to the best of my understanding, essentially built round a l’aissez-faire approach to experimentalism and collaboration. Stuff happens, when it happens, as it happens. Sometimes it happens without input or collaboration. And it’s all fine as long as it’s not mainstream. Truth is, nothing any of the Bearsuit acts could produce in a million lifetimes would ever even hint at mainstream aspirations. The reason I’ve been a personal advocate of the label and its output for a while now is simply because they do what they so, and don’t give a crap about trends, commercialism, or anything else. As I wrote the other day, albeit in a slightly different context: it’s for the love, not the money.

The label’s latest release sees Haq (the alter-ego of another Bearsuit would-be legend, Harold Nono) return. Five years on from the ‘Nocturnals’ album, this EP offers three remixes frm the album, plus two new cuts.

Lead track ‘Antics in a Maze’ moves far beyond the avant-trip-hop leanings of its predecessor and froths with fanciful flights of incongruity, and brims with an air of otherness. Breathy vocals waft over drifting, trilling swathes of gauze-like synth, crossed with bursts of odd electronica, deep dub and driving drum ‘n’ bass. Warped snippets of thee tunes for fictional TV shows and films from the 70s and 80s emerge fleetingly for the ever-shifting compositional aneurysm.

‘Norvell’ is the second new cut: with sonorous, brooding synths and rich, layered strings that sweep and tug at the tear ducts, as well as percussion that simultaneously clatters and thunders, it’s a dissonant and haunting work that straddles industrial, goth and shoegaze, with hints of Cranes and a messed-up air of dark beauty about its detached, haunting evocativeness.

The remixes are varied, in terms of style, interest and significance – but at least they are varied. Senji Niban’s remix of ‘Are You the Elephant’ thumps along insistently, a far cry from the slightly eerie, chilled original, while The Autumna remix of ‘Bees in My Feet’ is but a humming drone that’s elevated above ambience by virtue of maintaining a pitch that’s impossible to ignore, however hard you may try.

There’s nothing ordinary about the music on this EP, and while it’s bewildering at times – as you’d reasonably expect from Bearsuit – it also contains moments of extreme elegance and grace which are spellbinding.

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Haq_Antics-front-cover

Bearsuit Records – 20th April 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Try as I might – and I do, I really do – I find it impossible to avoid words like ‘weird’ ‘whacky’, and ‘oddball’ in reviews of anything released on the Edinburgh micro-label Bearsuit Records. This is no reflection of a lack of vocabulary on my part: it’s simply what they do. Every boutique label needs some kind of signature or house style, and a micro-label really needs a niche. Bearsuit specialise in stuff that’s so far out it’s beyond.

Fear of the Horizon is actually pretty conventional by Bearsuit standards – but these things are all relative. ‘Eamon the Destroyer’, the album’s first cut, arrives in a flourish of expansive prog-rock guitar and twittering electronics, all on top of a thumping beat that’s pure dark hip-hop. And then the guitars really takeover and we’re in territory that’s suspiciously close to be being categorizable as ‘rock’. But then ‘The Positive Approach of Talkative Ron’ swings into view in waltz-time and goes all weirdy… and then there’s whistling and another epic guitar solo.

Pancultural influence are infused within the glitching electronic fairground fabric of ‘Woman With the Plastic Hand’, with its stuttering beats and woozy organ sound, while ‘Vandal Schooling’ brings with it a crunch of industrial noise and stabs of bold orchestral brass, taking a sharp turn from abrasive to mellow around the mid-point and locking into a metronomic hard, industrial-disco flavoured groove near the end. For the most part, though, the sounds are soft-edged, mellow, supple, analogue.

‘The Horizon Project’ brings together mellow and woozy, its mellow motifs and nod-along beats cracked with a stylophone break and underlying hiss of distortion. It runs contra to the chilled beats and quite accessible lead melody.

‘Weird’ ‘whacky’, and ‘oddball’… they’re all entirely appropriate adjectives, but fail to account for the depth and range of Fear Of The Horizon. As hard as it may be to take seriously an act going by the name of Bunny & the Invalid Singers, there’s real merit to this work that goes far beyond the superficial quirkiness. ‘Weird’ ‘whacky’, and ‘oddball’ don’t convey the wistfulness, the melancholy, the nostalgia, range of emotions, moods and mindsets.

This is where I should sign off with a suitably witty flourish, or some pun-based punchline, but such flippancy would be to only further undermine the true merits of an album which clearly shows no fear. Fear Of The Horizon is a fun, entertaining, and enjoyable work but don’t let the oddness and goofiness lead you to believe it isn’t serious, or art. Because it’s most definitely both.

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Bunny & the Invalid Singers – Fear Of The Horizon

Bearsuit Records – 1st December 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

The album’s acknowledgements indicate that the little Edinburgh label has some high-profile and well-respected champions, including Stuart Maconie, Tom Ravenscroft, Gideon Coe, Mark Riley, David Stubbs… and some guy called Nosnibor. I’m deeply flattered to find myself in such prestigious company. It’s no secret that as a music writer, I’m a fan first and foremost, and Bearsuit stand out for their unswerving commitment to the weird and the wonderful – and, indeed, the wonderfully weird.

From minimal, brooding electro-pop to experimental avant-folk via haunting, spectral gothtronica, and space-prog in waltz-time, it’s all here on this latest compilation. Psychedelic dreampop, scratchy, glitchy trip-hop, stark post-industrial noise, and a jumble of all other elements which should never meet cozy up side but side and on top one another. Quirky isn’t in it.

Luscious, sweeping strings glide over a softly pulsating throb, and it’s all very cinematic, very John Williams on ‘Fulfilling Eclipse’, Alexander Storadiau’s contribution to this collection. No two ways about it, it’s a grand opening worthy of JG Thirlwell. But then PoProPo bring a busy mess of high-friction jazz-funk-punk, which just wouldn’t be complete without the wibbly Theremin wails. The weirdy, sultry cabaret of Martian Subculture’s ‘Chewing Gum’ contrasts again.

The reason I love Bearsuit isn’t because I love every tune they release, but because every tune they release opens my ears to something new, and because they’re fearless in pushing the most far-out stuff from the deepest underground. Tthere are some truly ‘what the fuck?’ moments on here. ‘Tous Les Rochers’ by Yponomeutaneko leads the way. Swaggering brass and monotone spoken word breaks into discord and a load of crazed shouting. I haven’t a fucking clue what they’re shouting about, or why, or why the track even got recorded, but the fact it did, and that it’s on here is utterly brilliant. The sing-song vaudeville oompah of ‘World Travel of the Piano Tuner’ by Shinnosuke Sugata is music completely out of time, complete with muffled wax cylinder production.

The Moth Poets offer up some glacial post-punk disco hybrid collision with operatic bombast. Swords Reversed bring a palace of oddball melody and thumping beats, while Petridisch – one of three acts with two tracks featured – cultivate an air of otherness. No two acts featured are alike, and yet they compliment one another perfectly. Sequencing matters as much as selection on a compilation album, and The Invisible & Divided Sea flows nicely.

It’s a gloopy, tangential, often disorientating concoction of disparate sounds that somehow stands as the perfect representation of both the artists involved and the label itself.

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Bearsuit Comp Cover

Bearsuit Records – 23rd September 2017

James Wells

Multi-instrumentalist Hayato Takeuchi hails from Japan. Beyond that, I know nothing in terms of biography. No that it matters. It’s all about the music, and the music on this EP is… different. Different from what? Pretty much everything. Yes, it’s a typical Bearsuit Records release.

The five tracks on offer here are dizzying, bewildering, multitonal works which play with time signatures and textures at the same time. There are all shades of oddness here, from the whistling loop over wonky synths and a sparse beat on the piano-led ‘Usan Kosao No Usoushiki’, and the playful theatrical noodles of ‘Mr Henderson No Ai To Replica’ is a fairground waltz that skips lightly through a space that revels in experimentalism. Weird and woozy, dramatic and quirky are Takeuchi’s key themes here. The final track, ‘Anata To Watashi No Kyoukaisen’ sides gracefully into crystalline, cloudlike ambience which tapers and turns subtly in a space of its own creation.

There’s no way of putting a tag on this that’s in any way informative, and to pick it apart is to destroy its intrigue. Weird and special, and special in its weirdness.

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Hayato Takeuchi