Posts Tagged ‘Bearsuit Records’

Bearsuit Records – 12th November 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s unusual to open an album with a B-side from the lead single, but there’s nothing usual about Eamon the Destroyer or Bearsuit Records, and the scratchy soporific drone and distorted / filtered vocals of ‘Silver Shadow’ – which reference the ‘small blue car’ to which the album owes its name – makes for a worthy introduction by means of introverted minimalism. It’s largely representative of an album that’s slow sparse, minimal and somewhat lugubrious.

I take the nom de guerre Eamon the Destroyer ironically. That may be wrong, it may be some unpleasant prejudice, and if so, I do apologise. This isn’t a PC matter or issue. But names come with certain associations, and the connotations of Eamon aren’t particularly warlord, at least to my mind. No diss to any Eamons, but the name is about as warlord as Gavin, Kevin, or Craig. No doubt there are some brutal twats by the name of Kevin, but, well, y’know, it doesn’t evince fear. The concept of ‘the destroyer’ is one of something harsh, brutal, obliterative, too, but that also isn’t the case here. Consider Ah Puch the Destroyer, Mayan god of death and disaster whose coming would mark the end of days. There is nothing explosive or devastating about A Small Blue Car – it is not a violent sonic blast of earth-shattering, annihilative proportions, yet it does, strangely, evoke a sense of near-finality. There is an all-pervading sadness that hangs over the album’s entirety, a sadness that’s slow-creeping and heavy, like a weight that pulls you down, bending your back with the effort

‘Humanity is Coming’ is downbeat, gloomy, and things get particularly dark and dense on the short instrumental ‘The Conjuring Stops’, with a heavily phased synth yielding a pulsating throb in the style of Suicide. ‘The Avalanche’ also brings some weight, with lots of granular sounds and bolds bursts of sweeping synths in the choruses that contrast with the woozy drone and is perhaps how Leonard Cohen might have sounded in the early years of his career if he’s chosen Moods instead of an acoustic guitar. The end result, musically, is like Stereolab on Ketamine.

The slow rasp of single cut ‘My Drive’, with its whistle of feedback and detuned radio in the distance while the picked guitar – spacious and delicate – curls like smoke into the darkness, and it piles on the melancholy.

‘Uledaro’ follows, a dolorous jumble of discord. ‘Nothing Like Anything’ is conspicuous by its near-cheeriness ‘wake up / the sun is out / we’re almost home’, Eamon intones in a rare glimmer of optimism. There’s whistling and levity, and it’s almost, almost a pop song. But of course, it’s not. And perhaps it’s more me feeling autumnal, but the happiness only accentuates the sadness, as if the jollity is a mask to sorrow so inexplicably deep that it has to be covered up. The nights are dark, the world feels a very long way off and a long time ago. It’s time to hibernate, with A Small Blue Car for company.

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Bearsuit Records – 15th Octoberr 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

I strongly believe that the most potent writing encapsulates the foibles and unpredictable nature of life itself, be it ‘credible’ dialogue that makes no sense, or seemingly inexplicable sub-plots and character deviances that seem incongruous. For all their irrationality and incongruity, these things seem more relatable, more real, than the artifice of linearity. Because life isn’t linear. Life is unpredictable. Life makes no sense. And life isn’t only what happens while you’re making other plans, but life exists in the detours and dead-ends, in the swerves off-piste and the unexpected diversions.

So, to begin with a detour, it seems like a reasonable place to begin by confessing that ‘invalid’ is a word I struggle with. It seems somehow wrong that ‘invalid’ as in one who is incapacitated by illness, injury, or disability, is a homograph of ‘invalid’ as in ‘not valid’, faulty, expired, of no worth. If coincidental, it feels like a particularly cruel linguistic twist. If not coincidental, if feels all the crueller.

This is relevant, because with next to no biographical information available, I find myself trying to picture Bunny & the Invalid Singers while listening to their latest offering, the idiosyncratic Flight of the Certainty Kids. It’s been a full sixteen years now since I first encountered the quirky Edinburgh act – ensemble? Collaborative project? – reviewing second album The Invalid Singers back in the summer of 2015. A lot has changes since then, but Bearsuit Records pursuit of oddness has remained undiminished, and so has Bunny’s.

Prefaced by the single release of ‘The Certainty Kids’ b/w ‘None of This Happened’, Flight of the Certainty Kids delivers on the promise of something that’s a bit retro, a bit kitsch, a bit Stereolab. It’s a bit everything, to be fair: a bit lounge, a bit calypso, a bit whimsical, a bit glitchcore bit microtonal, a bit of fun – and totally unpredictable, an eye-popping swirl of hybridity.

There’s nothing noisy or harsh about this, there’s nothing difficult about the sounds or the structures, and Flight of the Certainty Kids is very kind to the ears. And yet it’s this proximity to something accessible that renders the album all the more uncomfortable. I suppose you may call it uncanny or unheimlich.

Just as things are settling into a mellow drift on the first track, ‘A Sniper’s Heart’, a deep bass throb and thumping beat crash in and take things down a completely different, and altogether darker, alley. There’s a dash of East Asian influence on the aforementioned ‘None of This Happened’, while ‘Buckled & Bleeding’ melts ambience and prog into some kind of dystopian elevator music. Shuddering beats stutter and tremor like palpitations on ‘The Certainty Kids’, rupturing the surface of summery synths and in turn setting an uneven surface for the soft acoustic guitar that subsequently emerges.

For every element of ease, of tranquillity, there is one of jarring otherness, from the stealthy orchestral strikes of ‘There’s More Conjuring to be Done’ – which suddenly yield, albeit briefly, to some monumental riffing, before spiralling into some ultra-noodly synths, and then again transition into some delicate pastoral folk. How do you reconcile these elements?

It certainly shouldn’t work, and I’m scratching my head as to why it does while the trilling woodwind of ‘This is Happening’ drifts over me, then suddenly slaps me to alertness as it switches to an indie disco stomper. And here we are: this is an album that doesn’t even agree with itself? How are we supposed to know what’s happening, if it is or isn’t? Maybe we’re not supposed to, or otherwise it’s best if we don’t.

In a mad, mad world, the crazy world of Bunny & the Invalid actually seems pretty rational – lose yourself in the mania, and things seem a whole lot better. Don’t question it, don’t overthink it, just delve in.

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Bearsuit Records – 25th June 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Home of all things odd from Edinburgh and Japan, Bearsuit Records, has a new signing, in the form of Edinburgh-based singer/songwriter Eamon the Destroyer. Eamon also records as Annie & The Station Orchestra, and is one half of Edinburgh purveyors of noise Ageing Children, both of whom have received mentions here. If his name has the hallmarks of a mythical war deity or some evil comic book character, his music is altogether less megalomaniacally threatening. The press blub describes it as ‘lo-fi miserablism with a side order of noise / mumbling & whispering – or something’ – and on hearing these two tracks, which serve as a lead-in to Eamon’s debut album, A Small Blue Car – this vagueness makes perfect sense. And, of course, like most Bearsuit releases, it’s about the only thing that does.

It’s rather welcome to see a release that resembles a conventional A-side / B-side single release in 2021, and what’s noteworthy about this one is that the two tracks are actually quite similar, sonically and stylistically, leaving no confusion as to what the Destroyer’s sound is.

Against a minimalist backdrop of quite country guitars, the Destroyer croaks flatly about, well, what, I’m not entirely sure – every line seems to turn on a contradiction or some bathetic construction, like ‘Nobody knows it / well nobody ought to’. Instrumentally, it’s sparse and scratchy, and the vocals sound like they’re coming from a CB radio that’s only just tuned to the edge of the channel. But in the mix there’s a scrape and chatter of extraneous background noise and some cronky feedback, and around the mid-point of ‘My Drive’ it takes a massive left turn into altogether louder territory.

The whole vibe is downbeat and melancholy, and driving emerges as a theme in ‘Silver Shadow’, alongside some vague but wistful images that drift around in a wash of sad, Cure-esque synth and a crashing tide of distortion. It’s more mood-affecting than you would likely expect, and while very much appreciating the unusual mix, it left me feeling downcast and slightly sad, which is a clear indication that either I’m heading for a mood slump, or there’s more craftsmanship to Eamon’s songs than the surface suggests.

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Bearsuit Records – 31st October 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Because life had been getting a bit predictable – y’know, with nothing happening but the same old same old, work / life at home / going nowhere schtick – it was without time to mix things up. A second lockdown and a new release from Bearsuit certainly fits the bill there, since after another half-arsed, muzzy bag of mumbling waffle from that tousle-haired tosser who probably couldn’t even give a straight answer to the question of whether or not he knew what a straight answer was, no-one really knows what the fuck’s happening, least of all half the government, a bewildering array of discombobulating sonic collage courtesy of Bunny & the Invalid Singers feels positively coherent by comparison.

This single – featuring a remarkably conventional A-side and B-side – comes as a taster of an album, The Flight of the Certainty Kids, scheduled to land in January.

Delicate, picked acoustic guitar that combines elements of classical and folk paves the way for a mellow, easy-listening vibe, with a meandering horn weaving its way across a slow, slouchy beat, and it comes on like latter-day JG Thirlwell compositions melting into Groove Armada. If that sounds like a curious and not altogether complimentary combo, think again: it’s a coming together of aspects of cinematographic vision and a breeziness of a bygone era, that bright, skippy 60s pop style with a subtle psychedelic twist. It’s mellow, and it’s well-executed, and lifts the listener towards a tranquil space.

It’s probably the distortion of history as played through the filters of 21st century retrospect – you know, all those ersatz Kodachrome-filtered scenes of joyful skipping around, weaving daisy chains and carefree living in microdresses, flares, flowing locks, beards and sideburns… How we idealise the past. The swinging 60s bypassed most of those there at the time, just as punk wasn’t the revolution that’s endlessly eulogised for the majority grinding away at day jobs or otherwise blissfully unaware in the suburbs. Nevertheless, a semi-fabricated 60s lounge and ultra-chill vibe is the main flavour of flipside ‘None of this Happened’, and maybe the clue is in the title: maybe it’s a wilful misremembrance, a distortion. It’s pleasant enough, of course, and perhaps appropriately, it all goes off in every direction toward the end, and we’re left in a sonic whirlpool of weird.

It’s another creative success for Bunny and Co, and augers well for the album, at least if you’re on the market for a full set of psychedelic pop strangeness.

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Bearsuit Records – 26th June 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

The latest Bearsuit offering is a single by The Original Magnetic Light Parade, which is a collaboration between Belgian musician, Alexander Stordiau and Edinburgh man, and Bearsuit favourite, Harold Nono.

‘Confusion Reigns’ is surprisingly unweird, at least to begin with, exploring a sort of cinematic synthwave trajectory, a sparse machine drum low in the mix. Then it breaks into something massively bombastic, and it’s faux-epic in tone, sounding as much like someone fiddling with the voice settings on a keyboard, before finally settling on a piano sound and rolling into a space-rock explosion. With about half a dozen passages in all packed into its five-and-a-half minutes, it feels more like a collection of ideas for longer pieces than a single composition. Confusion does indeed reign.

It’s a fitting summary of the now: everything is confused and confusing, especially in the UK, especially in England. I still don’t know under what circumstances I’m supposed to stay at home or meet people, what’s essential or non-essential, and the logic behind any explanations of the changes that seem to be announced by the day seems deeply flawed and downright contradictory, even for the things I think I do know.

Nothing is as it seems and you can’t trust even trusted sources, and counterpart ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ very much hints at this global obfuscation in its title. Who can you trust? What can you trust? Certainly not statistics.

Instrumentally, it brings together acoustic guitar and smoky synths. The transitions are less frequent, resulting in a piece that twists and turns, but flows rather more smoothly. It’s still odd, and angular, just not as brain-bendingly difficult to follow.

And as a set, it’s all good. Just don’t come here looking to make sense of insane times.

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Bearsuit Records – 27th March 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

This release acquired a new poignance with the passing of the person who inspired it just weeks before its release. Mark was the editor of Losing Today magazine and his blog, The Sunday Experience was renowned and revered for its coverage of the weird, the wonderful, and ultimately, the underexposed, an ethos I can more than relate to. It’s something you do for the love – and I don’t mean adulation – not the money. But the thing I’ve learned from personal experience is that the more obscure and niche the band, the greater the appreciation for the exposure. Depeche Mode were right: it’s a competitive world, and with a gazillion bands vying for attention, it’s hard to snag coverage if you’re unknown.

As I see it, as a music fan and writer, it’s all about the grass roots and the underground: no-one needs my opinion on the latest Editors or U2, but they do need to know about the great stuff being released by the likes of Bearsuit and Panurus and infinite acts working on a DIY basis. This was also very much Mark Barton’s territory, and the disparate array of contributors to this compilation is testament to his eclecticism and unswerving commitment to promoting all things beyond the mainstream – so much so that this CD reminds me of what it was like to listen to an episode of John Peel in the early 90s. So there’s a shedload of indie and alt-rock, a dash of grunge, all the shoegaze, and some trudging industrial metal. Yep, they’ve even scored a track from Godflesh for this release, in the form of ‘Ringer’, lifted from the ‘Decline & Fall’ EP released back in 2014 and now deleted.

The list of contributors and the track list is remarkable, and testament to Barton’s range and reach, and also respect in the music community. The relationship between music writers and artists can at times be fractious, and so tom observe the reciprocal appreciation for a true champion is something.

It’s pretty cool having The Lovely Eggs up first: they’re one of those quintessential lo-fi indie/ alt-rock bands that could have exited at any time in the last 30 years, but we’re fortunate they exist now to carve out melodic songs with a quirky twist and all the crunchy guitars. And while guitars do dominate the selection – Kiran Leonard’s ‘Pink Fruit’ is rather like early Radiohead but with a major grunge twist, while Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs bring a mess of Hawkwind-like space rock and Yellow 6 and Moon Duo booth melt together combinations of psychedelia and shoegaze together over a motorik groove.

Given Bearsuit’s propensity for the ultra-weird, often with hints of electronica and with a Japanese flavour, this release seems surprisingly regular – but that’ a question of context rather than a case of selling out, as the gloopy ambience of Irkan’s ‘Hirkeskov’, the swampy bedroom trip hop of Fort Dax’s ‘Sakura’ and the presence of an array of unknown acts evidence.

The names and unknowns sit alongside one another perfectly, however, and in balancing knowns and unknowns, it makes for a great showcase of diversity, and a great compilation in its own right. The fact all proceeds are being donated to Macmillan Cancer Support is an additional bonus, and shows the artistic community doing what big businesses so rarely do, namely putting people and causes before profit.

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Bearsuit Records – 20th March 2020

Because I like my shit weird, I’m always thrilled to receive new releases from Bearsuit Records, and Harold Nono’s latest is one of a brace of fresh releases – brimming with weird shit, of course.

The title We’re Almost Home suggests a relaxation, an easing into the home straight. Instead, what Nono delivers is a brain-bending sonic tempest, with ideas lifted from all corners of the planet.

Nono’s straight in with insistent stuttering rhythms that pound systematically over the point as the title intimates, against a jolting japandroid clash of fragmented robotix. Like all of Nono’s previous releases, it’s a whimsical culture clash, stop-start chillout dance grooves are juxtaposed with trilling synths, samples, scratchiness and warping

‘Shaking on an Iron Bed’ is a calamitous crash of wild jazz horns and cymbal bursts that give way to pulping disco with orchestral strikes, while the jazz tones keep on coming. All the ‘what the fuck?’, all the ‘why?’ and all the ‘no need!’ and yet, despite everything, it’s all the reasons Nono is worthy of you ear. It shouldn’t work, and on paper doesn’t work, and even at times in actuality is kind of off the mark, but the transitions are so rapid that it’s doing something else completely different before it’s even registered.

There are moments of Stereolab-like mellow doodling to be found in places, as on ‘Let the Light In (Prince of Darkness)’, heavy dark ambience, as on ‘Ron’s Mental Leap Coach’ and tripped out semi-ambient space electronica, as on ‘The Fall Reprise’. There is oddness and drama, and a whole bunch of abstract glitchiness, and it’s all characteristic of both Nono and Bearsuit. If you’re curious to take a walk on the weird side, then this comes recommended. If you’re not, then you need to expand your horizons, and this is still recommended.

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Harold Nono – We’re Almost Home

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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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