Posts Tagged ‘Bearsuit Records’

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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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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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