Posts Tagged ‘Various Artists’

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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Christopher Nosnibor

CHUNK is a rehearsal space in Leeds which also puts on live shows. They’re the very epitome of DIY: it’s a couple of damp, crumbly rooms on an industrial estate some 40 minutes’ walk from the train station. They don’t have a license or a bar, so their gigs are BYOB, and they have a solid manifesto that stipulates ‘no bigots’. Divey as it may be, it’s a safe and accommodating space that’s crated its own scene, embracing the weird, the wild, the noisy, a hub for disparate outsiders. And I’ve seen a fair few decent gigs there, a fair few of which I’ve written about here, and in the company of decent people. Hell, I’ve even performed there: CHUNK facilitated my meeting with Paul, aka Foldhead, an event which would mark the arrival of a new musical entity in the form of …(something) ruined.

Spaces like this are rare these days. Everyone’s in it for the money, and no-one else has any. And so you have to love CHUNK for its commitment and integrity.

Sadly, commitment and integrity don’t pay bills, and this release is specifically pitched as a fundraiser for vital repairs. Less sadly, it’s a showcase of the acts who’ve emerged around CHUNK, and a celebration of the thriving underground scene in Leeds, which has recamped to CHUNK and Wharf Chambers now the Brudenell – ever-awesome as it is – has stepped up several notches from the student hangout it was a decade ago to a three-room venue of international standing. CHUNK have also expanded to a label branch – Voice of Chunk – to disseminate the works of the CHUNK community, and this release, on that label, captures the spirt of the scene perfectly.

This compilation reflects both the sense of community and the diversity of the scene centred around this space, and a fair few of the acts featured have been covered here at Aural Aggro.

The first track is a rough ‘n’ ready demo of a song Beige Place – whose debut live show I witnessed in this very venue – have been playing on their recent dates supporting Shellac. Yes, read and digest. Wonky, cronky, oddball, shouty no-image math-rock misfits from Leeds support Shellac on UK tour. And inexplicably divide Shellac fans. Kudos. This doesn’t actually need any more work, beyond perhaps mastering by Bob Weston. Its raw, ragged discomfort is everything it should be.

Cattle – who I’m elated to be featured on a bill alongside in February – bring a crashing swell of nihilistic nose with ‘Found in a Tract of Land’, and Cattle’s drummer Steve Myles also features on the contribution from Groak, who tossed ‘Lemnian Earth’ into the mix because they’re winding down and elected to support the venue instead of holding out hope of a new EP.

Elsewhere, M-G Dysfunction introduce an electronic element to the mix. Black Antlers impressed me when I caught their debut performance at CHUNK (where else?) in June, and the appearance of ‘Insomnia’ here marks their debut release, and showcases some brooding, shuddering electropop that comes on like a goth Goldfrapp or Zola Jesus without the operatics.

I’ve had the pleasure of bringing Territorial Gobbing to York, and as much of that pleasure was derived from observing the bewildered expression of many of the audience members. ‘Whose Big in the Karaoke Underground?’ is a disorientating mess of sounds, incongruous fragments, bleeps and bloops randomly spliced together, and Thank’s ‘Good Boy’ is noisy another highlight, although it sounds like it was recorded from the room next door. Meanwhile, Open’s ‘The Love Machine’ is an overloading, pounding psych racket, and Groak’s curtain closing ‘Lemnian Earth’ is s snarling, blackened assault that’s as raw as roadkill.

Having picked out some highlights, it’s worth pointing out that there isn’t really a duff or dull moment among the fourteen tracks here, and while not every act may be to everyone’s taste, that’s something to celebrate, being indicative of a scene that promotes diversity and where the most disparate acts perform side by side and support one another. Above all, this compilation shows – once again – how the Leeds alternative scene is thriving and continually producing new and exciting music by artists who dare to be different.

CHUNK is a rehearsal space in Leeds which also puts on live shows. They’re the very epitome of DIY: it’s a couple of damp, crumbly rooms on an industrial estate some 40 minutes’ walk from the train station. They don’t have a license or a bar, so their gigs are BYOB, and they have a solid manifesto that stipulates ‘no bigots’. Divey as it may be, it’s a safe and accommodating space that’s crated its own scene, embracing the weird, the wild, the noisy, a hub for disparate outsiders. And I’ve seen a fair few decent gigs there, a fair few of which I’ve written about here, and in the company of decent people. Hell, I’ve even performed there: CHUNK facilitated my meeting with Paul, aka Foldhead, an event which would mark the arrival of a new musical entity in the form of …(something) ruined.

Spaces like this are rare these days. Everyone’s in it for the money, and no-one else has any. And so you have to love CHUNK for its commitment and integrity.

Sadly, commitment and integrity don’t pay bills, and this release is specifically pitched as a fundraiser for vital repairs. Less sadly, it’s a showcase of the acts who’ve emerged around CHUNK, and a celebration of the thriving underground scene in Leeds, which has recamped to CHUNK and Wharf Chambers now the Brudenell – ever-awesome as it is – has stepped up several notches from the student hangout it was a decade ago to a three-room venue of international standing. CHUNK have also expanded to a label branch – Voice of Chunk – to disseminate the works of the CHUNK community, and this release, on that label, captures the spirt of the scene perfectly.

This compilation reflects both the sense of community and the diversity of the scene centred around this space, and a fair few of the acts featured have been covered here at Aural Aggro.

The first track is a rough ‘n’ ready demo of a song Beige Place – whose debut live show I witnessed in this very venue – have been playing on their recent dates supporting Shellac. Yes, read and digest. Wonky, cronky, oddball, shouty no-image math-rock misfits from Leeds support Shellac on UK tour. And inexplicably divide Shellac fans. Kudos. This doesn’t actually need any more work, beyond perhaps mastering by Bob Weston. Its raw, ragged discomfort is everything it should be.

Cattle – who I’m elated to be featured on a bill alongside in February – bring a crashing swell of nihilistic nose with ‘Found in a Tract of Land’, and Cattle’s drummer Steve Myles also features on the contribution from Groak, who tossed ‘Lemnian Earth’ into the mix because they’re winding down and elected to support the venue instead of holding out hope of a new EP.

Elsewhere, M-G Dysfunction introduce an electronic element to the mix. Black Antlers impressed me when I caught their debut performance at CHUNK (where else?) in June, and the appearance of ‘Insomnia’ here marks their debut release, and showcases some brooding, shuddering electropop that comes on like a goth Goldfrapp or Zola Jesus without the operatics.

I’ve had the pleasure of bringing Territorial Gobbing to York, and as much of that pleasure was derived from observing the bewildered expression of many of the audience members. ‘Whose Big in the Karaoke Underground?’ is a disorientating mess of sounds, incongruous fragments, bleeps and bloops randomly spliced together, and Thank’s ‘Good Boy’ is noisy another highlight, although it sounds like it was recorded from the room next door. Meanwhile, Open’s ‘The Love Machine’ is an overloading, pounding psych racket, and Groak’s curtain closing ‘Lemnian Earth’ is s snarling, blackened assault that’s as raw as roadkill.

Having picked out some highlights, it’s worth pointing out that there isn’t really a duff or dull moment among the fourteen tracks here, and while not every act may be to everyone’s taste, that’s something to celebrate, being indicative of a scene that promotes diversity and where the most disparate acts perform side by side and support one another. Above all, this compilation shows – once again – how the Leeds alternative scene is thriving and continually producing new and exciting music by artists who dare to be different. We need this space! Please support it.

AA

Sounds of CHUNK

Come Play With Me – 8th December 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

I know I’m prone to harping on about how awesome the music scene in Leeds is, but that’s because it is. It’s not just its vibrancy and diversity, but the sheer quality of acts – and all of the other things integral to a thriving scene, including labels and live venues – that make it so exciting. Living in York, I often feel the best thing about my location is its proximity to Leeds.

The label Come Play With Me – named after a 1992 single by enduring Leeds indie legends The Wedding Present (which, peaking at number 10 in the singles charts actually stands as their biggest hit) – have, in a very short time, established itself as an ambassador for the city and surrounding region. It’s worth noting, then, that all proceeds made from this album will be reinvested into supporting people into sustainable careers within music in the Leeds City Region, and it speaks volumes about the label and everyone involved here.

It’s therefore fitting that on this double-CD compilation (the labels first), The Wedding Present should feature alongside a number of artists who’ve previously appeared on single releases, including Officers, Deadwall (who here, somewhat audaciously, deliver an ethereal shoegaze rendition of ‘Come Play with Me’, no less), Esper Scout, Magic Mountain, Furr and RIIB (Roller Trio / Django Django and whose split single we featured here at Aural Aggro back in July).

ZoZo kick it all off with some jagged brass-laced post-punk funk. ‘No Christmas’ was the last in The Wedding Present’s 12-single run in 1992, and appears here re-recorded from a 2015 album session. It’s a strong start.

The inclusion of ‘Ghost Town’ by Fighting Caravans is particularly sweet – one of the city’s most promising bands who split before they really got going, this track makes a welcome addition to their all-too slender discography. Oh, and it’s a dense, slow-burning belter and one of the album’s (many) standouts, which also include a collaboration between Post War Glamour Girls frontman James Konapinski and American inventor Thomas Truax in the shape of the brooding ‘The Best Things’, part 80s Bowie, part Tom Waits, it’s a gritty, growling hybrid of spoken word and white soul. It’s bloody brilliant. And as a completely unnecessary aside, earlier this year I performed an afternoon spoken word event ahead of Thomas Truax playing the same venue in the evening. He graciously watched me stomp around, spewing profanities and tossing spent sheets of paper to the ground in front of fifteen people. I didn’t have the mettle to approach him after.

Officers – another band with a discography that’s frustratingly short, but who clearly favour quality over quantity of output, and who’ve actually released more in the last 18 months than the preceding five years – are on fine form with ‘Animal’, a stealthy groove-driven cut. No Fixed Identity also bring some dark, low-down grooves, but in what I’m vaguely embarrassed to refer to as an ‘urban’ context. With so many guitar-based bands, it’s perhaps easy to forget or otherwise overlook the other musical elements which are, in truth, essential to the city’s diverse culture. The same, therefore, applies to the wibbly jazz stylings of Skwid Ink, who give us an alternate take of ‘Dungeon Politic’.

Parker Lee (how have I never encountered Parker Lee before?) comes on all Pavement, but it’s Jon Jones and the Beatnik Movement who represent the noisy end of the scene – which is perhaps less represented here than is proportional in terms of the kind of bands coming out of Leeds – although Fizzy Blood show the attacking, darker side to their grunge-orientated sound on ‘Animals’. They’re still a new band and young, but they’ve evolved considerably in a short time and are showing the potential to be a serious force.

Napoleon IIIrd is something of a Leeds stalwart, and the version of ‘The Scrape’ which appears here has been remixed by Wild Beasts. It’s an eight-and-a-half minute behemoth, which builds warping electronics around a laid-back but insistent beat. On the subject of remixes, ‘Classic M’ by Team Picture (who are here credited as Group Photograph and are the only act to contribute two songs) is remixed by LPA. It’s a stripped-back dance-up reworking that’s barely recognisable, but works well.

I usually recommend albums where the proceeds are being donated to good causes in principle, but Come Play is an outstanding compilation – beyond outstanding, even.

Come Play

And you can order Come Play here.

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.

AAA

Bearsuit Comp Cover