Archives for posts with tag: Bristol

While we are back in the world of shoegaze… one of the best – and least known – UK shoegaze era bands is Secret Shine. They were released on their Bristol hometown independent label, Sarah Records, which was perhaps better known at the time (inaccurately) as a ‘twee pop’ label. Secret Shine are still releasing classic shoegaze pop in their distinctive style today, 30 years after they started. Here’s their track “Lost in the Middle”, another highlight of the recent essential compilation of contemporary recordings from Sarah Records associated/ derived bands called “Under the Bridge”:

The perfect pairing of the voices of Kathryn Smith (vocals and keyboards) and Jamie Gingell (bass and vocals) with the sonic miasma of guitar from Dean and Scott Purnell provides the basis for this gloriously melodic song with deliberately ambiguous lyrics, they say, as a meditation of sorts “about total absorption in, or totally letting go in, an experience.”

My introduction to Secret Shine came 30 years ago via their track “Take Me Slowly” on a another various artists compilation “Birth of the True” which was released on tiny Liverpool independent label Sugarfrost in 1992. “Take Me Slowly” from that compilation is one of the great obscure classics of early 90s shoegaze.

Secret Shine don’t just release their best music on various artists compilation albums though. As well as their first album on Sarah Records in 1993 there have been further albums released this century. A CD compilation of Secret Shine’s Sarah Records releases (two singles, the “Untouched” album and “Greater Than God” EP) called “After Years” released on US “modern shoegaze” label Clairecords in 2003 which is worth tracking down, although everything on that (and more) is available from Secret Shine on Bandcamp.

The music on the “Under The Bridge” compilation – released on Skep Wax Records, a label set up by Sarah alumni Amelia Fletcher and Rob Pursey (Talulah Gosh, Heavenly, Marine Research, Tender Trap and now The Catenary Wires) – retains all the essential elements of what made the Sarah Records catalogue so important in the 90s. As the Skep Wax website explains:

Time has moved on, but this coterie of ex-labelmates is making music that is as pure and as idealistic as ever.  Every track on Under The Bridge is a pop gem. Some are punk rock, some are indiepop, others are dreamy swirls of fuzz.  Some are gentle, some are some are full of rage, but all of them are defiantly sensitive, literate and full of DIY spirit.  The bands on this compilation are flattered, maybe, that people spend serious money bidding for 7” singles of their old songs.  But they are far more excited about the music they are creating today.

“Made of Light” is mesmerising electronic music from a recent ‘double A side’ digital single from Bristol based musician Kayla Painter.

Painter’s music mixes some of the traditional elements of Detroit techno with more experimental atmospherics, melodies and, in particular, a distinctive approach to rhythm tracks that appear to be generated in part from found sounds or field recordings.

“Made of Light” combines the analog with the digital, part human and part machine, which gives it a bit more warmth than your typical electronic dance music.

If you venture through the back catalogue you’ll find plenty of fine electronica here full of life and adventure.

Saint Severin from Bristol, UK is a new collaboration between Paul Pascoe (Beat Hotel) and artist Siena Barnes, delivering a big, crunching rock and roll riff monster of a pop song in the form of this first single “The Knife”.

“The Knife” is reminiscent of the kind of Big Guitar rock-pop of Danielle Dax around her great “Blast the Human Flower” (1990) album with a bit of “Automatic” era Jesus & Mary Chain motorik sonic assault.

This version of “The Knife” is one side of a Double A side single on Super8SinglesClub out next week. The other side (AA side) is a remix of “The Knife” by Barry Adamson (Magazine and Nick Cave and the Badseeds)

Who knows whether the name Saint Severin was inspired by the Church in Paris of that name, one of several saints over the centuries to bear that name, or the character from “Venus In Furs” immortalised in the Velvet Undeground song of that name, although that particular Severin was no saint at all. Whatever the inspiration, let’s hope there’s more to come from Saint Severin.

Radisson Blue 2019In 2015 two white cranes from Bristol released an album called “Radisson Blue”. I bought the CD at the time and was playing it tonight, wondering if songwriter, guitarist and singer Roxy Brennan had released anything since then. Sure enough the two white cranes Bandcamp page has a 2017 collection of songs called “conway court” and the description “Indie pop folk guitar project that existed between 2012 and 2017 in oxford/bristol/brighton” which appeared to indicate the termination of two white cranes.  However there was also a link on the page to Radisson Blue and two releases under that name. The most recent of these is called “three” and was only released 10 days ago. Here’s the opening track “rhizome”:

As they were with two white cranes, Brennan’s songs as Radisson Blue are perfect pop miniatures. These are minimalist songs, guitars strummed in the style of Young Marble Giants (particularly on the sublime “whitby”, part of this collection of three songs), with the distinctive voice(s) of Roxy Brennan conveying lyrics that are both specific (and poetic) observations of everyday existence and also deep reflections on life and the nature of everything.

“tempt small birds to the balcony / play guitar while looking out to sea / hope you’re somewhere listening out for me/ its so rhizomic when you write it down/ you were living in this sea side town / i’m still living in this sea side town”

Brennan says “rhizome” is about “deluze & guattari’s ideas about rhizomes“.

Their ideas – the rhizome theory – is that in nature the rhizome is a much more complex thing than a tree, and has no evident origin or end. It develops in multi-directional vectors which interweave in plateaus and show no sign of termination. Everything is connected. “Their vision of the rhizome predicts and explains the boom of the social networks.”

It is said that their work has potential to describe the String Theory of Quantum Physics. But my needs are simpler and I’m just happy it describes the multi-directional vectors interweaving between artist pages on Bandcamp that allow new discoveries to be made. Like discovering today how Radisson Blue developed from two white cranes after playing a two white cranes CD and wondering, and then searching (listening out) for more…


kandodo-mcbainSet the controls for the heart of the sun with “Holy Sike” from Kandodo McBain:

I bought a copy of a new album called “Lost Chants/ Last Chance” by Kandodo Mc Bain on impulse after hearing one track in Rough Trade’s east London store a few weeks ago during a trip to the UK.

That track turned out to be “Pelagic Blue Haze”, the last of the 5 tracks on the album. The guitar part reminded me of Robert Fripp’s playing on “Index of Metals” from the Fripp/ Eno collaboration “Evening Star” but over top of a heavy motorik stoner-metal backing.

It was an impulse buy, and I’m glad I took the chance on a band I’d never heard of before. The whole album is wonderful; the most intricate, detailed, hypnotic, fierce, heavy, mesmerising, sublime psychedelic instrumentals you can imagine.

Kandodo McBain are a fusion of UK heavy psych outfit The Heads and US psych guitarist John McBain (Monster Magnet).  Mostly recorded by Simon Price, Wayne Maskell, and Hugo Morgan in Bristol, UK and then more layers added by their US based guitarist John McBain. None of these bands were on my radar, so discovery of this album also opens a door to a rich psychedelic underground scene and back catalogue I’ll be checking out in the months ahead.

The LP plays at 45 or 33 rpm and the CD format comes as a double with one CD playing the 45 rpm version and the other playing the 33 rpm version. Both sound excellent, and the 33rpm CD enters into territory similar to the mighty Earth but with an enveloping kind of thickness and intricate detailed texture to it. Can’t get enough of this album – at either speed – right now.

I usually try to post a Bandcamp link so you can buy direct or a Soundcloud link so you can track the release down somewhere. There doesn’t seem to be anything like that for this album so your best bet may at Creepy Crawl or your local independent record store (if you are in the UK) or a reputable mail-order place such as Norman Records here.

two white cranes_greyscale
two white cranes hail from Bristol in the south west of England. Here’s the first track from their recently released album “Radisson Blue”.

two white cranes on the album is Roxy Brennan, along with Dan Howard and Owen Williams.

PopLib has previously featured another band Roxy and Owen are in – Grubs. Grubs have an album coming out next month called “It Must Be Grubs”. Owen is also in Welsh noise-pop band Joanna Gruesome and now Roxy has joined as one of the two replacements for vocalist Alanna McArdle.

“Radisson Blue” is the second from two white cranes in a year. It is just guitar, bass, drums and voice – sometimes just guitar and voice – but it is all the more captivating for the way the air and space in the music draws in the listener to what takes on the character of a personal performance.

There’s an air of modern urban folk about songs like “I tried” and “Coach Trip” in particular. There’s also a reminder for me of the earliest singles by one of my favourite US bands in the 90s – Crowsdell – who used a similar twisting tangle of melodic guitar to weave musical strands around a distinctive voice to create mesmerising songs.

Bristol has a strong history in producing beguiling folk-influenced pop well outside the mainstream of the ‘alt.indie’ music, being the home of 1980s/1990s indie-pop big hitters Sarah Records and The Subway Organisation. This is a whole different era but there’s still a bit of that wilfully independent spirit there. Seek it out.

Rozi Plain

“Actually” is a new song by Rozi Plain. I’d never heard of Rozi Plain until I found Lost Map Records via Tuff Love who I found via a song called “Seafoam” on a cassette compilation on Bandcamp a few days ago and I can’t remember how I came across that. But I can tell Rozi Plain and her upcoming album “Friend” will become very familiar to me this year.

There’s something about the voice, phrasing, lyrics and music on “Actually” here which reminds me a little of Robert Wyatt, which is a wonderful thing indeed. If you check out other tracks like “Human” you’ll maybe get even more of a sense of this and the adventurous use of quite minimal instrumentation and arrangements – plus the voices – to make something special.

Grubs (via their Facebook page)

Grubs (via their Facebook page)

I have to thank Bill from the exemplary new music discovery radio show Human Pleasure broadcast on RDU in Christchurch for alerting me to this small – 1 minute 26 seconds! – gem from Bristol three-piece Grubs.

It’s only one song and Grubs are pretty new but I really hope to hear more from them. Maybe some ‘name-your-price’ download generosity from us all will encourage them.

This matters because ‘Dec 15th’ has an elliptical pop charm I just can’t shake. There’s simplicity of guitars & drums and voices (so meeting the indie-pop purity laws of K Records’ & Beat Happening Calvin Johnston) but also some chiming circular complexity in the way the voices and guitars are used, like one of those childhood folk songs ’rounders’. As a result it is pleasingly non-formulaic fuzzy jangle pop and I like that and want to hear more. Much more.

Can’t find much about Grubs. They are Owen, Roxy, Jake. Guitar, guitar, drums. Made up of Joanna Gruesome / Trust Fund members though which is as much an indicator of their pedigree & future potential as it is a red herring.