Thursday, 27 March 2008

WXSW: Bristol's (gentle) return

Bristol's been in hiding for the last decade or so. The trip-hop and drum'n'bass' heyday is a distant memory. Massive Attack popped out an album since, toured it and slunk back into hiding before anyone's curiosity wore off; by the time we collectively went "oh, that's actually pretty weak" they were safely back in whatever bar it is they run now counting pennies. All hail, then, the return of Portishead.

Massive Attack were basically not relevant any more- their sound had no bearing in the musical world it dropped into, rather like the Prodigy's Always Outnumbered Never Outgunned. Portishead however have managed to carry on their signature atmospheres in a way that not only makes sense today, but actually pushes things forward. Single Machine Gun, downloadable below, sounds a bit like the mass-appropriating Various Production, in its references to paranoid dubstep sparsity, a natural progression of Portishead's THC infused night rattle. Most importantly though, they still have that unidentifiable knack for turning hollow, uncomfortable sounds into something far beyond the sum of its parts. The album, called Third, drops April 28th. I'm only posting this song for free cos I know you'll go out and buy the LP, yes..

MP3: Portishead - Machine Gun


Continuing the Bristol theme: another absentee from the SXSW feature was Fuck Buttons (pictured above), mainly because I'm a pussy. Anyone looking for something satisfying in a post-Battles time of high expectations and open minds though need look no further- where Foals went lite (and should never really have been compared anyway), the Fuck Buttons hold their deconstructive ground. They really are an album band, so take a wallow in this blissful drone snippet then go check out Street Horrrsing on ATP records.

MP3: Fuck Buttons - Sweet Love For Planet Earth


There's a swathe of artists just below the mainstream in Bristol, all sustained by the city's self sufficient gig circuit and refreshingly unambitious ethos. Multi-instrumentalist SJ Esau may be signed to internation label Anticon but Bristol remains his home, physically and musically. Show Pony asked him firstly, what's his opinion of Bristols insular nature, and is it a bad thing?

I’m not really sure. I certainly think that some of the bands / artists
from around here should be getting to more ears but I can’t really imagine
them (the ones I like anyway) getting too much attention from the NME etc.
I’m no expert on this sort of thing though. There are hundreds of bands
here and I’ve only heard a tiny percentage but some very enthusiastic
promoters and a bunch of excellent artists and bands keep things very

•If you had to pick a few, whose music are you enjoying from Bristol at the

Off the top of my head – Twocsinak, Safetyword, North Sea Navigator,
Knowledge Of Bugs, Lacuna, Bronnt Industries Kapital, You & The Atom Bomb,
Gravenhurst, Manyfingers, Matt Elliott, Team Brick. I haven’t been going to
many gigs recently so I guess I’ve got some catching up to do.

•Boomkat called your Anticon signing 'brave', which got me thinking- do you
ever picture who's going to be listening to your music? With a larger
audience for it, and being rather personal in nature, has this consciously changed how you approach making music.

It’s best for me not to think about it (though not always easy). It’s
probably quite an easy trap to fall into, to start trying to please the
people who are going to be buying the records but that’s just going to get
in the way in the end. To be honest, it’s something I’ve been struggling
with a bit because I’m recording the next pile of stuff at the moment and
sometimes I find myself thinking “Some people REALLY wont like this” but
fuck it, I’m just carrying on as I was before and some people liked that

•If you had to write a song about your day so far, what would it's title be,
and what instrument would it be played on?

It would be called Procrastination Expert and it would be played on several
cups of tea.

There's loads of downloads on SJ's site here. The album Wrong Faced Cat Feed Collapse came out on Anticon last year. This track is a collaboration with lablemate-du-jour WHY?:

MP3: SJ Esau - Note

Lethal Brizzle may be stoned a lot of the time, but when things get done, they're pretty damn good. A Brighton feature is in the pipeline, so keep em peeled, and send us suggestions of local treats we might be missing.

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