By way of demonstrating how strong the music scene is in Bristol at the moment below you’ll find a rundown of some of the best albums released by artists in the city during 2012.
There will be people who’ll tell you that in these days of t’internet the whole concept & import of a “local scene” is redundant. I disagree & base my argument on the example of the city I currently live in, Bristol. There’s a huge interweaving network of support for artists in Bristol, way too huge for me to document here, with everyone connected & supportive of everyone else. I reckon this network (plus, of course, lots of talented individuals) has produced an amazingly eclectic & high quality music scene here.
I’ve lived in a lot of different cities over the years & pretty much everywhere I’ve lived I try to get my head around what the local music scene is like. Granted I’ve probably spent longer now in Bristol than I’ve spent in any other city but I still think I’ve never known anywhere with such a wide, diverse & high quality music scene as that here in Bristol right now. Â As the following run down of album’s released by Bristol artists last year will prove, no longer can people dismiss the city musically as justÂ “the home of trip hop” or “all about bass music”.
The following list is in no particular & is far from comprehensive. It’s just a list of albums I’ve enjoyed at one point or another over the year. Interestingly, considering the city’s reputation of late for being the home (or second home depending on where you’re coming from) of dubstep I really struggled to findÂ releasesÂ by electronic artists. In part I guess this will be due to the fact that artists working in this field are more likely to focus on the shorter format, but I knew there must have been some more great electronic albums than those I knew about so I reached out to a couple of forums around Bristol to get a little help (Choke & Hijack), help that was illuminating in terms of electronic releases & in the process of which I had a couple of other obvious releases I’d missed pointed out to me.
So here we go, roughly a top 40 albums released by Bristol artists in 2012.
Lund Quartet – Lund Quartet
Contemporary jazz anyone? Ambitious & lilting release showcasing a seriously impressive array of instruments includingÂ someone on occasional theremin & an omni present turntablist. A classy band oozing with talent & that this is their debut album frankly flabbergasts. Lazy Sunday morning music.
Pinch – Pinch: MIA 2006 – 2010
A release collecting all the music the amazing Pinch has released on various labels other than Tectonic (his own) over the last few years. MIA is a brilliant intro to the prince of dubstep & a great way to explore the origin’s of that genre.
OLO Worms – Yard Is Open
An album that seeks to defy categorisation which is probably why it took me over 2000 words when I sat down to review itÂ – and that was the edited cut. OLO Worms are what can be described as a pigeonhole unfriendly band, one that hops & skips around an unbelievable amount of different genres but can be summed up as very English outrÃ© / quirky indie.
Minotaur Shock – Orchard
Melodic, glitchy, soothing tunes made using a whole orchestra of instruments all played by one man, David Edwards . Seriously creative & clever beyond belief the album jumps about so fast it’s hard to pinpoint (again – see also OLO Worms) at any one time quite what you’re listening too. That what you’re listening to is fab tho is never in question.
Ekoplekz – Intrusive Incidentalz Vol 2 & SkalectrikzÂ
Chaotic DIY electronic artist who specialises in chugging dystopic techno jams. Lofi & analogue.
Knife Liibrary – Drowners
Unsettling & decidedly “different”, Drowners, in which Matt, (him from Fairhoms, Beak> etc), the solo protagonist, “explores the dissonant and modern compositional possibilities ofÂ acousticÂ music”. We reviewed it here.
Austere – Casserole Of Nonsense
One of the saddest losses to the Bristol’s music scene in 2012 was Austere’s run as the cities foremost grinding doom band ending. During their years together Austere shape shifted themselves from being a kind of run of the mill band into being a band who were musically mature & who were turning themselves into an exciting & idiosyncratic band. Post rock, riffy, grindy, experimental, epic jams for the twenty twelvsies. The world was their oyster just as they disbanded – sad.
Nothing on Soundcloud by Austere but you can stream the album on Spotify hereÂ & it’s still available to buy from Amazon (and other places).
Roly Porter & Cynthia Millar – Fall Back : Live At Aldeburgh
Former Vex’d man Roly Porter and multi-instrumentalist Cynthia Millar join forces & create a blend of rich expansive electronics, ethereal joy, harsh jolts & orchestral bliss outs.
Quakers – Quakers
A rap consortium produced by Geoff âPortisheadâ Barrow (his first of 3 inclusions in this list). Some familiar and accomplished rap.
Drokk – Drokk
The imagined soundtrack for 2000 AD’s megalopolis, one feels Dredd himself would approve of this soundtrack. Created by Geoff Barrow & Ben Salisbury it’s minimalist urban electronica that sounds dated, contemporary & futuristic all at the same time.
Beak> – >>
Experimental post rock in an analogue kraut stylee, this band was formed by Portishead member Geoff Barrow & it not only built on the excellence of the first one but improved on it too. Final of three inclusions on this list by Mr. Barrow & second of four inclusions by Mr Matt. Our review.
Fairhorns – Doki Doki Run
Matt again this is his first release on a big label, Invada, who’ve had a great year. It’s probably his most accessible release & was certainly the album of his that received some serious & well earned attention from the music press. Our review of the album concluded it was “Excellent stuff” & I’d challenge you to find someone who’d disagree.
Mx Lx – Black Meta!
“This is a masterful display of how a grand orchestral work of twisted genius can be made to sound like it was created by a cast of 100’s when it fact it’s made by single one. Black Meta! spends ~ 80% of it’s time smacking you round the head with hurty noises only to then pull a volte face & softly stroke you up with beauteous calming tranquility” – to quote us from our top 50 albums of the year. Magnifique.
Jody Wisternoff – Trails We Blaze
Long time Bristol resident blends elements of house, nu disco, progressive techno and bass on this, his debut solo release on Anjunadeep. Classic & contemporary.
Big Naturals – Big Naturals
Big naturals are a two piece experimental noise band who not only seriously kill it live but also went for it like a bull at a gate on this, their debut long player. An absolutely brutal & quite unashamedly brilliant release deserving of a far larger audience than it received. We saw them help Castrovalva & Hysterical Injury crush The Croft back in August – one of the live shows of the year.
Big Joan – The Long, Slow Death Of Big Joan
The bombastic Big Joan not only played some of my favourite gigs of 2012 but also released one of my favourite albums of the year – hence it’s totally well deserved high riding position in our end of year chart (no. 22). Read what we said about it over here.
The Hysterical Injury – Dead Wolf Situation
The brother / sister duo THI are going from strength to strength – and so much do we at Louder Than War like their noise that we not only reviewed one of their gigs this year but also this album. Gnarly femme fronted riot band that comes atcha at 100 miles an hour then swaddles you in a warm rocking fug – by which I mean it’s not so scary as it at first appears.
Black Roots – On The Ground
This is the year that the long running Bristol roots reggae band (who recorded a couple of Peel sessions) came out of recording retirement & released their first album for some time. And what a cracker it was too. Our review.
Dubkasm – Brixton Rec. Master
A reissue album featuring previously unreleased cuts from the cities foremost proponents of digidub. Read our extensive album launch cum review here.
Bass Clef – Reeling Skullways
On this albumÂ Ralph CumbersÂ adopted a “no samples” policy & used only raw modular synth ingredients to fashion his “most involving, sensitive and timeless body of work yet.”
The Liftmen – Luftwaffe Pond
Masters of quirky indie – fun times charmers whose indiepop tunes have a dark edge. Post punk at it’s finest – one feels Peel would’ve loved them. At first listen seemingly slight but it sneaks its way under your skin & makes your heart fair skip with joy once there. Our review.
Our Arthur – Humour Me
To quote from our review of Humour me: “Our Arthur have crafted a handful of quiet masterpieces and a couple of what could be pop classics. It is at turns a heartwarming and a heartbreaking listen. A soft triumph.”
Katapulto – Bad Tourist
Katapulto is the alter ego of Polish electronic musician Wojtek Rusin. “In Katapultoâs music deadpan lyrics meet quasi-danceable beats and beautiful melodies. Maximal rather then minimal, it is multi-dimensional music of constant metamorphosis.”
Rozi Plain – Joined Sometimes Unjoined
Cheating a bit here as Rozi isn’t strictly speaking a Bristol resident but she lived here long enough for us to consider her “one of ours”. She’s another result of the city’s thriving indie / folk scene, playing guitar on this album & singing with a haunting yet uplifting voice. Pared down & creative.
Crybaby – Crybaby
Got to be honest I’m not the world’s foremost authority on “crooning” but I can spot a decent album when it confronts me. Rich, brooding and chock full of emotion.
Sonance – Like Ghosts
Fancy getting a little South Western drone / doom in your lives? As Austere are now no more your best bet’s gotta be Sonance. They’ve been the toast Louder Than War already recently scoring an impressive review which you can read here.
The Sky Is Blue – The Slow Dance of the Infinite Stars
We like it acoustic in Bristol & The Sky Is Blue are one of many lofi indie cum folk bands in the city killing it at the moment. A gorgeously subtle, nuanced album.
Figaro – Holy Spinoza
Figaro may only have been together for a short time but their sound belies that fact, it being mature & distinctly confident. Well worth checking out if majestic sounding indie’s your thing.
Gravenhurst – The Ghost In Daylight
The marvellous Gravenhurst’s first album since 2007 inevitably begged the question “was it worth the wait” & invariably received the answer “and some”. The fact that it missed out on our end of year countdown can only be attributed to a gross oversight on our part. Released on Warp, The Ghost explored themes of “compulsion, degradation, and the possibility of transcendence,” & did so in a beautiful, serene & even haunting manner.
Termites – Termites
Self described “panto pop” band Termites actually spend their time betwixt London & Bristol. A band with a wide range of influences, something that becomes apparent upon listening to their debut eponymous album which is an album that bounds & lollops along spreading joy as it does.
Joyce the Librarian – They May Put Land Between Us
Excellent acoustic folk cum indie group (while definitely not being Mumfy folk-indie). Stripped back, warm & ever so endearing they’ve received loads of airplay across many national as well as local stations – and well deserved it’s been too.
An Axe – She Is Dust
Dark surf wave cum noir pop quartet. We reviewed this album on these pages & gave it the huge thumbs up it deserves. Read that review here.
Vausz â Bosozoku
Cracking label Slime Recordings notched up their 50th release with this album, one whose supposed intent was to “re-capture the wide-eyed thrill of the first age of rave, that era of experimental sounds and styles which changed the way so many of us listen to music forever, and re-interpret it for a new generation.” Music to move minds.
Vessel – Order Of Noise
An album of downtempo house & filthy dub – a soundtrack for your dreams. Astonishingly accomplished record.
Jim Moray – Skulk
Bristol are currently killing it in the genre “folk” & none more so than the “award-winning English folk musician” Jim Moray (who I actually only just found out was a Bristol resident a week or so ago). But hec, don’t just take my word for it, Skulk only scored a number 2 position in this years influential froots rundown beating such amazing names as Bellowhead, Staff Benda Bilili & Lau. A true talent worthy of a larger audience.
Jim Rivers – Airport Vultures
Effortlessly shifting between house & techno this is a masterful display of it’s oeuvre – so much so that on Facebook Laurent fucking Garnier gushes about it enthusiastically saying “…It’s all super funky, musical and damn well produced. Albums like this are very VERY rare nowdays, and I’d like to thank you for sharing it with me“.
Laid Blak – Red and Blak
The band describe themsleves as both an “urban reggae heavyweight” and a “street soul” band which should give you an idea as to their sound, throw in a bit of hip hop & jazz & you’re there. Constants on the Bristol music scene for many years most Bristol residents (me, anyway) will know about them thanks to their impressive performances at various fezzies around the city.
Emptyset ââ Medium
Ok, so this isn’t an album but it’s so fucking great I couldn’t exclude it. This is the Brizzle duo’s first release on their new label, Subtext. Rhythmic music in a dynamic process of change but which never quite repeats itself. A stark, caustic, darkly sculpted release.
Buggsy – A Bit of Bugz 2012
Rastafarian rapper with astonishing lyrical mobility and who mixes his multi-syllabic flow over Grime, Hip-Hop and Dubstep rid dims. Possibly Buggsy is most well known thanks to his collaborations with the cities king of all things Purple, Joker, especially this mindblowingly brilliant track.
Nasty Little Lonely – Gutterdub
The female fronted grunge / rock band Nasty Little Lonely (formally known as Rock In Your Pocket) slipped out an album towards the end of 2012 that somehow slipped under my radar despite the fact that I saw them liveÂ four times during the year (albeit supporting other bands). Great album well worth your attention. Visit their Bandcamp to hear more / buy.
James McKeown – English Dream
“Gorgeous” & “beautiful” are two words that get bandied about willy nilly by music journalists, more often than not inappropriately. Not so in this instance though. Jim McKeown’s second solo album is all stripped back beauty & nothing but. Technically accomplished, subtle & timeless songwriting definitely deserving of your attention. Check out the album preview below & be becalmed.
Final thing, I know there are some tenuous choices here – for instance most people would think of Bass Clef as a Hackneyite that a Brizzle boy but what can I say, most people here still consider him “ours” & Reeling was recorded here & released on Punch Drunk. Similar (but different) for Rozi Plain. However I did draw the line at including Tenement Yard Vol 3 even though Bristol resident Lizzie B does vocals on one track!
Needless to say any I’ve missed feel free to bob us a comment below. Similarly let us know about your city – Bristol was voted as the UK’s music capital a couple of years ago but how strong’s the local scene where you live?