Bristol is musically probably best known for the “Bristol Sound”, which was the name given to a group of artist who broke through into the mainstream with a sound that was given the stamp ‘trip-hop’. Best known are probably Massive Attack, Portishead and Tricky, but there were many others. Even though Portishead’s Geoff Barrow later rejected the term, trip-hop still remains a genre to this day.
But a city with such a rich history holds so much more music. That’s why we decided to delve into Bristol’s music scene and check out what’s going on these days. Incubate is also no stranger to Bristol’s music acts, in the past we had plenty of musicians from Bristol over to play at our festival.
Portishead mastermind Geoff Barrow has been a very active force in Bristol’s music scene before and ever since Portishead’s successes.
Geoff always having been a large hip-hop fan led him to start Quakers a hip-hop collective with 35 rappers, surrounding producers Fuzzface (Geoff), 7-Stu-7 (Portishead’s in-house producer) and Katalyst (Australian producer and partner of Invada Records). They found most of their rappers on MySpace and even sampled a marching band version of Radiohead’s Fitter Happier. They released their first album at the end of March on Stones Throw Records.
Geoff started Invada Records in 2001. The label has released several artists during its runtime and it also features some interesting Bristol acts.
Some are his own projects, like Beak>, which was started by Geoff Barrow, Billy Fuller and Matt Williams all three musicians from Bristol. Their debut album was all improvised live and recorded without any overdubs, very different from what Geoff had always done with Portishead. The result is a set of songs with heavy Kraut-rock influences. The band is currently prepping a new album, which promises more Kraut-y goodness.
But this guy doesn’t sit still. He also has a project called Drokk together with composer Ben Salisbury. They created a soundtrack called ‘Music Inspired By Mega-City One’. This project started when they worked on a real soundtrack that was supposed to accompany the upcoming movie Dredd, based on the comic book Judge Dredd. But for reasons unknown their soundtrack had been dropped, so Barrow decided to release it on his own label. It’s dark, brooding synth music, which sounds like a perfect soundtrack to an 80’s action movie.
Another release is by Anika although not always living in Bristol, but travelling between that place and Berlin. Geoff recorded her debut album with Beak> as backing band within 12 days. The result is a lot of dub and post-punk cover versions of other songs.
A band that played at last years Incubate, Thought Forms hasn’t released on Invada yet, but they are currently working on a new album, which will. They play a kind of music that sounds like it’s all coming from some sort of unconsciousness. A mix of ambient and noise guitars, with a heavy sprinkle of psychedelics. The Fauns is another band who are currently working on an album to be released on Invada. This band is a bit more transparent about it’s influences. They are shoegazing beautifully, with the Twin Peaks like vocals from their singer. Not the most original music ever, but really well performed, and that also counts for something.
But Geoff isn’t the only one doing interesting stuff in Bristol. There is a large collection of wonderful underground bands. Not all alike in sound, but definitely very interesting and progressive.
A band that has been playing the Netherlands frequently and also played Incubate (ZXZW) in 2008 is Zun Zun Egui. This band plays such an eclectic mix of styles and influences, that it’s almost impossible to put a name on it. A weird mix, but still recognisable at times.
Another interesting project by one the members from Zun Zun Egui and SJ Esau is Hesomagari. This one is also chaotic, but stays a bit more on the popside. Probably best describable as experimental pop music. Thumping drums, chants and sunny melodies.
The other half of Hesomagari is SJ Esau. This guy played Incubate in 2011. His music is an experimental form of pop music, which you might know from the older Animal Collective records. He seems immersed in a lot of Bristol’s music, so I’m glad he had the time to answer me some questions. He is currently working on a new record, check the preview below.
A more electronic oriented kind of music can be heard from Silver Pyre (incu 2009), they fuse electronic beats, shimmering synths, minimal guitars and lush vocals to a form a mix that finds itself somewhere between dance and indie. Another previous Incubate artist is Gravenhurst.
Also check out: Landslide Purist. He recently released his album ‘The Ghost in Daylight’ on Warp Records. His mellow tunes are beautiful sonic-folk songs, with a certain depth in the music that takes a few listens to get through to you.
OLO Worms, make dark-electronic tunes, that bring to mind some of the city’s history of trip-hop music. A bit more on the indie side are Francis Fear. It’s indie disco with danceable melodies and a driving rhythm section. Something that is worth checking out, but probably is just a one-off project is Silver Stairs of Ketchikan, a project by Charlij Romijn from Thought Forms. Slow droning improvised pieces, set up for Bang The Bore’s 20:20 project.
Matt Loveridge once played in a band called Team Brick but he quit that one and now he plays in several projects. I was not able to get the full overview but I know that he at least makes music under the moniker MXLX and Klad Hest.
Kochari, creates loop-heavy down-tempo ambient tunes. With some found sound samples to give it a very atmospheric and nostalgic feel. Stumbleine, is also down-tempo, but more break-beat and glitchy tunes. He incorporates some heavy bass, to give it a dub feel. Very warm music, that is probably perfect for a Sunday hangover.
Xihilisk, creates electronic music that goes all over the place; sometimes very downtempo, but it can also evolve into more Fuck Buttons-like noise or post-rock like parts.
There is also a really active club/dance scene in Bristol. Sam from SJ Esau gave his vision on why this is so: “Bristol is mainly known for its club scenes I think. Dubstep was / is a big thing here with lots of that genre’s celebrated artists coming from here. That relates to the dub influenced “trip-hop” of the past too.”
I think these dub influences are very present in a lot of the work from Bristol-based producers. One of them is Al Tourettes. This guy creates a unique brand of electronic music; it’s energetic, bass-heavy and very funky.
Headhunter (incu 2010) is a producer who also works under the name Addison Groove. His style can be defined as bass music, it’s a mix between dubstep, drum ‘n bass, grime and a lot more. Peverelist used to own an influential Bristol record store and now runs a Bristol Dubstep label called Punch Drunk Records and Livity Sound. He also creates his own dubstep tunes.
Eats Everything is an underground techno producer, who’s thumping bass lines are perfect dance floor material.
Joker is a producer who comes from the so-called “purple” movement in Bristol. Together with Guido and Gemmy they created a kind of music that mixes grime and dubstep, into something unique. They incorporated melodies and synths into the heavy garage sound. Joker has become one of the biggest of these three. He performed at Incubate 2009.
Asa is a producer who worked with the aforementioned Stumbleine. The music they create sounds amazing, but he also does some fine work on his own. Coming from a dubstep background, he started experimenting more with sampling and created his own style, which could best be defined as a very chill, laidback kind of dubstep. Or whatever.
There is probably tons more of dance/club music coming from Bristol, but I don’t have enough time to get to know it all. So I hope the above will help you on your way.
I had some trouble finding the right kind of clubs and venues to cover, so I will let Sam from SJ Esau do the word for me: “The Cube is a really great place. It’s an arts cinema but they have a lot of live music too and are always up for hosting interesting things. The Croft and The Louisiana are great solid venues but it depends what they’re putting on any given night. Cafe Kino hosts a lot of great DIY shows. “
If you have any tips, recommendations or comments on this article, you can add them blow.
Just as always I have tried to fish out the most interesting music from what I could find, but it’s impossible to get a full overview of everything that’s going on.