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Gringo Records - Bandcamp Explorer

  by Mark Rowland

published: 16 / 7 / 2020

Gringo Records - Bandcamp Explorer


In his new series 'Bandcamp Explorer' Mark Rowland goes orienteering through the Bandcamp wilderness to find its hidden gems and begins by profiling the latest releases of Nottingham label Gringo Records.

Bandcamp.com has proved to be a lifeline for independent artists and labels during the pandemic. It’s been an amazing tool for music distribution and discovery for much longer than that. I’ve used it to discover many great acts, some of which (such as Car Seat Headrest, who started his career with self-released albums on Bandcamp) have gone on to bigger things. I’ve also used it as a musician myself in recent years. It’s a resource worth celebrating, which is why I’m writing this column – to draw attention to some of the best releases on Bandcamp. I’ll do this by digging through one of Bandcamp’s genres and subgenres every month. The releases I select don’t have to be new – they just have to be good. I’m going, however, to break my own rules for the very first in this series, and do a deeper dive into a label that uses Bandcamp to great effect – Gringo Records. Nottingham label Gringo Records has been putting out great music from some of the UK’s gnarlier and more leftfield bands, starting with Bilge Pump in 1997. It’s still going strong, putting out four new releases this month. The label has also started a new subscription service – fans can get every release from 2020 in either digital or vinyl formats. Honestly, on the strength of its four recent releases, it’s worth it. First up, Grey Hairs has put out a live album, ‘Halloween – Live at JT Soar’. The band has put out three stonking albums over the past few years (its last record, ‘Health and Social Care’, is well worth a listen). Grey Hairs has a sound that brings to mind the sound of indie rock in the US north west – think the Wipers, TAD, Melvins, Dead Moon and early Nirvana. ‘Halloween’ captures their huge live sound, opening with the lumbering ‘Hydropona’ and closing with the chugging ‘The Chin (Pts I & II)’. It’s high energy and gloopy riffs all the way through – ‘Serious Business’, ‘Backwards’ and ‘Piss Transgressor’ are particular highlights. Next, we have ‘Embarrassed Landscape’ by Irma Vep, which channels the darker, weirder aspects of the psychedelic scene of the late-60s and filters it through a post-punk lens. The easy comparison, when listening to tracks such as ‘The Feeling Is Gone’, with its droning guitars and lazy tambourine beat, would be the Velvet Underground, but there’s certainly more than that to the album. Take ten-minute opening wigout ‘King Kong’, which sounds a bit like The Pop Group jamming out early Pink Floyd. Or the Pavement-ish guitar rhythms on ‘Disaster’. The waltz ‘Tears Are The Sweetest Sauce’ has a real alt. folk feel to it. It’s followed by the garage stomp of ‘Not Even’. It’s arty, but easy to love. Nape Neck’s self-titled album takes us into discordant post-punk territory. Delta 5 spring to mind, as do the aforementioned Pop Group. It takes a little from krautrock and jazz – take the metronomic rhythms of opener ‘You Stand, You Sit’, or the clattering drums on ‘A Worm’. The bass is often the anchor that allows the guitars and drums to veer off in several directions – ‘Job Club' is driven by a particularly hooky bassline, while guitars wooze and wibble around it. Single ‘Paperweight’ – one of the album’s funkier tracks – is driven by a simple but equally immediate bassline that immediately gets your head nodding. Finally, we have ‘Yeah Well’ by Reciprocate, a three-piece that sort of does power pop if power pop managed to divorce itself from its Beatles-worship and embraced free jazz. Opener and lead single ‘Pray Tell’ mixes lovely, hooky harmonies with thrashing drums and bursts of wailing guitars. The band follows that up with ‘Tascam’ – a minute and a half of reversed tape loops and what starts like the start of a memoir (I can’t find any info on where it’s actually from). The rest of the record is full of great pop melodies and songwriting couched in more drum thrash and off-kilter lead guitar. ‘Marble Arch’ is particularly great, but the album’s centrepiece is the two-parter ‘Yeah Well’. Part one is a jazzy jam held together by Stef Kett’s vocal line. Part two uses a reverse effect to create plenty of atmosphere, the band focused on creating a soundscape more than a song, leading your into closer ‘Hold’ with its off-kilter blues riffing. Like all Gringo releases, it’s tuneful, but never conventional.

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Gringo Records - Bandcamp Explorer

Gringo Records - Bandcamp Explorer

Gringo Records - Bandcamp Explorer

Gringo Records - Bandcamp Explorer

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