Welcome to Bliss/Aquamarine - alternative, underground and indie music.


I first became aware of Bleeding Gold Records via Tim Chaplin's LP and tape on the label, which I reviewed earlier this issue. Since then, I have received a selection of the label's other releases. Based in San Diego, California, the label specialises in old-school formats, some vinyl, mostly cassette - a real nostalgia trip for those of us who remember the days when the underground music scene was built around tapes and vinyl (in addition to flexis and fanzines). They also offer digital versions of their releases via Bandcamp, for those who prefer the download format.

Harpoon Forever have a 4-song 7" entitled Life-Size Cut-Out. The A-side shows the noisier side of the band: Blue Jay combines a 60s US folk-rock-esque melody with chugging lo-fi powerpop, whilst Cruel Story of Youth takes a chorus that shows the band's love of 80s rock bands like Boston and transforms this sound into something fans of underground powerpop would enjoy. Over on the B-side, there are a couple of super-melodic janglepop songs, Divine and You + Me. Whilst having shades of 60s folk and psych, the main reference point is 80s indiepop, and the songs are easily in the same league as any of the most well regarded bands from this genre. Harpoon Forever are a new name to me but are definitely a band I'm keen to hear more from. These are great songs with strong catchy tunes, and the jangly tracks in particular sound like instant classics.

The other releases I have are all tapes. Bleeding Gold's tapes differ from the home recorded cassettes with photocopied sleeves that were the norm in the tapes scene I became a part of back in the early 90s, being professionally duplicated with on-body printing and pro-printed, mostly full colour, sleeves. The music and artwork show there is still a definite DIY ethos at work here, and it is undoubtedly accurate to consider Bleeding Gold to be continuing in the same tradition as the original DIY tapes movement.

Alligator Indian have a 4-song tape, More Songs About Animals and TV. Revar Yu Drm is a completely uncategorisable song in which drones, medievalesque operatic music, electronic beats, angst-laden alt-pop, voice samples and found sounds are combined to create something that sounds like nothing else. Corpsing is darkly off-centre, ethereal underground pop with sci-fi synths, and PUF//FIN and Later, Data Dog both demonstrate how the synthpop genre encompasses a much vaster area than simply disposable, easily digestible commercial music. A really talented band with lots of innovative ideas.

The Sweets have a split tape with Petey; The Sweets' side is entitled Zing Zang and Petey's side Regis Philbin. The Sweets make DIY lo-fi indiepop with a slightly off-centre feel, whether in the music (Ana) or the lyrics (the other three tracks). The overall sound isn't quite as weird as the cover picture of a mostly naked woman straddling a taxidermy stag head led me to expect, but it's far from blandly straightforward at any rate. Petey appear here with five tracks of noisy powerpop. Some of their songs tread similar musical ground to Boyracer, whilst Little Closer is ultra-melodic harmony pop crossed with the aggression of punk.

A band called Moon Jelly, with songs called things like Clooouds, He's My Shoo Shoo and Foot Foot ... something tells me this is not going to be run of the mill music - and indeed it's not. Space-age synthpop featuring the powerful voice of Anna Wallace, who has a really impressive vocal style, the type of voice that carries itself really far. Analogue synths lend a spacerock feel to the music, though the overall sound is far too quirky and playful to completely fall into that genre. Moon Jelly have a really creative sound, and it's a lot of fun to listen to.

Hehfu have a cassette album, The Single Collection. The explanatory notes in the accompanying booklet show that this is not a compilation of singles, but refers to being single as in not in a relationship. The band's founder Brad Clarke writes "The songs I've written and chosen for this album primarily focus on the break-up of my relationship and the feelings of loneliness, betrayal, hurt, false hope and depression which I suffered as a result". The music is a kind of fuzzy noisepop, with a sound very familiar from the 1990s underground. It tends mostly towards a raw garage sound, kind of like punk-pop but far more emotional and melancholic than is the norm for this genre, with its heart-on-sleeve lyrics portraying genuine sadness and regret. Sometimes the noise is more woozy, reverby and atmospheric, but with a harsh edge. There's far less emphasis on musical experimentation or bizarre lyrics with Hehfu than there is with the other bands I've heard on Bleeding Gold, but their music is still rooted within the true underground tradition, this tape being a completely DIY bedroom recording.

There's a tape album by Furrow, entitled A Field. On the A-side there are a number of tracks in which noisepop with an on-edge urgency meets repetitive trancelike post-rock. Lo-fi distorted vocals and a distinctive and often quite unusual drumming style are a big part of the sound. The B-side tracks abandon the atmospheric aspects in favour of an angular, shouty, punky sound akin to The Fall, along with the more melodic lo-fi noisepop of Gravitate Towards You.

Finally, there's a 6 track EP, Beauty/Duty by Golden Glow, a band with an eclectic musical approach. The main sound here is largely made up of a mixture of 80s-ish janglepop, noisier psychedelic aspects and electronic beats. LiP is heavier, an intense psych-rock instrumental jam session, while Devastate is minimalistic bedroom pop with a hint of jazz, and Gum Down is an innovative combination of reggae and off-centre psych-pop. Another creative project with a healthy disregard for genre barriers.

Bleeding Gold Records is a label that proves the DIY spirit is still alive. The idea of bands recording lo-fi songs in their bedrooms and releasing them on tape is not a thing of the past. It's really exciting and encouraging to stumble across labels putting out so much inventive music by talented artists doing their own thing outside of the restrictions of media-generated fads, and Bleeding Gold is undoubtedly such a label. Find out more at www.bleedinggoldrecords.com


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Text Kim Harten, 2014.