At the beginning of this month, Geoff Barrow’s Invada Records released a split LP from roster act and Bristol fuzz-rockers Thought Forms and Brighton magickians Esben & The Witch (head here to get hold of it). Now, one of the TF tracks, ‘For The Moving Stars’, has some filmic accompaniment courtesy of recent Invada signing CUTS. In the spirit of the record’s genesis, harking back to early Sub Pop splits (“think of those heady early days where you’d get Mudhoney and Sonic Youth covering one another on either side of a 7″, aka record collector heaven”, as Invada say), the clip is inspired by skate videos of yesteryear and opens with archive footage of Bristol luminary Spex skating across the Clifton Suspension Bridge, before cutting to the man today making his way round his home city. Invada and CUTS have kindly given us a first look at the video, which you can watch above, while the label’s Redg Weeks fills us in on the full back story below:
“I first became aware of a lanky skateboarder called Spex in the mid 80s while skateboarding in south Bristol. The skating trend had sailed over the Atlantic from the States and was in full swing by around 1987. Spex was a ridiculous talent and was known all over the south-west of England and further. On days where the cream of San Francisco’s skateboarding community would come over for exhibition shows – Spex would turn up and not only rival them but put most to shame… The entire Bristol skate scene was huge and the worship all us teenagers had for this individual was unmatched for anyone else.
“Up until around ’86 my music tastes were simply HEAVY METAL – nothing more nothing less – it was all about Van Halen, Motörhead, Judas Priest and of course Maiden. When the skate scene started to take over my world in between school and sleeping, I began to see imported VHS videos coming from the States. Videos like ‘Streets On Fire’ introduced me to to a new form of music I’d not really known of: hardcore. Bands like Black Flag, Firehose, Minutemen, Blast, etc, became the mainstay of my listening and from that moment introduced me to all kinds of alternative music.
“When I heard the Thought Forms track ‘For The Moving Stars’, I wanted to have a skate video to accompany it; it immediately conjured up images of kids on the West Coast of America skating along to an early Hüsker Dü or Sonic Youth track – I mentioned this to Geoff and he was in agreement, but we didn’t know what to shoot or who to get involved. Geoff asked me what Spex was up to nowadays – in a weird twist of fate, my kids and his go to the same school – but I hadn’t actually seen him in years. I tracked his number down from a mutual friend and then set up a meeting between us with Invada’s latest signing CUTS, who not makes music but incredible videos too. Spex, despite having serious skating injuries over the past year, was obliging when we played him the track.
Invada Records is pleased to announce the release of a split LP between Brighton’s Esben and the Witch and elemental Bristol fuzz-peddlers Thought Forms, due for release April 7th. It comes off the back of critically lauded outings from both acts last year – the former with Wash the Sins Not Only the Face and the latter with Ghost Mountain.
Recalling the classic era of split singles in the US underground – think of those heady early Sub Pop days where you’d get Mudhoney and Sonic Youth covering one another on either side of a 7”, aka record collector heaven – it’s the perfect manifestation of both acts’ prodigious and earnest approach to touring: a collection of songs forged with the drama and meticulous craft that come from the trial and error of weeks spent on the road testing new material.
Esben’s side immediately reaches a fever pitch as ‘No Dog’ drags itself up from the primordial ooze of Sonic Youth’s early years mastery of cacophony and dissonance, underpinned by the volatile rhythmic propulsion of Fugazi or Hoover. The lone voice left unadorned in the eye of the storm comes from bassist and vocalist Rachel Davies, who summons up the fiery catharsis of Chelsea Wolfe or Sharon Van Etten. The trio’s other contribution here, ‘Butoh’, pursues an altogether more tribal path, kicking up a fury and intensity rarely matched this side of the pond these days.
Thought Forms find an equally cathartic voice across their four songs, but achieve it by totally different means: dressing their tracks up with the swirling swathes of guitar you’d expect from the dreamier edges of the ‘80s US lexicon. ‘For the Moving Stars’ jolts forward from the off with the sort of driving, hypnotic lead lines you’d expect from J Mascis, that is were he armed with Steve Turner’s pedal collection. ‘Your Bones’, meanwhile, is a disarming slow-burner that creeps its way into the back of your mind, erupting from what could have been an early Low cut into an uphill battle against tumbling drums and guitars that crackle like a bonfire on a crisp Autumn night.
In an age where music – outside of healthy fetishist niches – feels more and more dominated by digital formats, the LP serves as a love letter to shelves and record store bins stacked with hidden gems. If the music is anything to go by though, this is far from bargain basement fodder.
1. Thought Forms – ‘Your Bones’
2. Thought Forms – ‘Sound of Violence’
3. Thought Forms – ‘For the Moving Stars’
4. Thought Forms – ‘Silver Kiss’
1. Esben and the Witch – ‘No Dog’
2. Esben and the Witch – ‘Butoh’