See also – RIP Mark Barton
Mark Barton was a much loved and influential music writer who sadly lost his battle with cancer on the 21 st of February 2020. For over two decades he tirelessly and passionately championed underground, alternative, independent bands and artists. Mark had the unique ability to write with wit, imagination and creativity, conjuring words into mental pictures. Mark’s boundless enthusiasm has led the Edinburgh based, independent label, Bearsuit Records, to release a tribute compilation album. Taking the title “The Sunday Experience” from Mark’s website.
Bearsuit Records has collected together 18 songs for the CD (all proceeds from the CD release will be donated to Macmillan Cancer Support) and a whopping 37 songs, over 3 hours of music, on the Bandcamp release. With so much on offer, the compilation naturally covers a wide range of left field music. For the purpose of this reviewers’ sanity, I shall only be covering the 18 tracks making up the CD.
Anyone can make a great mixtape but few can make a great compilation album. A good compilation is a rare thing, a great compilation album, mythological. There needs to be a perfect storm of atmosphere and style, flowing from the start to the finish. Mixing musical genres, styles and tempos, but most importantly, there needs to be a collection of the perfect artists. Not necessarily your favorites or the biggest names, but perfect in the sense of a collective interest, regardless of genres, a collective vibe.
The opening tracks to a compilation are very important. These first three will be the mood, style and the pacemakers. On “The Sunday Experience,” the opening song is by “The Lovely Eggs.” A psychedelic, new wave, pop rock banger. This flows freely into the “Schizo Fun Addict” tune. It’s a darker, edgier sounding garage rock song, with fuzzed out vocals and guitars. This drifts warmly into the dreamy, 90’s tinted, underbelly pop of “Big Flower.”
The character and atmosphere of the compilation is now established. It must take the listener on a musical journey. A hat-trick of alternative artists, “Kiran Leonard,” “Moon Duo” and “JD Meatyard” add gentle twists and turns before building to the heavyweight, raucous, primal roar of “Sweet Relief” by “Pigs X7.” A tempo drop with the compilations first rock instrumental by “Wizard’s Tell Lies” before ripping the ear drums with the throbbing, industrial metal of “Ringer” by “Godflesh.”
Reaching the compilation halfway point, the second instrumental changes the style. “John 3:16” with “To Help Me Obey You.” An woozy, hypnotic electronic song that starts off a delicate run of beautiful and varied instrumentals. “Three Heads In The River” by “Needle Into A Bug” is a delightfully haunting, eerie composition, that wouldn’t sound out of place in a horror film score. “Harold Nano” and “Yello 6” continue the soundtrack theme, before “Isan” delivers a slice of fluffy, warm, dreamlike electronica and “Fortdax” takes us on a surprise, electronic, musical journey to the Far East.
The last quarter of the compilation is a difficult beast to tame. Obviously you want to jam out, while steering the listener to the desired destination. Bearsuit Records, however, go for a different and all together much cleverer approach. A pull on the heartstrings and a welcome reminder of the reason for this compilation, a tribute to Mark Barton, his writing and his website. The song, “The Sunday Experience,” is a neat, stripped back, live recording by “The Bordellos.” A touching, heartfelt, moving tribute to Mark. The album plays out on a respectful note with the electronic wizard “Polypores” gradually building a brooding, emotional soundscape on “Lelan.” Then “Rothko,” rounding the CD off with the perfect “Place Your Soul Next To Mine.”
“The Sunday Experience” is a fitting tribute. The range of musical styles is truly impressive and nothing feels forced, nothing has been squeezed in. Bearsuit Records have, probably, achieved the mythological thing, an excellent compilation album.