Group of the Altos – R U Person or Not

Altos_Sleeve

So, this month sees mini50’s first release of 2015 in the form of the brilliant ‘R U Person or Not’ by Milwaukee’s Group of the Altos.  For those of you not in the know, GOTA are a 12 piece alternative rock band from the USA.  Their sound is hard to pin down as it drifts from harsh and loud to subtle and beautiful; from flirting with the likes of Swans, Sparklehorse and the Bad Seeds to dabbling with a bit of hip hop.  Sound insane?  Well it kind of is but somehow they pull it all together and make a cohesive, challenging and beautiful record.  We are very excited about this record and hope that they get gobbled up by fans.  Released on 12″ vinyl you can pre-order your copy of the record now from the mini50 store.

Enjoy!

PRESS RELEASE:

We are drunk sometimes, maybe we smoke too much or are pissed about bullies, or thunder when it’s too far away. So we sit together and hum all the time. Play electric guitars totally distorted. And beats. Let our hearts break and scream (when we are all courage). This is our full expression of forgiveness or the lack of it…

Group of the Altos (altos) are a twelve piece avant-garde rock band from Milwaukee, featuring Volcano Choir’s Daniel Spack. Starting life as a five, born to explore the world of sound, altos has grown from five to twelve in an attempt to increase the instrumental density and volume of their work through quantity and quality of musician rather than simple use of effects. This honest approach to creation sits well with their ethos; to explore, as Spack says, “why sound sounds that way, and how two sounds sound together”.

Having come together originally in 2006 the release of one record to date; 2012’s ‘Altos’, may come as surprisingly sparse output. However, the bringing together of twelve individual musicians, with a variety of musical projects on the go at any one time, is no mean feat. When they do get together under the one musical banner, something magical happens. Something that requires love, nurture and time to grow and take shape. The output may be sparse but the most beautiful things in life are worth waiting for.

‘R U Person or Not’ is the first full length release from the group and continues their exploration of the world of sound with the creation of a dynamic, alternative record packed with intensity, intrigue and an undeniable sense of cool. Where their debut EP used vocals sparingly, focusing more on instrumental compositions, ‘R U Person or Not’ fully embraces the vocal as an instrumental tool, creating a record that spans genres with cohesion and skill. The record highlights perfectly the coming together of the twelve different musical worlds within the group, showcasing their skills and setting them apart from their contemporaries with a bold statement about the most difficult of life skills, for without a wound, there can be no forgiveness. Without forgiveness, there can be no peace.

mini50 in 2015

So it’s a new year.  It’s that time when people decide to change things, make things better in their lives.  This ranges from cutting out alcohol and getting more exercise to simply setting goals and targets for the year ahead.  I have never been one for the former approach but with the label and music I am most definitely about setting targets and having aims.  When I started mini50 in 2011, I guess the aim was simply to help artists I loved, that I thought maybe not enough people loved, get their music out there and heard.  I have to say, it’s been a lovely thing watching artists like Conquering Animal Sound and Caught in the Wake Forever grow over the years and whilst I cannot take credit for that I feel an immense satisfaction in knowing I believed in them at the beginning.  Much like Trampoline, for me, it has always been about finding new, exciting acts to share with others.  That was what it was about then and it’s, mostly, what it’s about now.  However, when I started the label, I never expected to be entering the 5th year of existence with such excitement and relish about the artists we are working with and going to work with.  A great deal of this is due to the fact I am not alone on this adventure anymore.  Stephen from Hiva Oa joined the label well over a year ago and since then the label has gone from strength to strength.

Sketches for Albinos started 2014 with the brilliant, and sadly overlooked, record ‘Fireworks and the Dead City Radio.  SfA is of course an alias for Matthew Collings.  In 2014, Collings released 3 new records and re-released 1 other.  2 under his own name, 1 as one half of Graveyard (his project with me) and one as Sketches for Albinos.  It was a hugely successful year for him and his album was our first ever release on vinyl.  A beautiful photograph book accompanies this record, with photos from Collings girlfriend Elin Svennberg.  It’s a truly beautiful thing.

Sketches for Albinos is the lighter side of Collings work.  Whilst his solo stuff mixes tension and aggression, SfA is something lighter and distilled but equally as compelling.  It was a pleasure to work with a man who is clearly on the way to bigger things and recognition within his field.  End of year lists, such as Headphone Commute’s suggest that this year was the mere beginning for him and we hope that this means that his work as SfA will also get the attention that it clearly deserves in the future.

Next up was Now Wakes the Sea.  How ‘Bildungsroman’ did not receive critical acclaim I will never know.  By far and away the best record released by a Scottish artist in 2014 the press just didn’t seem to want to know about it.  Well, Song, by Toad did.  But other than that the attention this brilliant, wonky pop gem received was massively down heartening.  Our hopes for that record were high, so to sit here and look back it was massively disappointing to see such a luke warm reception for one of Scotland’s most talented song writers.  It’s not too late of course for it to get the attention it deserves but it seems like such a shame to me as I sit here writing this.  Perhaps, of course, I am wrong about that record.  But I do believe I know enough about music to know what is good and what is not.  Bildungsroman would make my top 5 albums of 2014 if I were allowed to include my own releases in such lists.

Finally in 2014 we released our first long player by Old Earth.  Again, ‘A Wake in the Wells’ failed to receive the attention that we felt the album merited.  Todd Umhoefer’s output is actually quite incredible.  It seems endless and the speed with which it is produced should suggest a drop in quality from time to time.  However, this is not the case.  ‘A Wake…’ very much picked on from where Small Hours left off, and actually upped the game, but the baffling part for us was where Small Hours sold well on CD, ‘A Wake’ failed to shift as many and was on 12″ vinyl.  It’s a really odd thing the selling of music. At times it makes no sense and anyone who says that there is a logic to it is lying.  Sometimes, the way music sells and the format it sells on best is quite, quite baffling.

Anyways, 2014 has been a learning curve.  Great music released and many lessons learned.  Which leads us in to 2015 with optimism, excitement and a great deal of great new music.

Up first on 23 February we have the quite amazing record ‘R U Person or Not’ by Milwaukee’s Group of the Altos (or just altos).  This is a very exciting record for a number of reasons.  Firstly, we think it’s an ambitious record that transcends genres and will appeal to a great deal of people.  Secondly, for us, it’s a big step up in terms of the people we are working with.  One member of altos is also a member of Volcano Choir – for those who don’t know Justin Vernon’s project having finished (?) with Bon Iver.  Secondly, there are 12 brilliant musicians within altos, one of whom performed on the amazing Death Blues record ‘Non-Fiction’ by Volcano Choir’s Jon Mueller – voted 6th best avant record of 2014 by none other than Rolling Stone magazine.  So we are dealing with people who know their shit and expect a certain level of professionalism.  As such, we need to up our game and hopefully the lessons learned in 2014 are allowing us to do just that.  Anyways, keep your eyes and ears out for altos record because I genuinely believe it’s the best thing we’ve released to date and that is a massive compliment given the records we’ve released in the past that I absolutely love.

Up after altos are Swedish act The Silence Set.  Again, the expectations are high.  Both Dag Rosenqvist and Johan G Winther are no newbies in the world of music.  Dag has been featured in Pitchfork, has huge repsect in the field he works in and raises the level of artist we have worked with to a new level again.  Johan himself is no spring chicken either having worked with the likes of Peter Broderick and Nils Frahm and indeed, Frahm appears on the album, along with Heather Broderick.  So you see, the expectation levels are immediately raised.  The Silence Set’s album is simply beautiful and one I cannot wait to share with the world.  It’s deserving of great acclaim – but whether it will get it is a mystery.  If there is any justice in the world, then it will.  And we will be working our backsides off to make sure that it does.

The remainder of the year is dedicated to two albums.  One by New York based artist Bastardgeist and the other the second album by our very own Hiva Oa.  Both these records are nearing completion so timescales are kind of up in the air but to say we are excited about them both would be an understatement.  Bastardgeist’s music is simply phenomenal.  The first time we heard it we knew we had to have him on the label/work with him.  So it is truly exciting to be working with him towards a physical release.  As for Hiva Oa.  Well, they are our number one act.  The act that pushed us forward as a label and really changed the playing field for us.  The act I believe in completely.  And the album I am probably most excited about.  I have heard nothing of it as yet other than some tracks they played live a while back.  The addition of Matthew Collings to the line up has definitely been a big addition to their sound.  So I wait with great anticipation for their record to hit my inbox and I am excited about it getting out to the world.

It’s a busy year ahead for sure but we are excited about what is in store.  We hope you will join us for the ride because without people buying the records and supporting the artists their would be no point or future for the label.  We wish everyone the best for the year ahead and look forward to reporting back on the ups and downs of 2015.  Hopefully more ups but that, like everything else in music, is the mystery we are trying to unravel.

Congratulations Matthew Collings

Delighted to say that my friend and partner in Graveyard Tapes, Matthew Collings, will be releasing his new solo album via the awesome Denovali records. ‘Silence is a Rhythm Too’ is a brilliant piece of music.  And to make things even sweeter, Denovali will be re-releasing his debut record ‘Splintered Instruments’.  Both these records will be released on CD and vinyl and will hopefully see Matt finally get the recognition that his work deserves.  Following on from his beautiful ‘Fireworks and the Dead City Radio’ under his Sketches for Albinos moniker.  If you are not familiar with the work of Denovali, then do check them out because they release some superb records and it’s wonderful to see Matt added to their roster.  So a massive congratulations to him.

Now Wakes the Sea – Original Bone

Today we offer you a FREE download of ‘Original Bone’, the first single to be taken from the new Now Wakes the Sea album ‘Bildungsroman’ coming on mini50 on 26 May.  We are very excited by this record and we already have a lovely quote from Duglas T. Stewart of BMX Bandits fame, which might just make some of you sit up and pay attention.  He said:

“Listening to Now Wakes the Sea isn’t safe or predictable.  There are moments of fragile beauty and of light and then suddenly you are plunged into darkness.  It can be a little scary at times but it feels like going on a real adventure, an adventure in sound”

Anyways, Original Bone is out and we hope you enjoy the song and the video and that it gets you all excited about the forthcoming album.  We cannot wait.

 

Matthew Collings

It’s not that I don’t really want to be writing this piece. It’s just that I want others to be writing this piece too, or similar pieces about this artist. The reason I am writing this piece though is that, for some reason, others have not.  But I was thinking about it over the weekend and since I really cannot figure out why one of the most exciting, creative, alternative and upcoming artists in Scotland, if not the UK, is not getting the press attention he really deserves, I thought I would try and get the ball rolling and acknowledge his importance.  And I  want to be clear, we are not talking simply about a musician here.  We are talking about an artist.

Matthew Collings is, first and foremost, my friend. Since I met him back in 2010, my musical life has been much richer and through working with him, I have become a much better musician and person.  I genuinely believe that.  His no bullshit approach to music is refreshing.  There is no back slapping or telling people they are great because he doesn’t want to offend.  What he wants to do is challenge, so the truth will out.  And the truth can be hard to hear, yet it is what makes us better artists, makes us want to strive to be better and to create things that resonate, not just exist.  That’s the theory anyways.  And it ties in beautifully with a piece I read at the weekend about Damon Albarn.  Basically he said “The problem I have, is that the minute I’ve done one thing, I want to do something else.  I find it hard to respect a lot of successful bands and musicians, because, although there can be subtle, nuanced changes in what they do, there aren’t any really bold new moves, lyrically or sonically or melodically.  Yet it seems like the world is completely satisfied with that situation.  I mean, that’s fine.  But the idea of slowly grinding out a huge career, based on ‘This is what you get when you buy this kind of record” – I just find that a bit…”  It’s this need to challenge, to always evolve, to move in different directions, to not be predictable and add to the general noise, that makes Collings stand out from the rest.

We at mini50 have just released his new record under the moniker Sketches for Albinos ‘Fireworks and the Dead City Radio’, so part of the purpose of this post is to help promote this brilliant record.  We are extremely proud to have released this and the whole thing is looking quite beautiful coming on 12” vinyl and featuring a photo book by Matt’s girlfriend, the very talented Elin Svennberg.  All in all it is a lovely piece of art, which if I didn’t run the label I would definitely want to own myself and have in my vinyl collection.

However, it’s the cumulative impact of Matt’s work that I think deserves recognition and to be talked about more in the media. If we look at last year’s solo release ‘Splintered Instruments’ alone, he deserves more than he got in terms of press attention. Between his solo work, released under his own name, and his work as Sketches for Albinos he already has an impressive résumé. With other albums under both these guises complete and lined up for future release his stock as a musician is ever increasing.  And not any old musician, but an exciting, ground breaking one.  Throw in his work with Dag Rosenqvist (Jasper TX) and as one half of Graveyard Tapes, as well as being a member of Hiva Oa and you have an artist who not only stands out from the crowd but is involved in exciting, alternative projects left, right and centre.

Thing is, Matt is important not only as a recording artist but as an artist in his own right, working with dance companies, creating installations for the likes of NEoN Digital Arts Festival and even starting work on an audio visual performance based around the actions of whistleblower Edward Snowden – a project that has received financial support from Creative Scotland and New Media Scotland

So, the creative industries are taking note of Matt but I think there should be a wider recognition of his work.  And I think one of the biggest failings in music in the UK – and further afield – is this satisfaction with the mediocre that pervades.  I use the word genius very rarely but when a true genius is floating well below the radar sometimes you have to shout about it.  And my voice may not be heard above the mundane noise of every day but I hope that it is.  I hope that this piece makes a whole load of you go and check out his work.  Not just the record on mini50 – though do have a look – but his whole body of work because he deserves the attention.  He deserves the recognition.  He deserves to be heard, because he is a distinct and powerful voice amongst the every day crackle and hiss. And that is exciting.

Old Earth – All Kill

Delighted to announce that at the end of this month we will be releasing a very limited version of the brand new Old Earth EP ‘All Kill’.  This EP has been in the pipeline for some time now, ever since Todd came over to Scotland back in September last year.  Whilst here he played a couple of shows, an instore at Avalanche Records and a session with the awesome Song By, Toad.  All Kill was played in full at the live shows and Todd premiered some of the material during the Toad Session, one track of which is in the video above with the whole session available to view here.  Keep your eyes on the mini50 website for forthcoming news on the EP and where to get your hands on one of the very limited items we have planned for this release.

Enjoy.

Bastardgeist

So, 2014 will see mini50 working with this awesome artist from Chicago, Bastardgeist.  Our desire to expand the label, improve the label and make the label, well just fucking immense will be helped greatly by this young man.  And guess what Scotland……he’s playing shows here this week.  All the information you need about these are below along with some nice videos of Joel playing some songs in an abandoned mental hospital.  Awesome.  If you can get along to one of the shows please do as he will have vinyl to sell and stories to tell.  Thanks.


Bastardgeist, aka Chicago’s Joel Midden, is an intensely talented singer, kalimba player and producer who released his second LP, entitled Infinite Lives, in 2013 via Brainlove Records.

Bastardgiest has enthralled audiences around the USA and Europe with his delicate falsetto voice, textured electronics and acrobatic kalimba playing. He recently recorded live sessions of Notable American Women (gleaned from the LP) and L.A. Looks, a new song, for Derelict Music in London, shot in an abandoned mental hospital.
Stream/embed the captivating results via YouTube here & here.
Midden will embark on some live dates in Scotland in February. Further US & UK dates will be announced soon. Infinite Lives is available now on vinyl and digital formats via http://bastardgeist.bandcamp.com.
More on Bastardgeist: http://projekta.is/bastardgeist.
FEBRUARY SCOTLAND DATES:
01/02/14 Henry’s Cellar Bar, Edinburgh https://www.facebook.com/events/503086476471202

Now Wakes the Sea – Hospice

Some of you may have seen this, a lot of you won’t have.   mini50 artist Now Wakes the Sea decided to do a lo-fi cover record of part of ‘Hospice’ by The Antlers which you can find below.  This record has been publicly endorsed by The Antlers themselves on their twitter feed and it really is worth checking out.  The Antlers are one of my favourite bands and it’s so refreshing to see an established act take the time to not only listen to something sent to them by a smaller artists but also to acknowledge it to their fans.  Lovely touch.

Anyways, enjoy.