ANTA’s 2010 album ‘The Tree That Bears The Equine Fruit’ was a fantastic beast of prog prowl and heavy gravity space rock, and went straight into my faves of the year. Young Alex not only molests the organ in that Bristol band but also cranks the harmonium in the fine Boxcar Aldous Huxley, as well as being a top-notch artist and illustrator. What a bastard.


Recorded music highlights of 2010:

Because it’s fresh in my mind, “Minutiae” – a collaborative effort of numerous Southwesterly artists to produce a record consisting entirely of songs that last exactly one minute. As of this writing it is 24 minutes long.

Mugstar’s “Lime” requires a mention, but only out of respect to the fact that it’s the most recent great record they’ve released this year. There are three in total, and it’s just amazing to see a band maintain this quality of output so frequently.

I’ve also been getting into IconAClass, a new project featuring several members of New Jersey’s Deadverse collective. It’s very much out of the “alternative” hip-hop most have come to expect from the collective, and very good.

Stanton Delaplane – Butterfly Beard is five songs of absolute sweetness. Tastefully rich, well-produced, well-written.

And although I don’t yet own it myself, Skjølbrot – Maersk. Yes.

Live music highlights of 2010:

If asked this any given year I’d probably say Curtis Eller. The man can make two hours fly by and leave you wanting more. He’s an incredible showman with more amazing songs than you can sensibly fit into a show. By comparison I saw Godspeed You! Black Emperor play for a similar length of time at the Anson Rooms and was quite honestly bored after half an hour. And I like them, but “epic” can be a drag or it can be, well, epic. There’s nothing epic about Mr Eller’s music, just no sensible reason for his shows to end.

Our (ANTA) show with Chrome Hoof goes up there. Aside from the fact that playing that show felt absolutely amazing, Chrome Hoof floored me. There’s just so much happening when they play, and it’s tight and energetic and powerful.

I had the extreme, extreme pleasure of catching a Hauschka show in Hamburg. I saw him a couple of years ago in Coventry playing an upright piano, and it was wonderful to see that he’d upgraded to a baby grand. For the uninitiated, Hauschka plays prepared piano, doing all manner of nefarious things to strings – including gaffer taping, ping-pong balling, ebowing, and creating makeshift drumming mechanisms… there’s more, but the show is seemingly unending and totally captivating. Not just for the unusual musical device, either, the man makes some very very beautiful music.

What else did you enjoy this year?

Glastonbury Festival. First time playing (Boxcar) first time going. The heat was unbelievable, and in spite of the vastness I could barely round a corner without bumping into a familiar Bristol / Cardiff face. I can tell people that I have seen Rolf Harris and Snoop Dogg perform on the same day for the rest of my life.

2010 was…

Personally? A year of getting both “acts together” and “shit done”. Having been working jobs since I was 16 I became self-employed this summer and have done my best to make a life out of illustration. I’ve done a lot of corporate work and found that it’s often hard to swallow, and found new aspects to my own work that I previously wasn’t sure I had in me. There’s talk of releasing a graphic novel in 2011, too – really excited and happy to be doing stuff I love, and the support from those around me has been wonderful too.

My band ANTA also recorded, produced and released a studio album in the space of about two weeks to a response I honestly don’t think we expected from a straight-up prog album. The worst I’ve heard about it or us from anyone is “not my thing”. I’ve put out CDRs and what have you, but this is the first “proper” album I’ve been involved with and I’m very proud.

Going back to the first part, I had nearly forgotten what an amazing place Bristol was. I think it’s something to do with my new life as a full-time artist/musician, but people saying the “scene” has died off in recent years are absolutely wrong. For me what makes it such a special place is not just the presence of a DIY ethic and a willingness to make good stuff happen, but the number of people who are so very professional about what they do. The music and arts scenes thrive in this town because great musicians and artists are complemented by great sound engineers, manufacturers, repairmen, promoters… OK, the place has a reputation for being a sort of underground community of smash-the-system arts graduates living in bins, for better or worse, and perhaps it is but to me it’s a community of qualified, respectably excellent tradesmen and I don’t think I had the opportunity to properly see all that until I spent all my time in among them, working with them. Incidentally a shout-out to Matt Blackwell of Hifi Copies CD/DVD Reproduction is very much called for in this regard.

2010 has also been a year of political misery with more to come. The silver lining being thousands of protesters being awesome and involved in a way that we’d all forgotten about.

Tips and predictions for 2011…

Tip: write some good tunes. Prediction: there will be good tunes. That aside I am as frightened as anyone else about what this government is going to turn the country into.

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