BC 35 isn’t an artist as such. It is a description more than anything else, and is shorthand for BC Studio 35 years. Hence the name of the album, which was released in the spring of 2018.
Normally I focus my reviews solely on the music of an album, but this is one of those rare occasions where a lengthier exposition is merited. That the album celebrates the 35th anniversary of a studio that was formed in 1979 being just one of them.
Cue back to 2015, when musician and producer Martin Bisi, who owns and runs BC Studio, was mugged close to his studio location, and getting medical expenses due to this. Expenses he had a hard time to cover, in the glorious manner of the US healthcare system. A kickstarter campaign was launched so that those expenses could be covered, and out of that campaign a two day concert event was planned, presumably a fundraiser one at that, and subsequently executed at the start of 2016. A one off event featuring musicians from well known bands as well as underground artists, all of them with an attachment to Martin Bisi and his studio, all of them performing material either improvised on the spot of prepared specially for this event. As the PR blurb states: “…including current and former members of Sonic Youth, Swans, White Hills, Foetus, Cop Shoot Cop, Live Skull, Pop 1280, Violent Femmes, The Dresden Dolls, Alice Donut, Lubricated Goat, and more.”
While BC Studio was set up in 1979, it didn’t get it’s current moniker until 1981. Hence the 35 year anniversary, which is the year when the recordings took place.
A further exposition is really required at this stage too, as this is an album that possibly can be a tad challenging to track down, depending on where you look for it. The promo agent that submitted this album to me, stated that this was the album “BC 35” by Martin Bisi. The CD edition of this production retails as a Various Artists album called “BC 35”. While the official artist as stated by the record company is BC 35 and the official album title is “The 35 Year Anniversary of BC Studio”. Confused yet? If so, some helpful links will appear at the end of this review.
A fairly lengthy exposition aside, this is a production rather interesting also as far as content is concerned. All the musicians involved are quality artists, and that is easy to tell when you listen through this album. The improvisations move along quite nicely, and the almost obligatory searching phases in them are filled with details to maintain interest that mainly seasoned musicians will be able to pull off. The prepared tracks are of a high quality as well, this isn’t a case of artists bringing sub-par tossed aside material to an event. From what I can tell, just about all of them have prepared material of a more than decent album quality for the occasion. Hence this isn’t a special event merely due to one-off performances and constellations, but also due to the quality of the material performed.
I rather guess that this album are selected highlights of this two day event, and that this is the very best from those performances from all artists involved. We do get a fair share of style variety here, as Martin Bisi have worked with artists from all across the style spectrum, but what dominates here are material I’d describe as expressive post punk. Many performances have something of a core punk or post punk foundation, and then reach out from that foundation to more expressive territories. From psychedelic oriented creations to cosmic flavored new wave, with a token detour into classic rock territories, another token visit to free form jazz, quite a few flirts with noise rock and also a few that hones in more closely on the avantgarde aspect rock music, arguably or probably also progressive rock. We also get a couple of tracks I’d describe as being futuristic or cosmic hip hop, as well as a couple of excursions into ambient landscapes. The latter are perhaps the most impressive ones too, where the stunning Downhill is my clear album highlight from a personal taste in music point of view. Imagine the film score of a classic era spaghetti western movie, given a light Japanese makeover. Seven Samurai and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly condensed to a 3 minute instrumental.
It is an impressive album on many levels, although from a personal point of view I did find the free jazz oriented escapade here to be a bit too far removed from the kind of material I find enjoyable. And I suspect similar circumstances will be the case for many that decide to have a go at this one: That the width and scope of this production will have as a result that many listeners will have a token few tracks that they’ll decide to skip. This is an album made by and made for people with a wide and inclusive taste in music in general, and with a certain affection for expressive music at that I suspect.
A final minor exposition is that the promo I was sent appears to be somewhat different from the commercially available album. First and foremost the track End of the Line, which is 7 minutes shorter on this promotional album than on the one that retails, but also other tracks appears to have been further edited following the promo sendout. Which, presumably, means that the production available commercially have been given further finishing touches that possibly makes the total experience an even better one than the one I had. And even if that isn’t the case, it does mean that the retail edition is almost 11 minutes longer than the one I have. More music, in other words.
I guess that the key audience for this album will be those who know who Martin Bisi is and that tends to treasure the productions he has been a part of as a musician, a producer or both. Other than that, my best guess at a good audience for this album would be those that finds the description expressive post-punk to be an alluring one, and then especially those among them with a generally wide taste in music. This is a good album through and through, also according to my personal taste in music, but I also recognize that this is a production with more of a finite and narrow overall appeal.
My rating: 8/10
1. Nowhere Near The Rainbow
2. Denton’s Dive
3. Details Of The Madness
4. What A Jerk
5. Humash Wealth Management, Inc.
7. The Animals Speak Truth
8. His Word Against Mine
10. End Of The Line
11. Take This Ride
12. Disintegration In The Well
13. Soft Glitter Cosmos Needs A Pig War