Bella Union Records 10th Birthday, Royal Festival Hall, London, July 2007
Bella Union is a wee treasure of a record label, formed by Robin Guthrie and Simon Raymonde of The Cocteau Twins’ to release their last recordings. They kept the label running and developed it into a home for an amazing array of artists that include Dirty Three, Fleet Foxes, Beach House, The Dears, Explosions In The Sky, Midlake, Vetiver… even releasing Kiwi acts like Lawrence Arabia and Tiny Ruins! This ‘birthday do’ was held in the rather high brow surrounds of the Royal Festival Hall on London’s South Bank. It is a venue not uncharted territory for rock, having hosted the likes of Nick Cave and Sonic Youth during Meltdown Festivals, but it was we first time I had been there. And very nice it was too. The whole event was quite relaxed, and sedate… even to the extent that it was MC’d by Paul Morley, who introduced each artist and talked about the label’s history. I think you hear teh term ‘a label of love’ bandied about a lot. There are labels that house and nurture their artsists, and may have a common thread of musical DNA involved, and it is fair to lumber those tags on to Bella Union. The artists playing the night we went were The Kissaway Trail, Stephanie Dosen, The Dears and Midlake. We had seen The Kissaway Trail before at The Enterprise in Camden - they were a pretty good Danish guitar band, with lots of “La la laaa” in there. I think Fi thought they were pretty spunky. I should have hated them. Stephanie Dosen has an amazing voice, and Robin Guthrie joined her on stage… you can pick up a hint of Elizabeth Fraser about her. I am not overly familiar with her solo work, but she did do some vocals on The Chemical Brothers’ last album Further. The Dears are a strange one to pigeon-hole (not necessarily a bad thing). I didn't really get into it live that much, and was not sure what to make of them: the Canadian Elbow? Pick of the night was clearly Midlake. The Trials of Van Occupanther was simply one of 2006’s best records, and tracks from it like ‘Young Bride’, and especially ‘Roscoe’ met with huge applause. That record oozed Neil Young & Fleetwood Mac. A gem. Quite a charming, low-key evening, and an incentive to keep following this awesome music imprint. Keep it up, Bella Union… and Happy 17th birthday for this year! Tune: Midlake’s ‘Roscoe’.