Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Reviews:: Turn Up The Jets: A Tribute To Jon Bartlett

Have you ever heard a musician talk about how their label is like, "a family" and how they "all get along?" Of course you have. It’s like an athlete saying they were just letting the game come to them or that they just want to go out there and give 100%.

In reality, the days of small indie labels simply putting out music for the love are gone. No one really buys records anymore, so the cold reality of the music industry is crippling small labels and forcing labels to change their business model.

But if you look to our nation’s capitol, you’ll find label that’s been around long enough to know they aren’t going to change how they operate (kind of like your drunk grandmother with her borderline offensive comments) and really, thank god.

Kelp Records
is/was the home for a slew of talented artists – Jim Bryson, The Acorn, Camp Radio, Andrew Vincent are just a few – but it’s the consistency of the label’s releases that is the highlight of their 15 year history. If you like one of the artists on Kelp, chances are you can take a blind leap of faith, pick any of the label’s other releases and enjoy the results. That speaks to the ear and the mindset of Kelp founder, Jon Bartlett.

Obviously, John loves music and over the last 15 years he’s never lost focus on that simple idea. They barely advertise and national treasures like Jim Bryson sort of happily hover in obscurity, never forced to do interviews or rush through follow-up LPs. Jon respects their wishes and that’s why most of the artists don’t want to leave the comfort they have at the label. How else can you explain the fact that Miche Jette can team with members of Califone and the interweb leaves so few clues of its existence that you'd need CSI to help you find details? No, Kelp is old-school. They put out music for the love, not the dollars.

So how would the artists say thanks? Well, in dark corners, fogged in alleyways and with some back office dealings, the Kelp roster decided to record covers of Jon’s tracks and surprised him with a stellar 15-song tribute record, Turn Up The Jets: A Tribute To Jon Bartlett. I’ll be honest, the only record I have from Jon is the lo-fi, fuzzy folk gem he recorded under the Rhume moniker, Snack of Choice but after rummaging through this collection, I think I’ll be scanning the vaults.

John Higney and Acorn front man Rolf Klausener were the brain trust that came up with the idea, but the comp has songs from Jim Bryson, Camp Radio, Andy Swan, Flection, The Acorn, Chris Page, Andrew Vincent and a ton of other bands – some apparently that were created just for these recordings. I could start trying to compare and contrast the versions you get here – Flection transforms Greasy Tongues from a crunching lo-fi rocker, with heavy guitar strums and drums to an Okkervil River inspired gem. The Recoilers leave the familiar bass line of Snack of Choice at home and opt for an distorted, heavier take on the track. The awesomely named Silkken-Laumann opts for a more tribal, electric take instead of the simple electric guitar that dotted the vast emptiness of Soleil Moonfrye – but every track has something to offer.

Whether it’s the big names - The Acorn knock Surprising Upenders out of the park, Andrew Vincent’s unique delivery fits perfectly into the melody of Red River Valley and Camp Radio take an inspired run at the tribute title track (NOTE: Camp Radio – please record a follow up record soon) – but so are the relatively unknowns on this record. I could listen to Andy Swan sing Home Tonight for hours I think and I'm kicking myself for not hearing of Flecton Big Sky before this.

So here's the deal. Download the record. It's free and it's terrific. But more importantly, find your favorite band on the comp and take a chance. Download any of the fucking records and give a few bucks to KELP to make sure they keep putting out great music. As music fans, we've all become lazy and loosing an indie institution like Kelp would be a tough pill to swallow.

MP3:: The Acorn - Surprise Upenders

MP3:: Camp Radio - Turn Up the Jets

MP3:: Flecton Big Sky - Greasy Tongues

MP3:: Jim Bryson - Jump Shooting for Ducks

DOWNLOAD:: Turn Up The Jets (zip)

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Posted at 8:23 AM by ack :: 1 comments

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At 10:47 AM, Anonymous Paul did sayeth:

Kelp is excellent. Jon Bartlett is a massive teddy-bear God on roller-skates.

As for Flecton, I'm still ridiculously enamoured with the song "Where Did Your Organ Went?" from the album Never Took a Wife.


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