Feature / The Bristol Germ: 'Chapter II - New Ground's Acquired!!'



Music Editor Alexia Kirov reviews the second issue of The Bristol Germ, a magazine documenting the 'eclectic community of artists' that make up the Bristol scene.

The Bristol Germ is UoB masters student and LICE frontman Alastair Shuttleworth’s groundbreaking new magazine; there is no other publication quite like it. Its first issue was released at the end of last year and has been sold far beyond the South West, from London to NYC.

Its aim is simple: to shed light on the ‘previously-untold story of a vibrant, eclectic group of artistic geniuses, bound together as a community of friends and equals in the city of Bristol’. Its execution is gorgeous: The Germ is made up of a series of double page spreads - one half interview, the other, beautiful artwork - from portrait drawings (see Paul Jacobs’ lovely cartoon rendering of Alex Studer of Stolen Body Records), to more abstract work (Yoshino Shigihara’s piece beside Yama Warashi’s interview is stunning).

Artwork by @heyimpauljacobs for The Bristol Germ out today #stolenbodyrecords

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Following a sold-out launch at The Loco Klub in Temple Meads for the first issue, 'Chapter II: New Ground’s Acquired!!', was launched at the Exchange, with an eclectic line-up of Bristol artists, Kayla Painter, MXLX, and Oliver Wilde, all of who are interviewed in the issue (Wilde features with his project Oro Swimming Hour).

Kayla Painter was first up; she played a set that was as compelling as it was unique. Her backdrop of dynamic visuals created a truly immersive experience that was far from arcane or pretentious – simply because it worked so well. By the time she took to the stage, the Exchange was already nearing full capacity.

There was none of the usual chatter at the back of the room that often lingers during opening acts. It’s a credit both to Shuttleworth and to all three artists that they brought together an audience with the respect to turn up and pay proper attention to the whole line-up. But this launch night qas more than a regular gig with two support acts and a headliner - it was a celebration of three different aspects of the Bristol music scene, a very real manifestation of the aims stated in The Germ’s Vorticist-style manifestos, found throughout both issues.

it was a celebration of three different aspects of the Bristol music scene, a very real manifestation of the aims stated in The Germ’s Vorticist-style manifestos

After a short break, it was time for MXLX – Matt Loveridge’s latest in a long line of projects; his interview in The Germ is particularly interesting as it covers his 15 year long career. The perennial ‘eccentric high priest of the Bristol avant-garde’ delivered a powerful performance with impenetrable sincerity, despite a malfunctioning microphone. A particular standout moment from the forty-minute set was An Actual Weapon’s ‘Weapon 5’, with its whirling, exultant synths, released digitally and on cassette last year.


The final set of the evening came from stalwart figure on the Bristol scene, Oliver Wilde. Despite it being his first gig with a new band, the set had a tightness that would make you believe they had been playing together for much longer. There was an earnestness and tenderness to the whole performance, but the high-point was 2013’s ‘Perrett’s Brook’, followed by ‘Smothered’, from last year’s Post-Frenz Container Buzz. Despite the four-year gap between the release of these tracks, the gentle fuzz of ‘Perrett’s Brook’ and the more whimsical ‘Smothered’ sat perfectly next to each other.

Wilde’s sound is vastly different to both Painter’s and MXLX’s, but each of the three different sets emphasised the importance of the work The Germ is doing: there is so much going on in this city that is woefully ignored by the mainstream press. If you ask the average person to name a Bristol band or musician, you’re unlikely to get an answer other than Portishead or Massive Attack. There’s no need to snub trip-hop, it’s just that so much else has happened here since then.


Sometimes, music magazines – especially those picked up free at a Sainsbury’s check-out – can feel ephemeral. But The Germ is anything but. Granted, as it's made up of interviews, it has an inherently longer shelf life than a weekly magazine reviewing new releases and gigs. But its sheer beauty from cover to cover, its assiduous scope, and the fastidious love Shuttleworth has poured into his mission to document this era in the history of Bristol music make The Germ a piece of history itself. Each issue is numbered as part of a limited run - and with the first issue already distributed across different continents – it could well become a collectors’ item in years to come.

Embedded images: Epigram / Alexia Kirov
Featured image: The Bristol Germ / Adrian Dutt

Have you read The Bristol Germ yet? It's available to read online and to buy here

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Alexia Kirov

Music Editor @ Epigram 2017-19 / Photo credit: Catarina Rodrigues, Barbican 2018