Straight out of Bristol: The best acts to come from the west

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By Alice Loughran, Second Year Music

Bristol has been blessed with a hotbed of talent fostered by its wide range of venues and vibrant student population. Unsurprisingly, many notable artists have come from the city. The lively music scene is synonymous with electronic music and the creation of the Trip-Hop genre.

Massive Attack

It’s impossible to discuss the Bristol sound without Massive Attack. Del Naja (3D), Grant Marshall (Daddy G) and Andrew Vowles (Mushroom) kickstarted a new era of black music with the creation of the ‘Trip-hop’ genre that is heard throughout the city to this day. It all began in Dug Out, an 80s venue on park Row next door to what is now The White Harte, with their former collective The Wild Bunch. Following the club’s closure in 1986, they went on to form Massive Attack. Their deliberately innovative albums ‘Blue Lines’ (1991), ‘Mezzanine’ (1998) and ‘Protection’ (1998) plunged them into the spotlight. ‘Teardrop’ and ‘Unfinished Sympathy’, a play on Franz Schubert’s ‘Unfinished Symphony’, are arguably their most popular tracks. Both feature their signature dub rhythms and soulful vocals. But their success didn’t stop there; two more albums released in 2003 and 2010 brought their music into the 21st century and made us realise just how timeless their sound is.

George Ezra

The soulful singer-songwriter may have not grown up in Bristol, but he accredits finding his voice to the city. In 2011 he studied at Bristol BIMM (British and Irish Modern Music Institute) whilst immersing himself in the open-mic scene. A year later, he was signed to Columbia Records and dropped out of education. Looking back, he thanks performing at venues such as The Fleece and Gallimaufry in his adopted home for helping consolidate his sound. His hit song ‘Budapest’ boosted him to stardom and led him to win the Brit Award for British Male Solo Artist in 2019; but he hasn’t forgotten his Bristol roots: ‘I'm hoping that if I put a thank you to First Great Western on my album sleeve they'll give me some sort of future discount’.

Roni Size

The Bristolian jungle extraordinaire, born in St Andrews, spent his youth sneaking around St Paul’s Carnival and utilizing new technology on Gloucester Road. His upbringing was marked by everything from reggae to blues until electronic music swept across the city: ‘One day, our local music shop on Gloucester Road in Bristol got a Yamaha RX17 drum machine, and we’d go in and start programming beats on it. We couldn’t afford to buy it – it was a case of going into these environments, or finding someone who could afford the gear, and going round to their house’. In the early 90s, Size formed a collective turned record label Full Cycle which saw him become a pioneer of drum n bass production. By 1997, he was an acclaimed producer championing Roni Size/Reprazent toan impressive debut album. His eclectic discography boasts many popular tracks like ‘Brown Paper Bag’ and ‘It’s Jazzy’. He spent the start of the century performing at clubs such as Native, a club which you could find on Small Street, and has continued owing his success to the West Country.

Portishead

Not to be confused with the nearby coastal town of which it shares its name, Portishead is a Bristolian band formed in 1991. Beth Gibbons, Geoff Barrow and Adrian Utley’s ingenious take on electronica attributed to the popularity of the global Trip-Hop genre. It is said that a young Barrow was inspired by a party at Arnolfini Gallery in 1985. He went on to meet Gibbons in a Bristol jobcentre, where they refined their sound at the renowned Coach House Studios in the heart of Bristol, right by the Richmond building. Their trademark haunting sound consists of distorted guitar and Gibbons’ soulful voice. Following the success of the 90s, they reunited in 2005 and 2008 for two more innovative and percussive albums.

Eats Everything

There is much more to Bristol’s rich musical history than bands. Daniel Pearce, under the alias Eats everything, began his career at now-closed Club Loco in Stokes Croft. His 2011 EP ‘Entrance Song’ pushed his career from Bristolian borders to the global stage. He has maintained his place in the city with performances such at Lakota, Motion, and smaller venues such as Elemental in Stokes Croft, where he raised money to combat homelessness. He speaks fondly of Lakota especially: ‘It was an amazing club and always maintained the same style and vibe; and all of my mates today are people who I met when I was at Lakota so, for me, Lakota means friendship, and the best nights of my life. It means the world to me’. The experienced DJ and producer’s musical beginnings have led him to be one of the biggest names in the house music circuit.

Featured image: Nathan Riley, Unsplash


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