Each year Fruits de Mer hold a get together in the Cellar Bar in Cardigan, and over a period of 3 days many bands gather together to play sets and have fun. From these the label then pulls together a release to highlight the occasion, and here is the double vinyl set which contains 11 artists. There are a few things to note, the first being that with each side being limited to a maximum of 20 minutes it was a nightmare to pull together, and the second being that this was actually sold out on pre-orders alone, so by the time it was being publicised it was already too late if you had not already purchased it.
But this is something which is worth seeking out wherever you can, as it shows the sheer delight and multitude of styles on offer from these artists, all captured in the live environment. We open with the beautiful vocals of Sarah Birch, which goes into the krautrock of Allan Pire Experience before we have the blues juggernaut which is Ken Pustelnik’s Groundhogs. Okay, while it is hard to imagine any version of The Groundhogs without Tony McPhee at the helm, driving them forward, Pustelnik joined them as drummer in 1965 and played on their first four album, including both “Thank Christ For The Bomb” and “Split”, and this song is taken from the former. This quartet blast through in a raucous manner, and it is something of a shock when the delightful Elfin Bow provides “Autumn Bow”. This starts with just piano and vocals until the rest of the instrumentation gradually come in, but it is quite a shock to the system after the roughness which has preceded it, as this is sheer beauty. For me, Elfin Bow has been one of my personal musical discoveries over the last few years, and I love hearing her wonderful vocals telling her stories., beautiful.
To those who are unaware of many of the bands involved, they will surely know of The Bevis Frond, as Nick Saloman has been recording under that name for more than 30 years, and within the underground scene he is quite rightly revered. Here we have “Pale Blue Blood”, taken from 2015’s ‘Example 22’, and he is as edgy and direct as ever, a real contrast to many of the others who have gone before. Fruits de Mer Records are consistently one of the very finest labels around, and while there was no festival in 2020, and unlikely in 2021, it will return in its full beauty in the future. Until then see if you can find this wonderful set.
8/10 Kev Rowland