When one hears the word "grunge" the first thing coming to the mind is Seattle, that also reminds to the "Sub Pop" label. Probably the last time a city and label were so connected was in Elvis and Johnny Cash's time. But the difference is actually just one: the Sub Pop did not decide to live on a life of easy income as the Sun Recording did, Sub Pop decided to go beyond and explore new musical areas.
Good old Bruce Pavitt maybe did not want to be labeled as "the one who discovered Nirvana", "released works by Mudhoney, Tad and many more". So gradually and slowly moved to new sounds, the volume of distortions lowered down, screaming became singing even whispers sometimes, feedback evolved into electro-acoustic harmonious riffs. It's important to say that the Washington based label published some works from the Walkabouts already in the period 1989-93, when they were still considered real outsiders.
Looking back at the recent production by Sub Pop, we can certainly say that there's no answer to the question "What kind of music do they work on right now?". In their wide portfolio we can find folk singers like Sam Beam and his Iron and Wine band, undisputed successor of important sounds by Will Oldham and the Palace.
We can then find bands like Band of Horses and the Baptist Generals with their folk/pop similar to the best Crazy Horses. Electronic music also find its spot in the manifold house of the label, from the Notwist to the Postal Service with an easy electro-pop, to the new trip-hop by Shabazz Palaces to the noise/industrial experimentations by the Clipping. And also veterans in the underground American and more music scene that decided to publish their last productions with Bruce, like Low, Mogwi and Afghan Wings. Well, the Mudhoney were always there, with Bruce and never accepted the allures of big labels, riding the grunge wave...chapeau!
But then, the deeper you get into listening to old and new music by Sub Pop, the more you realize that the good guys of Seattle know no boundaries and do the most beautiful and simple thing: produce what they really like.
Let's get to the Rose Windows now. Here on Bliss Beat Home, we spoke about them enough, but what I feel the urge to underline here, is that they are probably what currently best represents the "new" Sub Pop, with a special dedication and search of the sounds from the '70s that it's not easy to find in other albums. In songs like "Native Dreams" and in the hypnotic "This Shroud" it is possible to perceive the dark prog influence from bands like the Black Window, especially in the flute parts, that together with the pop electroacoustic psychedelic creates a unique mix. There's no other band like this in the label, and probably in the entire music panorama.
When they get on stage on July 19th, in the amazing atmosphere of Cascina Bellaria as headliner of the Bliss Beat Festival, we will have the honor to see not only an excellent band, but also people that believe in a label that changed the life of many people. And I'm one of them