Bastions - Hospital Corners: a prelude
If I could convey the cataclysmic force of this music in words, you'd be reading this here screen in a gale of distortion, face contorted by an unimaginable G-Force. Believe me, Bastions' début album justifies melodramatic language. And not just because of the sounds. This is a major event for music in north Wales. Its epicentre is the heart of this album. Nothing will be the same again. Hopefully.
I first played Bastions in 2008. I don't want a t-shirt or a pat on the back or anything. But their evolution is one of the most inspirational music stories to come out of north Wales; up there with Melys topping John Peel's Festive 50 in 2001, or The Joy Formidable releasing the equally jaw-dropping The Big Roar earlier this year.
It's inspirational first and foremost because they're a great band. The bruised, evangelical, telepathic power of their music has always set them apart. It's organic hardcore that breaks the form and shames the formulaic, with a natural intuition for light and shade. And when it's shade, by god it's opaque. They've a terrifying intensity when they immolate as one. A Jupiter storm of guitars, drums like granite cannonballs, and a voice that screams and breaks with real, heart-rending, Biblical soul.
Oh, by the way, this isn't a review. This is a prelude. I implore you to investigate the album for yourself. Liking noise is probably a prerequisite but if anything is going to turn you onto noise, it'll be this.
The other reasons this album is inspirational are all wrapped up into one, like a bundle of interbred elastic bands. Bastions grew up and out of a part of the world that has nothing of substance to support music. Anglesey has been an inspiration and a breeding ground for some of Wales' most fascinating musical minds - but it's an unfortunate fact that few of these most talented of people ever get their music heard away from the island.
Talent, when it's far removed from the alleged tastemakers or a sustaining audience, tends to circle in on itself in ever decreasing circles, until it implodes in an acrid smoke of bitterness and cynicism. North Wales is full of bands who could've/would've/should've (my own included - if I'm pointing fingers here, one of them is most definitely pointed at myself). Too many bands have used the limitations - logistics-wise - as an excuse for being ignored. But the truly clever and innovative don't whinge about what isn't here, they build what's missing rather than waiting for a silver platter that will never materialise.
So has it been for Bastions. And that's why this story should be an inspiration to those who follow in their wake from the north.
When Bastions couldn't find anywhere to play, they commandeered venues and put their own nights on with bands from all over the UK who shared a similar vision. They had to come to Wrexham (quite a hike from Anglesey) to do this. Respect to Central Station for trusting their vision enough to let them host a night, even if things didn't work out quite as everyone might have hoped.
Bastions never had a comfort zone on the island, which has been the curse that became their biggest blessing. Without a comfort zone, they couldn't get mired in one; without an incestuous DIY scene on their doorstep, they had to look beyond. And to get accepted in other people's back gardens you have to be better than good. So, they made sure they were better - much better - than good.
When Bastions couldn't find anyone to release their music, they made a couple of the most incredible DIY EPs it's been my pleasure to play in my (nigh on) two decades of radiomongering. The DIY ethic is so ingrained in the south Wales punk and hardcore scene, this might seem an obvious - even an easy - route. But Bastions were the first band of this generation to do it up here, and to do it so well. From the handmade sleeves to the excellent recordings, these were brilliantly conceived and executed artefacts of noise.
And people started taking this band from a part of the world that isn't synonymous with hardcore seriously. They played a half empty room at Sŵn for us last year. I remember being stood among that threadbare audience.
"Who the hell are these?"
"Why haven't I heard of them before?"
"This is amazing!"
A triumph - and probably the smallest audience they've played in front of in the last 12 months.
So, the début album is here. The first time I saw Bastions was in a garish cabaret bar, playing through nothing more than a 200W vocal PA. It was obvious, even then, that they had the spirit, the ability and the attitude to make truly momentous records. This is the first of, I hope, many. An incredible album and a true inspiration for any young band stuck in the arse end of nowhere.