Mole Harness interview / feature written by John Stevens, from Bristol's Venue magazine, December 2006:

It’s not stretching an analogy (just keep telling yourself that – Ed) to suggest that, around five years ago, Bristol’s alternative music scene started resembling a mole colony: lots of furtive underground activity; artists and promoters co-existing within networks of independently forged musical burrows; why, in the precociously teenage Team Brick the city even had its own Penfold. Not to get too Kate Thornton about it, but James ‘Mole Harness’ Brewster, a former Bristol-dweller who this year saddled up and migrated to Malmo, Sweden, remembers these golden times fondly: ‘There was a definite electronic scene developing as well as a wider DIY ethic, and an incredible supportive atmosphere as well. People like Float, Silent Age, Clean Cut and Tom Bugs helped me out in so many ways, and the fact that other people had faith in what I was doing gave me confidence during a period when I was still trying to find my own sound’.

And that sound he most certainly found. Brewster’s three albums and an EP as Mole Harness remain arguably the most focussed, carefully developed and sonically satisfying body of work to have come from any of Bristol’s many electro-acoustic artisans in recent years. 2004’s ‘All Your Memories Return At Once’ found glistening synth lines and distinctly Detroitian rhythms grazing alongside Factory Records guitar melodies, and with each release since Brewster has slow-boiled his sound down to its essence, culminating in the warm, airy electric guitar impressionism found on brand new album ’Out Of The Walled Pathway’, launched at The Cube this Saturday. ‘This album actually had less of a conscious direction behind it than the previous one (2005’s ‘A Present From The Future’)’, says Brewster. ‘With that I wanted to make a record entirely from guitars, a series of variations on the same theme - juxtaposing processed and unprocessed versions of the same melodic material. In one sense ‘…Pathway’ was a reaction against that, because I then started working much more spontaneously. Then again, in another sense I was unconsciously boiling the sound down even further by stripping away the layered structures which had previously defined my music’.

The album’s defining piece is its closer, the thirty minute-long ‘A Feast For Regret’: where less inventive producers would nod off at the desk when attempting something of such scale, this multi-sectioned opus, restless in its tranquillity, is actually the product of Brewster’s boredom as opposed its cause. ‘On previous releases I’ve tried to make the structures flow as seamlessly as possible, so that the listener can be carried along without making too much effort to keep track. But by the time I started making this album, and ‘A Feast For Regret’ in particular, I’d become bored. So I started introducing more arbitrary jumps between sections, and tried to create dramatic points where new elements would enter suddenly’.

The upping of sticks to Scandinavia has proven liberating for Brewster and Mole Harness alike, it seems: ‘Being in a new environment has definitely made me feel freer to start afresh. Part of what was holding me back before was that I had a backlog of ideas and unfinished things that I’d never had time work on properly, but over here I’ve had more time to finish things off and get ideas out, which has been really cathartic. Physically speaking there’s also much more space in general, which I think has also informed this feeling of being less restricted and more able to let go of previous ideas’.

There are more travels afoot, too, with the exciting news that Apestaartje, a celebrated Brooklyn-based conduit for explorers in beatific sound manipulations, wants to release future Harness output. ‘They are one of my favourite labels, and share the same musical and visual aesthetic as my own label Stray Dog Army. I really can’t think of a better label to release my next album’. As Brewster, like Anticon-signed SJ Esau, enjoys the benefits of the evermore globalised music industry, will he still hold a candle for the city that birthed Mole Harness in a rented Montpelier room five years ago? ‘Bristol still holds a lot for me emotionally: it’s where I started making music, which altered the course of my whole life and gave me a sense of direction I lacked before. If I hadn’t been there at that time, surrounded by those people, I may never have started doing it in the first place. Some of the best and most memorable times of my life so far took place in Bristol, so it definitely still holds a lot for me’.

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