The Bundles – [Album]

Thursday, 18 February 2010

At a certain point, history begins to be the defining characteristic for a record label. Think about it – if the label in question has a track record of focusing on a particular sort of band or music and it has even been revered for some of the artists and releases on its roster or catalogue, eventually a sort of brand loyalty will begin to manifest; a thought process skin to, “If you like this particular sounds and/or ethic, this label has a similar set of values and the bands on it have expressed similar aesthetic tastes to what you've enjoyed before.”

Some purists will balk and call the above statement a gross generalization but sometimes it holds up – just look at The Bundles' self-titled debut and its relationship with K Records. Founded in 1982 by Beat Happening/Go Team/Dub Narcotic mastermind Calvin Johnson, K has since developed a reputation for being a haven to slightly off-beat bands and musicians that, like the label's president, favor emotional outpouring over technical ability. The acts – including Karl Blau and Kimya Dawson (among a multitude of others) – have found some appeal either through cult status or popular exposure and so continued the label's tradition to the point that the name has now become synonymous with the ethic; K Records means independent expression and both the label and bands signed to it wear that fact proudly.

That's the history and that it has been built up and, in listening to The Bundles' self-titled debut, it can be said that the ideas have been upheld long enough to become an institution. This record is clearly the first and finest group exposition of it.

All of the elements that have  drawn listeners to K Records over the years – as well as many of the label's most recent stars (including Kimya Dawson, Karl Blau, Jeffrey Lewis, Jack Lewis and Anders Griffen) come together on The Bundles, but also time-honored 'collaboration records' foundations that amount to a bit of homegrown magic in the combination. The warm and 'all-together-now' vibe that drives the album manifests immediately as, among effects and production trickery-free structures, everyone takes turns on the microphone to share a united sentiment while simultaneously showing how diversity can still make for a rich, rather than scattered, production. In songs like “A Common Chorus,” “Klutter,” “Over The Moon” and “Be Yourself,” the assembled players literally cast aside any semblance of ego and seem to genuinely enjoy passing duties to one another in order to produce the best possible results. It works out well as the genuinely fun and occasionally silly (or ecstatic, the lines get blurry) performances take a more innocent than condescending tone that proves to be wildly infectious because listeners find themselves wanting to believe that fun music made for no other reason than to have fun is still a possibility.

Taking all of that into account, it suddenly seems obvious that The Bundles is a rousing success on a variety of levels. First, it proves that making music doesn't need to be a career goal or earnest to sound good; it can just be fun. Second, after that realization dawns on listeners, the album offers validation to the fact that each of the musicians that played on this album didn't change for this project, but it still sounds good, new and in keeping with K's values; it doesn't even feel a little rehashed or reconstituted for the purposes of novelty. Finally, when all those variables align as they do here, they end up reflecting a wildly exciting idea: with twenty-eight years of history on the books, K Records and the artists that call it home are still growing; The Bundles is simply the first in what will hopefully be a long line of classic K records.



The Bundles' self-titled debut will be released through K Records on March 9, 2010. Pre-order it here .
If you can't wait that long however, the album is available now through K Records directly here .

Comments are closed.