Founded back in 1987, the Bristol, UK-based label Sarah Records had developed a reputation for being a defiantly indie label. And during its short lifetime, the label managed to create a whole scene surrounding itself that initially featured British bands, but expanded to Arizona, California and even Sydney, Australia.
The label shut its doors in 1995 and has long eschewed re-releases and re-issues. But interestingly enough, the label’s alumni have continued to actively create gorgeous and captivating pop music: in some cases, with the original bands that recorded on the label — and in others, with new bands that featured members of the from the label’s roster.
When Amelia Fletcher and Rob Pursey founded Skep Wax Records last year, they were heavily influenced by the many amazing indie labels they’d work with in previous projects like K, Elefant, Fortuna Pop!, Wiiija, Matinée, WIAIWYA and others. But Sarah Records was the one they admired most: the label operated in an ethical fashion, was completely independent and better organized than most majors. When Fletcher and Pursey started to look around, they were surprised to discover how many of their labelmates were still actively creating interesting, beautiful music.
Skep Wax recently put together a compilation album titled Under The Bridge. Slated for a March 18, 2022 digital and CD release and a July 2022 vinyl release, reintroduces several of the bands — and individual band members — who released records on Sarah Records, during the label’s storied history. However, instead of being a trip down the nostalgia road, as many compilations often do, Under The Radar spotlights the new music that these bands are making right now — with much of it being exclusive to the compilation.
The album features original Sarah Records bands like Even As We Speak, Secret Shine, The Wake, The Orchids, Boyracer and St. Christopher — with relatively unchanged lineups. Under The Radar also features newer bands, which feature members of Sarah Records bands including Jetstream Pony and The Luxembourg Signal, which both features members of Aberdeen; The Catenary Wires and Tufthunter, which both feature members of Heavenly; Soundwire, which features members of The Sweetest Ache; Leaf Mosaic, which features members of Sugargliders; Sepiasound, which features members of Blueboy; and Useless Users, which features members of Action Painting; and Secret Shine.
Every track on Under The Bridge manages to continue Sarah Records’ reputation for crated pop. Some of the tracks are punk rock, some are indie pop, others are dream pop-like. Some are gentle, some are full of rage. But all of the tracks are defiantly sensitive, thoughtful, literate and fueled by DIY spirit.
The Luxembourg Signal — currently, Beth Arzy (vocals), Betsy Moyer (vocals), Johnny Joyner (guitar), Brian Espinoza (drums), Ginny Pitchford (keys), Daniel Kumiega (bass) and Kelly Davis (guitar) — features members split in London, Los Angeles and San Diego. And with the release of 2014’s self-titled debut through Shelflife Records, the trans-national shoegaze/dream pop outfit quickly attracted a loyal following while receiving overwhelmingly breathless praise for crating material centered around ethereal vocals and lush soundscapes, paired with a pop sensibility.
I’ve written a bit about The Luxembourg Signal over the past handful of years, and as you may recall, the band released their third album, the 10-song The Long Now was released back in 2020 through Shelflife Records and Spinout Nuggets. Although a couple of have passed since I’ve last written about them, the trans-national outfit contributes the slow-burning and gorgeous, compilation opener “Travel Through Midnight.”
Centered around a lush arrangement featuring glistening and reverb-drenched guitars, a supple bass line, gently padded drumming, and shimmering synths “Travel Through Midnight” is spacious enough for Arzy’s and Moyer’s gorgeous vocals to ethereally float over the mix. The song manages to evoke a gentle yet wintry melancholy.