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Swell Maps C21 in Leeds

Swell Maps C21
Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
Saturday 14th September 2024, £16.00
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A little gang of unknown English teenagers started a scene in their obscure Midlands home-town of Solihull in 1972. This project evolved until it came to be known as Swell Maps, centred around four core members: Nikki Sudden (guitar, vocals), Epic Soundtracks (drums, keyboards), Richard Earl (guitars, vocals), Jowe Head (bass, guitars, vocals).

Swell Maps produced and recorded tracks for their debut single, Read About Seymour themselves in late 1977. They released this independently on their own label, Rather Records, when do-it-yourself record releases by bands was still a new idea. These days, Swell Maps are now known as pioneers of what is now referred to as the Alternative Rock scene. Musically, they mixed punk rock with experimental and psychedelic sounds.

Swell Maps released four singles and two albums in a brief but dramatic career, in a partnership with Rough Trade Records. This led to them topping the UK independent charts, and influencing a diverse array of bands such as Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Pavement, Stereolab, Pastels and Blur. Swell Maps split up in 1980.

Those two Swell Maps studio albums, A Trip to Marineville and Jane From Occupied Europe, continue to be available and still attract enthusiastic new listeners, due to excellently produced re-releases by Mute Records in Europe, and Secretly Canadian in the USA. They still get played on BBC Radio in the UK, and many other stations around the world.

Sadly, Epic and Nikki, who were brothers, died in 1997 and 2006.

In December 2021, I organised a performance with ten musicians to perform Swell Maps music for two concerts on consecutive nights at Cafe Oto, a fine venue in Hackney, internationally renowned for its live presentations of alternative music. As well as performing a selection of the betterknown Maps material, it gave me an opportunity to present material that had never been performed live before, such as Bronze & Baby Shoes, Ghost Train, Jelly Babies, Wireless, Dont Throw Ashtrays, and Collision With a Frogman.

It was a brilliant opportunity to feature some of Epics piano-based pieces, because we had Lucie Rejchrtova, a fine keyboard player, and Otos grand piano! The other contributors: Dave Callahan and Luke Haines (both guitar & vocals), Cos Chapman (lead guitar), Jeff Bloom and Ian Wadley (drums), Jasmine Pender (electric cello), Lee McFadden (bass & guitar), Jon Hodgson (bass), Gina Birch (vocals). Both sets at Cafe Oto were recorded, and I mixed the performances for an exciting live album, which is now available on the Glass Modern record label.

Dave, Luke, Lee, Jeff, Lucie, Gina and I got back together at Rough Trade East in March 2022, to perform at the launch party for my book on Swell Maps. This ongoing project is now known as Swell Maps C21; further concerts took place at Glasgow, Edinburgh and Paris, and more are planned. - Jowe Head

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