FEATURE: Get Into…Music From Basque Country | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Those of you who know of Massa Confusa will know that we are currently split between San Sebastián (or Donostia as it is called in the Basque language) and Gateshead. I (Ally) relocated to Donostia at the end of July last year and with the coming home gig at Little Buildings in Newcastle on Good Friday 30th March (with Mouses and Casual Threats, more info here) I thought I’d share some of my Basque musical discoveries.

If you know nothing of this beautiful part of the world, then you’re missing out on a unique culture that separates itself from the rest of Spain. It has its own language and traditions; and due to its political history, which includes fighting for independence and the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, Basque Country became famous for RRV (Rock Radical Vasco) which was a rock and punk scene with bands like La Polla Records, Cicatriz, Kortatu, Barricada, Eskorbuto and RIP.

Each town and region is unique. I live in the centre of San Sebastián in the Basque region of Gipuzkoa and as I meet new people I am inevitably recommended new and old bands to listen to. However, the bands I’m listing here are still in existence, and with the exception of Berri Txarrak, Kokoscha, Rukula, Lie Detectors and Hyedra, I have managed to experience live. I have compiled some of my favourites in a spotify playlist, although Madeleine, Mármol, Lehior and Managaitz could not be featured so check out their bandcamp pages instead.

Serpiente (Bilbao)
Perhaps my favourite discovery! They make a mix of post-punk and synth-pop, and their self-titled EP was one of the best releases I’d heard in 2017. On stage they perform in a circle with Brandine playing the drums standing up.

Grande Days (San Sebastián)
Grande Days create a blend of indie and post-rock. Their album Spark was released in 2016 but they are currently working on new material. I saw them at Tabakalera, which used to be a tobacco factory but is now a bar, café, gallery, library, cinema and music venue.

Luma (San Sebastián)
Luma is a rock duo. They released their EP ‘Airwalk’ in 2017. I saw them supporting Wedding Present in Intxaurrondo Kultur Etxea as I missed them playing at an annual event organised by Musika Parkean in Cristina Enea Park.

Yellow Big Machine (Bilbao)
For fans of Fugazi and Pavement. Always With You came out in 2016. I managed to catch them at Gure Bazterrak Fest at another popular venue here in San Sebastián called Convent Garden, alongside Lehior and Nerabe, also mentioned in this list.

Mármol (Bilbao)
Mármol describe themselves as ‘pop for punks’. Their latest release came out in 2017 titled Nuevo Sol. They played Defenestre Fest VIII at Putzuzulo Gaztetxea in Zarautz. Defenestre is an annual DIY punk, metal and hardcore festival. Putzuzulo is an autonomous social space that holds gigs and events.

Berri Txarrak (Lekunberri)
Rock / Power-pop. Perhaps the most famous band from the Basque Country. They formed in 1994, tour relentlessly, and have an extensive back catalogue which includes a documentary film. Their earlier material is more metal influenced, but now their sound is more refined and reminiscent of Fat Wreck Chord’s style punk.

Kokoscha (Pamplona)
Rock / punk / pop. They tour Spain extensively (they played 30 shows last year!) and have played festivals like BBK Live, Primavera Sound and San Sebastián’s Kutxa Kultur Fest. Drummer Álex is the owner of Dabadaba, which is probably San Sebastián’s best known venue for touring bands.

Rukula (Usurbil)
Instrumental rock. Their self-titled release came out in 2016. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to see them at Defenstre Fest, but I’m hoping to catch them at a later date.

Lie Detectors (San Sebastián, Renteria, Antxo, Hendaia)
Rock & Roll / Garage / Punk with an energy reminiscent of The (International) Noise Conspiracy.

Managaitz (Zarautz)
Hardcore with two vocalists. Their self titled album came out in 2015. I saw them at Taupada Fest V at Mogambo in Trintxerpe. Mogambo is an important venue in San  Sebastián, which like Putzuzulo Gaztetxea is autonomous and puts on many alternative shows including metal, hardcore, grindcore, punk and rock. I actually played my first Massa Confusa gig here in San Sebastián at Mogambo.

Fly Shit (Bergara)
Don’t let the name put you off! They have been active since 1996 and make melodic hardcore. Their most recent release is 20 Urte Bira, Zuzenean. I also caught them at Taupada.

Rural Zombies (Zestoa)
Synth pop. I saw them at Dabadaba. Their latest album came out in January and is titled From Home To Hospital St.

Nerabe (San Sebastián)
Nerabe started in 2016. It features Borja Iriarte (Adrenalized), Ruben Ramos (Cohen, Reuben RG), Xabier Arratibel (Hyedra, Pet Fennec), Iñigo Ozaeta (Blaka, Pelax) and Sara Zozaya. They make a mix of Pop with ’80s grooves.

Delorean (Zarautz)
Dance/electronic. They are from Zarautz but are now based in Barcelona. Their latest release Mikel Laboa came out last year and is named after the singer-songwriter who had a big influence on Basque folk and rock music.

Lehior (San Sebastián)
Lehior is an artist, DJ and producer. Unfortunately my experience of his live set was at the end of Gure Bazterrak when they seemed to turn down the volume after the live bands had finished which ruined the atmosphere of his music. I hope to have a better experience of his set soon as he has a great range of work on bandcamp.

Pet Fennec (San Sebastián)
Indie rock with a range of influences including Elliott Smith, Slow Dive, Dinosaur Jr and Pedro the Lion. Singer Urko spent time in London and supports the local scene in Donostia by putting on gigs. Their debut album Mount Pleasant came out in October last year.

Madeleine (San Sebastián)
Madeleine’s last release was actually ‘Mugarri’ in 2013, but they returned to live form for Kaom Fest at Convent Garden in November last year.

Hyedra (San Sebastián)
Post-rock formed in 2012 with members of (All Became Dust, Chase de Mayhem, Krilin, Thanks to losers, Cohen y The Animal Within). After a brief hiatus, they will be releasing their new album in May. Fingers crossed I can make the show!

Giranice (Orio)
Explosions Of The Sky style post-rock with soundscapes led by violin melodies. They placed alongside London’s VLMV at Convent Garden.

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