INTERVIEW: Bartholomew | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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“When I first arrived here, I began to wonder whether the music I make is too safe!” gushes Chris Bartholomew, a “wide-eyed outsider” still coming to terms with all that North East music has to offer. “I’ve found so many things which excite me: Wonderful venues like Cobalt Studios, organisations such as TUSK, people like Andy Wood who runs TQZine and Auntie Joy… There’s so much it’s almost overwhelming!”

Previously based in South London, Chris – who makes astral, exploratory electronic music under his second name – made the decision to move north during the initial COVID lockdown. House prices and being closer to family in Cumbria played their role; but there was a third factor which not only drove his and his wife’s relocation, it also provided the spark for Chris’ newest project.

“One of the reasons we chose Kenton is because it’s so close to Nuns Moor,” he reveals. “For the first six-to-eight months, I was out walking the dog on it every day – dodging cows; steering clear of golfers; just having a wonderful time! I’d seen bits of the moor on previous visits, but to live near enough to be on it every day felt like a real luxury.”

Indeed, having arrived in something of a creative rut (“I had no impetus,” he admits), it wasn’t long before an outline for the new record began to take shape. “Moorbound is about my relationship with the landscape rather than the landscape itself,” Chris explains. “When people imagine moorlands they often think of vast spaces and big panoramic shots with nobody in them, but I always felt energised and enthused when I was there. I know it’s a place where protests have happened in the past, and the fact it’s owned by the Freemen of Newcastle, used for grazing and can’t be given to developers is such a bold statement. It feels demonstrative of a city that’ll stand up for itself, and that this place is more important than any buildings which could be put on it. It isn’t just an empty space – ideas were constantly emerging from my brain, and it had a real rejuvenating effect.”


I’ve always written everything in software, but for this record I started picking up bits of hardware

True to this outlook, Moorbound is anything but the expanse for minimalism and desolation its title may suggest. Instead, listeners will find a record bustling with vim and life; an absorbing, expertly honed collage of acoustic and electronic sounds, rife with sweeping spectral motifs and joyful jazz flourishes.

I’ve always written everything in software, but for this record I started picking up bits of hardware – synths, samplers,” Chris details, exploring his creative process. “Strings, sax and clarinet were other flavours I’d always wanted to involve in my music. Everything suddenly feels like it’s breathing when you introduce live instruments. I also went from writing in a structured, regimented way to something far more improvisational. It became a case of cutting out the best bits, rearranging, resampling and bouncing everything around until it became more distilled, with clearer intentions.”

Manifesting in an engrossing six-track odyssey, the results showcase Bartholomew as the region’s most effusive, sonically dextrous newcomer. “You always find your avenue,” Chris concludes, returning to his introduction on the local circuit. “Even so, I’ve been so grateful for all the support and encouragement people have given me since I came here – it’s been delightful!”

Moorland is released on Friday 3rd March. The album is launched with a show at Little Buildings, Newcastle on Thursday 9th March.

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