Bumbling about on the internet looking for new, interesting music is, more often than not, a disheartening exercise in futility, but every so often, clicking aimlessly into the vacuous black hole of mediocrity and nonsense, you stumble across something of real value. This is how we came across the band Bear Flag. A random click on a link in a forum, and boom - there they were. Suddenly the internet had been redeemed.
It was tough digging up information on Bear Flag, as their internet presence, beyond the music they've released, is minimal. As near as we can tell, Bear Flag is a long-distance recording collaboration between Tom VanDeven of Canada & Jack Lawtey from the UK. As to who plays what, we've no idea, but the sounds they create together are richly textural, beautifully self-produced, and deftly crafted. The record we happened to find first, entitled SMALL / TALK, is a 4-song EP of predominantly melancholy indie folk tunes built around fingerpicked acoustic guitar, skittering, jazz-informed drumming, and sweet vocal melodies bathed in a wash of reverb. Various layers of instrumentation, including piano, strings, and fuzzy guitar, weave in and out of songs like "Slow Coach" and "Round & Round", pushing and pulling in counterpoint with the vocals. The production and performances are uniformly excellent and inspired, and it's pretty clear these two dudes have tremendous writing and playing chops. "The Moment" is really a standout track for me, both for its quality and because it's quite different stylistically from the other three songs on SMALL / TALK, adopting a lo-fi doo-wop / R&B thang that would be right at home on Daptone. It also features a really tasty, growling slide guitar solo.
If you've got time, and a taste for something completely different from SMALL / TALK, Bear Flag also has a full-length album out called Everywhere. It is, like I said, completely different. Everywhere is entirely instrumental, and veers from Tortoise-like groove-based minimalism to full-on jazz freakouts. It's really good.
Bear Flag were a most pleasant surprise discovery; just the kind of thing every music nerd hopes they'll stumble across while navigating the treacherous canyons and crevasses of the internet's DIY music landscape. Hopefully we'll hear some more from Sirs VanDeven and Lawtey in the future, as I'm sure they have many more tricks up their sleeves. Bear Flag's albums can be found on Bandcamp.com:
Also, they do appear to have a rather sparse Facebook page up: