Bella Union, 2012

2012 marks the 15th anniversary of the birth of Bella Union, a record label started by Robin Guthrie and Simon Raymonde of Cocteau Twins that was created, initially, to release their own recordings with no obvious aspiration to challenge the big UK independents of the day, yet somehow wound up acquiring a notable array of talent that would turn Bella Union into a world renowned label.

Celebrating this milestone comes a 2CD compilation featuring Bella Union artists past and present highlighting the immense talent that the label have provided a home to over the years. Some names will be familiar, others less so, but all share that certain something, which some could be inclined to call the ‘Bella Union sound’. It’s one that holds a particular fondness for the singular delicacies of the singer/songwriter (Andrew Bird, John Grant, Stephanie Dosen) alongside bands who pursue a more chorally melodious and folked-up style (Midlake/Fleet Foxes/Mountain Man). This is not entirely the case, but if your taste in music lies between those similarly threaded poles, Bella Union will never do you wrong.

The almost 2 1/2 hour collection unveils with the crème of their current crop, featuring songs by M.Ward (“Primitive Girl”), Veronica Falls (“Stephen”), Wild Nothing (“Shadow”) and Beach House (“Lover Of Mine”), all taken from albums that have been released albums on the label in the last 12 months. It shows that this compilation isn’t a longing aside to the past, but a celebration of the here and now, with some memorable moments from the back catalogue thrown in, including now-classic tracks by Explosions In The Sky (“Your Hand In Mine”) and Dirty Three (“Everything’s Fucked”) and songs from two of the labels greatest successes in Fleet Foxes (“Montezuma”) and Midlake (“The Jungler”).

You could honestly match Bella Union against any independent label of the same era and realise that the standard in artist and material has not dropped once in those 15 years. Listening across these two discs you’d be convinced all those tracks came out within the last year, not the last decade and a half, which is as much a tribute to the timeless quality that Bella Union strive for and one in which they achieve.