Betamax Vs Clive Bell
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After forming such formidable bands as The Comet is Coming and Soccer96 Betamax has gone on to spawn a collection of esoteric spin offs such as ‘Champagne Dub’ and ‘Coma World’. He now delivers his latest record Betamax vs Clive Bell, this time choosing to collaborate with his own father, Clive Bell.
Clive, a veteran of London’s avant-garde, attempted to master in his youth the delicate art of the Shakuhachi - the infamously difficult-to-play bamboo flute that whiffs of a certain Japanese Zen aroma. After many years of travelling south east Asia in the 70s, seeking out the teachings of many flute and reed traditions, Clive Bell eventually gave up his quest and returned to London exhausted and confused. Horrified by the omnipresent egos of popular music, he was drawn back towards the dark currents of London’s free-improv gutter, where upon he was encouraged by his peers to live in a squat, and participate in abrasive noise experiments typical of the London improvising epidemic that persisted throughout the 80s.
Whilst immersed by this subculture, Bell was to bear his only child that we know of to this day - Maxwell Hallett, later to be known as ‘Betamax’. Bell immediately refused to teach any music to Betamax, hoping greater things and opportunities might lead Max away to a more financially comfortable and spiritually rewarding occupation. Alas Clive was unable to protect his son from the strong seductive forces of London’s prevalent musical subcultures. Max was frequently exposed to violent forces of free improvisation from such an early age, he subsequently went on to develop malformed musical sensitivities later in life. His obsession with loud drums took its firm grip on him during the late 90s aged only 13, it was perhaps of no small consequence that around this same time his father was regularly performing with dub legend Jah Wobble.
Over two decades later, Betamax was to approach Bell about making a record together. An uneasy Bell eventually agreed to collaborate, perhaps motivated by a sense of guilt or curiosity, we may never know. A seemingly pleasant listen, perhaps there is more going on under the surface with this record. Listen carefully and you can feel family tensions in the air. There is something unsettling in the way Betamax feels a need to drive the music with motoric rhythm when Bell is clearly searching for something more sophisticated. In life there is so much that can’t be said with words that need to be said. This record is perhaps so personal it becomes almost uncomfortable at times. However there is clearly a strong intention to use the music as a positive healing force, and we should all take note that sometimes the most important thing in any relationship is ‘to listen’ to each other.