The Bleak Ethnique

by The Bleak Ethnique

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“Bohemian dreams and lazy schemes/Whoa-oh-oh-oh I know/ somewhere in your clique a heart is yearning/ and somewhere in the world a town is burning”

The Bleak Ethnique began in 2010, played a handful shows around San Francisco, California—from a Mission art gallery to the basement of a bar in Chinatown. Recorded the tracks on these reels in a dank Bayview studio. Shed members in 2011, went underground, the last remaining moving to Brooklyn, New York in 2012.

This cassette sums that initial creative force of the band. Brotherhood. Reckless streets flooded with Ancient Age and so many doorway spliffs. Blasting African music at after-parties. Heartbreak. Performing well, but dressing better.

On one level, this project satisfied an inclination to emulate music they listened to, and which in bits are evident here—vintage African psyche rock, Afrobeat, highlife, tropicalia, rocksteady, Ethiopiques, and other more obscure music discovered in re-released vinyl compilations and international music blogs.

This was filtered through experience of American rock and roll, soul and oldies, garage and punk, West Coast lyfestiles, and an instrumental environment that included merely a crunchy reverb-laden Farfisa organ, a distorted bass guitar, drum kit, tape delay and hollering, shakers, tambourines, and empty bottles.

On another level, the lyrics sought to pay homage to the music’s inspiration. Not to replicate source subject matter that was not representative of the musicians’ experience per se, but to the way they relate to the music as Americans, white and assimilated, in a hip bohemian environment of artists and musicians they saw as socially progressive yet practically apolitical. Seeing another musical tradition, and looking for your own place.

Realizing you are alienated from your place, what is WAS and what it IS—culturally, ethnically, economically. That is bleak. Alienation reinforced by the homogeneity broadcasted by Capitalism. That is BLEAK. Thus, their name claims this space.

Authentic, flawed, self-implicating—fed into a state of disconnection and a sentimentality for an imagined past. A connection, or nostalgia, real or imagined. Relishing the futility in sincerity.


released October 20, 2011

bass/vocals: Joseph R
Farfisa/vocals: Ray M
Drums: Travis I



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The Bleak Ethnique San Francisco, California

Joseph Reiter
Ray Mason
Travis Igler

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