With live music but a distant memory, Bandcamp offers not only a renaissance of recorded music to explore, but a renaissance of customers willing to pay for their music. On the first Friday of every month since March they’ve have waived their fees and so far this year estimate that they’ve put an extra twenty million dollars into the coffers of artists and independents.
With no end in sight for literally any of this, Bandcamp has pledged to continue Bandcamp Fridays until the end of 2020.
The only problem is that, being the internet, there’s quite a lot to choose from. Therefore, we present some carefully curated recommendations for your consideration, and since none of us at GiitTV know much about music or anything, comments, God help us all, are open – please feel free to share your tips.
The last few months have seen Philadelphia’s Afrofuturist free-jazz punk, Camae Ayewa, better known as Moor Mother, release a bewildering amount of music. Her last LP proper, 2019’s Analog Fluids of Sonic Black Holes, was an eerie concoction of furious lyrics and darker than dark hip-hop carved out of archive recordings, Paul Robeson’s baritone and some good, hard industrial skronk.
If Analog Fluids was not so much a collage as a living, breathing, sonic ecology, the work she’s been putting out on Bandcamp this year underscores the sheer breadth of her artistry. To start you off, there’s the straight-up-and-down punk rock of her band Moor Jewelry. A collaboration with Mental Jewelry – better known for his dark electronica – their album, True Opera, sounds like the good bit of a Rage Against the Machine track sustained for twenty-six desperate minutes. Every moment is a matter of life and death, an exploration of both the long history of violence against black bodies and the ongoing horror-show of resistance and oppression that is US politics in 2020. That aside, the two of them have been friends since their early days on the Philadelphia punk scene. Musically they create a hastily and purposefully scrawled jam – loose, fresh and fluent.
On the other end of the spectrum, Dial Up, a collaboration with the interdisciplinary artist and digipoet Yatta, is a much more laid back and experimental offering, an extremely chilled, lo-fi journey into intergalactic folktronica. If Alan Lomax could have taken his reel-to-reel into the protean chaos of the quantum super-dimension, this is the kind of home-spun goodness he might bring back.
Elsewhere, riot-grrl meets chill-wave in ANTHOLOGIA 01, which sees her face-off with self-styled ‘wry sprite’ Olof Melander. Then there’s the ‘oracular phyletic incantations’ Ayewa contributed to cosmic jazz ensemble Irreversible Entanglements’ LP Who Sent You? And should you need your fix of live music, she’s more recently put up a mind-blowing set recorded with Nicole Mitchell at Utrecht’s Le Guess Who in 2018.
It’s a lot to explore, but there’s something here for everyone, and if it all gets a bit overwhelming, there’s always CLEPSYDRA, described a collection of soundscapes for writers and creators and others experiencing creative blocks.
There can be few LPs inspired in equal measure by life on the petroleum rigs of the arctic circle and the contemporary dance scene in Nashville. Nelson Kempf’s Family Dollar is a serene and spectral tale of life at the sharp end of the Anthropocene, about fragile moments of beauty in extremity. There’s a hell of a story behind it, and I was fortunate to get to do an interview with Kempf for Best Fit before the LP came out a few weeks ago.
Influenced by artists like Björk and Anohni, Kempf’s compositions are closely and simultaneously attuned to the landscapes of both Alaska and Tennessee, working as a kind of musical seismograph that registers the vibrations of the natural world. Fans of Talk Talk and David Sylvian will find much to enjoy here.
Above all, it’s a pean to the ongoing crisis of raising a family, of poverty and exhaustion, and an attempt to get inside the emotional grain of a certain kind of struggle for survival.
Lately, I’ve found myself inclined towards giving up on linear time altogether and turning more towards the persistent, amniotic raptures of ambient music. If that’s your bag, Lancs based label Wormhole World has a ton of goodies, all, one might add, at very reasonable prices. And if you follow them on Twitter you’ll find them quite generous with download codes.
Mzungu’s With Seasonal Affect has become a particular favourite. Four lengthy, gently fuzzy, and passingly sinister soundscapes take you through the darkest months of the year. It’s like The Four Seasons as dreamed by a hibernating bat, and no, there is nothing musically more fulfilling than the dream of a hibernating bat. The breathtaking finale of the album, ‘#4 February’, starts with what sounds like a sample of ‘Sailing By’ slowed down and distorted until it’s just the ghost of a ghost of a ghost reverberating from the deepest before-times, before losing itself on a hissing, collapsing, slowly thawing drift.
Wormhole World are dropping three new pre-releases today: Moths by Carnedd Aur, irresistibly described in their press release as ‘flawed but ultimately well-meaning’, boycalledcrow’s third album of nonsensical vocal fragments, entitled Mystic Scally, and last but not least, After Geography, which promises to be a trip into the mountains of IDM with Californian electronic composer Forest Robots. Pre-releases are a load of fun. They’re like a gift to future-you.
Wormhole World publishes this sterling material with a clear not-for-profit ethos, and they’re a great example of the kind of curation that’s possible on a platform like Bandcamp. I’m not going to pretend that any of this stuff is ever going to find a wide audience, but if you sign up for their mailing list then mostly interesting things will wend their way to you. Mostly.
Nyege Nyege Tapes / Duma
Of course, if you want your music right away, Duma’s self-titled debut LP is out today on Kampala’s Nyege Nyege Tapes. A new project from Martin Khanja (aka Lord Spike Heart) and Sam Karugu, former members of bands Lust of a Dying Breed and Seeds of Datura from Nairobi, Duma promises industrial breakcore infused with punk and thrash metal and the first track to be released, ‘Lionsblood’, is a pretty fierce slab of noise. Traditional song gets pulverised somewhere beneath an avalanche of twisted drums and thrash screaming. The video that accompanies it is an utter hoot and features a lot of strobing lights, although to be honest, that’s the fucking least of it.
The term Nyege Nyege describes a sudden and irresistible urge to dance, and since the world has got simultaneously much larger and much smaller over the last few months, the fact that the sound of the African electronic underground is only a couple of mouse clicks away ought to give us all heart. I can’t say I’ve done much more than scratch the surface but I’d recommend Sisso, the Tanzanian superstar of Singeli music, for incendiary, hyper-speed breakbeats, or the relatively restrained and organic Bugandan techno groove of Nihiloxia.
For Bandcamp Friday the label is adding limited edition tapes and t-shirts of Duma, and preorders for a 7” split of the most absurdly and assuredly hard-hitting dancehall from Swordman Kitala and Sekelembele.
Sly and the Family Drone
On the subject of vinyl, and for those of you who absolutely insist on cluttering up your Feng Shui with physical product, may I point you in the direction of my beloved Sly and the Family Drone, who’ve just unleashed the year’s most essential* slab of plastic, Walk it Dry.
It’s their first album to be completed since the road accident that left Sly’s principal human, Matt Cargill, with horrific injuries that almost ended his life, let alone his musical career, and it finds the band continuing and refining their sojourn in the Albert Ayler meets Godflesh hell-scape that we have all come to know and love.
Walk it Dry is an unexpectedly compact, even claustrophobic affair, and one that’s more powerful for being forced into a confined space. The schlonky electronics on tracks like ‘Dead Cat Chaos Magician’ create a solid emotional canvas for Cargill’s brutal drum-abuse and ‘Shrieking Grief’ does pretty much everything that a piece of music would have to do to earn the name ‘Shrieking Grief’. It’s a powerful, unrelenting and cathartic listen.
Closer to home, Welsh chanteur and hell-raiser John MOuse challenged himself to knock out a song a week during lockdown and his new album The Goat is the wayward and occasionally splenetic result. The LP starts with a man trapped by the scary pigeon he encounters in the hallway outside his flat and proceeds on a tragicomic synth-pop expedition around the poisoned streams, Anne Summers parties and disappointing barbecues of South Wales.
Long-time collaborator, Phil Pearce, has supplied a cracking series of wonky, aerobic disco-workouts here, and MOuse finally gets to ask the big questions: ‘Why have you spent two weeks building a bench? / And then another week painting it turquoise?’ There’s a keen sense, not just that life is absurd and frustrating, but that its absurdity and frustration is what makes it strangely beautiful. The lost heir to Divine Comedy, or your money back.
Finally, news just in is that Box Records will have test pressings of LPs of such luminous talents as Terminal Cheesecake and Lower Slaughter. Get in. Otherwise, that’s all from me for August. Don’t forget you can share your Bandcamp Friday tips in the comments.
(*yes, really, it is, just get over it)