Well, here we are again. Back in the hole. You gone and done it again, ain’t ya?
Like most sequels, Lockdown 2.0 isn’t as good as the first. Here in Cardiff, we’ve got all the disadvantages of the original, but there’s still loads of traffic and the weather is shit. Nonetheless, today is Bandcamp Friday, which means that 100% of what you spend on Bandcamp goes to the artists and labels and hopefully by the time we come out on the other side, one or two of your favourite bands might still exist. Bandcamp is going to keep this going until December, but right now I’m not taking any bets that we won’t all be here cooing over all the virtuous purchases we’re making until well into 2022. The only real winners are the postal workers, so let’s make them sweat.
Given up on boring guitar bands? Yeah, me too pretty much. So it’s always invigorating to check in with Newcastle’s Box Records, run by Matty from Pigs x7. One of the lovely things about Bandcamp vs other sources of music is the ability it gives you to follow the output of a particular label. With a roster of such household names as Terminal Cheesecake, Lower Slaughter and BLÓM, Box artists are always distinctive, often quite funny and always have some interesting take on skull-crunchingly heavy rock.
Their latest darlings are Dorcha from Birmingham, who are taking preorders for Honey Badger, a Jungian prog-rock opera, incorporating disco, Krautrock, grunge and just the merest hint of Cleo Lane. It follows the adventures of the titular Mellivora capensis at a freakishly introverted jamboree where she encounters a parade of sinister personages and misadventurous escapades. The first track off it is ‘Monkey Dust’, which starts as one thing, then pulls the rug.
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Sahel Sounds in Portland, Oregon, who specialise in releasing music from West Africa are asking you to name your price on their entire back catalogue today, so anyone who likes a bit of desert blues, and that had better damn well be all of you, should drop whatever they’re doing and get over there now. The latest release is some kicking jams from lo-fi Tuareg legend Abba Gargando, but there’s a substantial amount of rather excellent music on offer, including the 100% Balani Show mixtape with ‘added drums’ from Bamako’s DJ Sandi and Les Filles de Illighadad‘s, stunning 2017 LP Eghass Malan.
Bell from Glasgow (no, not that Belle) writes to inform us of a collaborative project she’s working on with Laura Luna Castillo in Mexico. “It’s a bilingual call out in Spanish and English for people to engage with themes of extinction and endangered species, they can submit music, songs, artwork, writing…. the deadline is 15th November, and we’ll be hosting an online exhibition on November 30th. You can find out more at: http://www.lunetarioeditorial.com/remembrance-species-2020.” Bored in lockdown? Get submitting.
Bell Lungs’ album all sorts of oddfellows came out in March and is rather fine. Ghostly story-telling meets lost-in-the-woods free-form folk improv and the whole affair posseses the listener with a spooky, otherworldy vibe. I saw her about a year ago supporting David Thomas Broughton, and she played with the kind of focus you’d normally only see in a disturbed child who’s gone way too deep into the toybox. There’s exciting rumours of a Bell Lungs live stream coming up on James Yorkston‘s “Tae Sup Wi’ A Fifer” series.
Lost Map’s latest V I S I T A T I O N S package boasts a couple of releases that no home should be without. First up, Rachel Aggs (Sacred Paws, Trash Kit and Shopping) has treated us to her debut solo album, and it’s a collection of disco-driven, lo-fi pop that’s quite longingly off-kilter. Unexpectedly down-playing her usual afrobeat inflected guitar in favour of jangly, punky synths and infectious vocal hooks, the album also takes in a couple of all-too-minimal folk jams. Pure pleasure.
The V I S I T A T I O N S project brings artists to The Isle of Eigg to record whatever they feel like. The results are bundled up in a series of EPs, downloads and art that are then placed tantalisingly beyond the reach of any streaming service. The latest V I S I T A T I O N concludes this month with new music from Rozi Plain and there ain’t no paywall high enough to keep me from a bunch of new Rozi tunes. Can’t wait.
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Mooch on over to Rachel Aggs’ own bandcamp page and she’s just released a download and limited edition tape comprising an entirely new album of material. No fuss. Just your biggest hero doing her thing.
Cassilda and Carcosa
Tubes, Transformers, Transistors and Tapes got to me just a little too late for inclusion last month. Analogue nerds out there should be all over it, as it’s an entirely computer free piece of electronica, richly suggestive of early Aphex Twin or Mike Paradinas. Inspired by the weird fiction of Ambrose Bierce and Robert W. Chambers, there’s something uneasy observing you from between the album’s clear lines.
It’s out on Ingrown Records of Fairfax, Virginia, who have a very impressive back catalogue of ambient and experimental music that comes across as a less self-referential counterpart to the UK’s Ghost Box and the plethora of Hookland-inspired folkloric melancholia that has accumulated in their wake. MIL KDU DES’ proggy double-hander GXH will fill any Orb shaped hole in your lockdown-life while Corsica Annex and X.Y.R. offer dreamy late-night voyages to somewhere gentle and sincere.
The Leaf Library
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The Leaf Library follow up the dreamy, tidal sweep of their gorgeous, very limited LP release of About Minerals with the latest installments in their Monuments series of side project albums. “There’s a great violin album by our drummer Lewis, and a set of atmospheric combo organ drones by me. Both are on CDR/DL and will be going on sale on Bandcamp tomorrow morning. The CDRs will be £5 tomorrow and then £6 thereafter.” Rather sweetly, Matt from TTL apologises for asking us to buy so much music.
HHY and the Kampala Unit
We featured Nyege Nyege Tapes’ Duma a few months back, and if you haven’t already checked them out, then shame on you. It’s real album of the decade territory, quite unlike anything else out there. Those wanting to look further should consider a pre-order for Lithium Blast, the debut from label-mates HHY and the Kampala Unit. The product of a residency with Portuguese artist Jonathan Saldanha (HHY and the Macumbas) it promises a trance-like, cinematic wash of dub and techno, with percussion from Nyege Nyege regular Otumba and horns from Florence Lugemwa and The Kampala Prison Brass Band.
Nyege Nyege’s sister label Hakuna Kulala offers to subject us to nothing less than ‘serious cerebral and physical damage’ with its upcoming release Ngoma Injection. Led by Russian DJ Wulffluw XCIV, and produced following the label’s 2019 festival, the teaser track ‘Nyege Digital Immersion‘ mixes ice-cold Industrial EDM with merciless layers of pan-African doom-core and glitchy electronics. FFO music that goes very quiet and then suddenly VERY LOUD. Your headphones will spontaneously throw themselves across the room and die twitching in the corner.
Giving space to Pulsallama seems to go rather against the grain of this column’s usual policy, which is to try and support new music, but frankly, it’s a history lesson that’s just too irresistible to ignore. Conceived of in 1980 by Ann Magnusson as sprawling, all-female, post-punk drum orchestra for a spring equinox art party and augmented by seasoned percussionist Jean Caffeine, they grew into a joyous, polyrhythmic monster that somehow found itself opening for The Clash on their Combat Rock tour. This release gathers together an obscure French radio broadcast with a handful of unheard recordings. It’s completely fucking ace.
Bandcamp excels at presenting great music writing and you can read more about Pulsallama here and you should because it’s an amazing and inspiring tale. Meanwhile, here’s the sound of seven women fighting over a cowbell.
Hypnotic, goth electronics dominate Shelley Brien and Mark Lanegan’s Black Phoebe, a download-only release that’s raising money for the RSPB. Tracks like ‘Saturn Rising‘ and ‘In the Trail of a Comet‘, recall the doom-laden, serpentine dancefloor of Sisters of Mercy or Siouxie and the Banshees but with a subtle techno twist. I’m not sure what any of this has to do with ornithology, other than that the birds have a terrible time lately and are probably very sad about having to fly south for the winter, but it’s got a laconic, intimate feel that conjures up a season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, perfect for a rainswept jog around the local cemetery.
The irrepressible Nubiyan Twist are back with pre-orders of their new album, Freedom Fables, featuring contributions from the likes of Cherise, Soweto Kinch and K.O.G. If you’ve come to jazz via the sonic pummeling you get at the hands of The Comet is Coming or Sly and the Family Drone, this could be a good chance to explore something a bit more sensual and thoughtful. ‘24-7‘ features some quite bewildering percussion underneath the neo-soul vocals of Ego Ella Mae and the rowdy ghost of Fela Kuti stalks ‘Tittle Tattle‘. A sharp reminder that British music can also look outward.
Gnomic utterings reach me via Twitter from Magic Spells, whose A SPIRIT, A KINGDOM EP is available for as much or as little as you want to chip in. Other than that there’s astoundingly little to go on, let’s take a punt and assume it’s Ed Sheeran and Brian Eno‘s secret EDM underworld. Ed? Brian? It is you, right?
The last living exponent of Surti, a devotional form of Islamic music, Ustad Saami releases the follow up to his critically acclaimed God is Not a Terrorist this month. Pakistan is for the Peaceful comprises three tracks recorded at the master’s rooftop in Karachi. Using a micro-tonal scale of forty-nine notes, his work is rightly lauded for an epic, hypnotic quality that transcends the bounds of culture and physical being in a way that has a certain affinity with post-rock ambient drone, or at least with the kind of experience that post-rock ambient drone bands would probably like you to have. Intense music for serious Earth. Truly one of a kind.
Work with what you’ve got they said, and Gary Wilkinson went off and made ‘FIXED ODDS BETTING TERMINALS//Piano Sonata‘ out of cut-up bits and bobs of Chopin, Rachmaninov and other public domain classical music recordings. Exploring the intensity and loneliness of a gambler in the grip of addiction, loops and sudden stabs of piano swirl threateningly, and the whole effect creates a cold, unsentimental empathy with its protagonist. It could so easily be a smug one-liner, but Wilkinson is adept at applying the tragic and ennobling quality of orchestral music to his subject. The other two tracks offer shrewd comment on the modern pastoral.
Finally, Bryony from Wolverhampton writes to ask if she can nominate her own EP for consideration. The answer is a resounding FUCK YEAH and actually, I’m very surprised that more of you don’t. Honestly, Bryony, my inbox is full to bursting with all the shit I get sent from PR companies hired by the rich kids to flog their tired, self-indulgent musings around the deformity of space-time caused by the implosion of matter left behind by the dying light of the music press. The worst that can happen is that I’ll politely ignore you. But the fact is that I live alone and other than the occasional visit from next door’s cat, have nothing else in my empty, wasted life, so any correspondence is gratefully recieved.
Happily, State I’m In EP is pretty good, has a very amusing cover and the vinyl has an earlier EP pressed on the B-side, so one could very well lay aside the false modesty and call it an album. ‘Knockin’ has a big chorus and an enjoyably rambunctious swagger and Williams is a promising vocalist and songwriter in the vein of Honeyblood or Hinds. It’s not entirely my thing but it’s nonetheless troubling that acts like this can’t spend the summer perfecting their schtick in front of festival audiences. Hang in there, Bryony.
The rest of you: this record = the price of a round of craft ale at End of the Road. Mine’s a Kombucha, thanks.
As always, comments are open if anyone wants to share their own recommendations. Don’t be shy, its the end of the world out there.