Happy pandemiversary. I guess. At least the hard slog of winter is almost over and the vaccines look like they might just get us to a couple of gigs in the autumn. I’ve got Arab Strap booked (because you only live once, yeah? Yeah?) and almost don’t dare to hope that Green Man will go ahead. Can’t wait to jostle with you at the merch table. February has been a slog, mind you. Cold and wet, like Nicholas Witchell‘s clammy pink jowls. But hopefully, we’re not too jaded to cast a weary eye over a few new releases. Once again, it’s Bandcamp Friday, and here I am with my delusions of grandeur and all the recommendations you need.
For those of you who were not found by the e-mail, today is the day when the good eggs at Bandcamp waive their cut and your money mostly goes to the artists. Mostly, because that would naturally exclude the bit that PayPal needs to keep itself off the streets. Heaven knows they must be struggling right now.
Randolph’s Leap – Spirit Level
Anyone who likes a bit of wry Scottish indie-pop will want to know about this LP from Aberdeenshire’s Randolph’s Leap. And if you’re worried about how ecologically sustainable your vinyl addiction is (clue: it isn’t) then you may rest easy, as the forthcoming repress is printed on recycled vinyl pellets. Yay. More of that please, record labels. Expect witty lyrics, catchy tunes and stomping horns. The single, ‘Moment Passed’, has big Neil Hannon energy and is just the thing to get you though the next three and a bit minutes without going insane.
DJ Black Low – Uwami
From Hammanskraal, Pretoria, Sam Austin Radebe, a.k.a DJ Black Low, is making some extremely captivating music at the outer limits of the amapiano sound. His debut, Uwami, on Awesome Tapes From Africa, showcases improvised, complex percussion with a hard, unsentimental edge. There’s a bewildering number of guest vocalists and it makes a compelling case for why you should be keeping your eye on South African music right now. This is a very sharp record.
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Lice have added a rather fetching t-shirt to their page. Designed by Patrick Saville it’s definitely one for fans of surreal blobs in a grid. The album ain’t bad, neither.
Thomas Ragsdale – Turn of the Screw
As heard on Adam Curtis’s Can’t Get You Out of My Head. Do you need to know more? Ok, Thomas Ragsdale makes electronic music and co-runs the excellent Soundtracking the Void label and tends to put things out on an unfashionably track-by-track basis. You can pick up his entire back catalogue on Bandcamp for less than a tenner and you probably should – timeless ambient electronica shot through with pure emotion. There’s nothing here that isn’t deft and to the point, but last November’s pulsating ‘Turn of the Screw’ stands out as an exceptionally fine bit of dance-floor melancholia.
Freaks of Nosmo 9 – Fuck, The World Doesn’t Want My Music
Here’s 18 tracks of quite magisterially truculent noise from Freaks of Nosmo 9. Describing themselves as here to ‘tackle the shit music pandemic’ they sound like side-show automatons animated by something dangerous. High points include ‘Van Morrison in a Morrison’s Van’ and ‘Bird Shit Hat’, although just when you think you’ve got a handle on their particular brand of chaos they drop something as unutterably smooth as ‘Curse of the Love Sweater’. This is the blues you need.
Mecánica Clásica – Mar Interior
On now on Valencia’s Abstrakce Records, Mar Interior by Mecánica Clásica blends ambience, music concret and krautrock – you know, the good shit – to mesmerising effect. Taking inspiration from the ancient civilizations of the Mediterranean as much as from Eno’s Obscure Records releases of the 70s and produced by Colin Potter (Nurse With Wound), this is a sensitive and multi-layered experience that goes way beyond any genre expectations. Big-time odyssey. Stick it on your headphones and feel the sun come out.
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A few months ago you might recall me raving wildly about there are no birds here and their grim pastoral interlude Another Ruined Landscape. The previously download only LP can now assume the physical form of a tape in a barely fungible edition of 20.
Post Coal Prom Queen – Wait, wait! Dig!
Excitement mounts in this belter of a single from Post Coal Prom Queen. Pulling back from the high-conceptualism of their earlier L-Space material, this track is all about what you can do with Lily Higham’s sparkling voice and puts their dream-pop sensibility firmly upfront. A haunting bit of apocalyptic disco that hints at a wider, mysterious narrative. Hopefully, they’ll get that LP together before the final civilizational collapse.
Lucy Liyou – Practice
Korean-American experimental artist Lucy Liyou’s album has been doing the rounds for the last few weeks, but in case you missed it, Practice consists of a series of confessional vignettes fed through a text-to-voice machine with a gloomy, reverb-heavy Caretaker-esque backing. Chronicling a recent pandemic-related family emergency – you can read more about that here: https://daily.bandcamp.com/features/lucy-liyou-practice-interview – Practice is both achingly sad and hilariously funny, in that it takes awful moments of inter-generational, and inter-cultural personal drama, and recounts them through the dry, paranoid voice of a very tired sounding machine. And aren’t we all?
Shuck – Petrichor and Rainbows
Hominid Sounds present a reissued vinyl of last summer’s LP by Manchester’s Shuck, comprising Al Wilson (Ghold), Jon Perry (Gnod) and Andy Jackson. It’s the kind of thing that will make you really pine after some live music – this is something that you’ll want rattling your diaphragm at the low end. At time of writing, stocks were running low, so if you like being butted in the face by your rock music you might want to move relatively quickly. They also have some lush baby pink vinyls of the widely and deservedly feted UKAEA LP going at the moment. Perfect partners.
Obay Alsharani – Sandbox
Hailing from Syria, and now resident in Stockholm, Obay Alsharani’s debut on Hive Mind is inspired partly by the shifting lights of the Arctic sky and partly by the utopian digital spaces of Minecraft, where he was able to take refuge from thoughts of the horror and chaos that was ravaging in his homeland. There’s an incomprehensible emotional weight being borne by these tracks. It never threatens to overwhelm them, however – Sandbox is an album that offers solace for our discordant age. Masterful. Available on tape, it comes in a specially designed Maltese Cross-shaped slipcase with a set of 10 art cards drawing on images from Alsharani’s video work. A share of the profits from this release will be donated to the Refugee Council.
Roke – Roke
One of those enigmatic outfits that plug their album by sending you a link on Twitter accompanied by absolutely no context at all. The only thing I’ve managed to get out of Roke is that it’s always 1998 down their way, and this is indeed a splendid half an hour or so of good old-fashioned post-rock. Imagine Disco Inferno covering OK Computer. There’s a human voice and some guitars tantalisingly buried under all that reverb and while it’s hard to make out the details, the cumulative emotional effect is very direct. Half alive, but moving with an implacably forlorn power – tarry here a while, dear reader, for this is very good indeed.
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One of our ‘It’s Friday I’m…’ alumni, the redoubatable troubadour Bryony Williams, has a scrapbook and raffle going on her Bandcamp page today. Do not resist….
Dark Fidelity Hi-Fi – Beautiful Fragments
Pre-orders are available for this release, the follow up to last year’s Machine Blossoms, via Glasgow’s Bricolage. The two tracks you can take home today bode well. ‘Motoko’ sounds like Future Sound of London, minus all that fiddly hippy bullshit, while ‘Lost Communications’ takes a slightly edgier turn. Described as being inspired by ‘feelings of solitude, being stuck in a loop of digital communications and memories of the not so distant past that somehow feels like aeons ago’, any gloom and doom is belied by hints of a journey to come. Not exactly optimistic, but hopeful in its way.
Fast Blood – Fast Blood EP
As usual Cruel Nature have some fantastic things coming out on tape this month and I’d always recommend a quick gander at their experimentally experimental wares. Unusually though, I find myself drawn to Fast Blood’s EP, a pretty straight-down-the-line serving of melodious punk-pop in the tradition of Martha or Cocaine Piss. What can I say? Either I’m going soft or spring must be just around the corner. It’s a tonic – punchy and heartening. The single ‘You’ is a shout out to a good mate: ‘You, yeah you / I’d go anywhere with you’, goes the chorus, and goodness me if that’s not somebody dreaming the wildest of wild and fantastical dreams right now (here, your humble servant pauses to stare longingly into the cold darkness outside his window. Sighs. Makes another coffee).
Brandstifter and Diurnal Burdens – Miraculous Seepage
It’s back to my usual beat for the immaculately named Brandstifter and Diurnal Burdens, a pair of veteran experimentalists who present their debut collaboration Miraculous Seepage on a taped edition of just 50 copies on Crow Versus Crow. Billed as a ‘new body of collaborative tape loop bunraku’, it’s about as far from a good tune as you can get. The album is a kind of surrealist puppet theatre in abjection, evoking the weird, derelict spaces of Thomas Ligotti or Jan Svankmeyer. Titles like ‘Sigue Sigue Sea Lions Rolling Iced Dices in Polar Nights’ and ‘Psychedelic Flashbacks of the Frivolous Dwarf’s Army Storm’ flirt around the periphery of fantasy world-building, although the music itself maintains an impenetrable taciturnity. You can hear the strings under the tape hiss.
Only Now, Beneath the Ruins – Anamnesis
A duo comprising producer Kush Arora and guitarist Peter Arensdorf, Only Now, Beneath the Ruins, take us on a deep, dubby dive into the desert ghost towns of California. Arora conjures a vast, unforgiving landscape out of Arensdorf’s sparse, meditative guitars. Conveying an atmosphere of impending, thunderous violence and unimaginable loss, this is an apocalyptic road trip of an album, deceptively simple in execution but able to reveal layer upon layer of history – both musical and geological. Again, this is the blues you need right now.
And… that’s all folks. As usual, share your tips in the comments if there’s anything you feel like I missed.