‘Time,’ as David Bowie once said, ‘flexes like a whore / falls wanking to the floor / his trick is you and me, boy.’
And it’s very much in that spirit that I welcome you, one and all, back to Bandcamp Friday, that special first Friday of each month when those adorable sprites at Bandcamp waive their cut, allowing more of your hard-earned cash to flow into the ever-bulging pockets of your favourite artists.
It’s a bit of a special column today.
Firstly, Bandcamp Friday is back after a long-ish break. Speaking for myself, it’s been quite enjoyable to not feel like I have to do this every four weeks and I guess as well that Bandcamp occasionally also needs you to buy records on other days of the month. The rental on all that internet real estate ain’t cheap. However, a lot of the artists and labels I hear from assure me that this monthly frenzy of consumerism gone mad makes a huge difference. And for the fans, well, there’s no better way to pass a dull staycation than to buy a load of music you can’t afford. It’s a thrill to be back, kids.
Also, today marks exactly a year since our first tremulous smorgasbord of recommendations. At the time I was a little bit lockdown-loopy and was seriously questioning the point of writing anything about anything and this at least seemed somehow purposeful. Together, we’ve discovered some fun stuff, made some new friends, and hopefully spread the word regarding a decent tune or two. Happy birthday to us, dear reader. We’ve staved off the inevitable for a full year. You’re all extremely special people and I apologise from my heart for all the times this column was a bit shit.
The good news is that having spent the last few months catching up with Nina Simone and Cabaret Voltaire, it seemed time to invite some new voices along on this incredible journey. And so, August finds us shaking the tree in the company of razor-eared Illuminatus Trev Elkin (TE), laser-powered wordsmith Kate Haresnape (KH) and the glittering prince of new music himself – the man, the legend, the wassailing vagabond, Bill Cummings (BC). Fly my pretties! Fly!
Post Coal Prom Queen – Music For Hypercapitalists
‘Thank you for your response. We don’t believe you.’ It can only be Post Coal Prom Queen, taking us through the recruitment process for a junior intern assistant and they seem to have attracted some high-flying applicants from the Scottish hip-hop scene. I’m not sure why, as they sound like a fucking nightmare to work for.
Nonetheless, they’re considering some impressive candidates. The shortlist probably includes Somnia, who brings a nimble futurism to ‘Puddles of Mercury’, Conscious Route, whose bombastic array of ‘Jack Jones attack drones’ make a daring, casually dressed raid on ‘Dragon’s Jaw’ and Jackal Trades, who is still waiting for his rocket ship and does not sound best pleased.
Musically, it’s PCPQ’s best work to date. I would have had them pegged as being a bit too sensitive and cerebral for this kind of thing, but they prove themselves the perfect foil for these artists. Ambitious in scope, sparking with ideas and with a funky, combative cyberpunk jam, Music For Hypercapitalists is unrelenting, impressive stuff. All proceeds from the release go to the charity Refuweegee and there’s a wild rumour circulating that they’re releasing the album on a packet of noodles. Tuck in, electro-serfs. (CB)
Bachelor – Doomin’ Sun
Bachelor is the new project from Melina Duterte (Jay Som) and Ellen Kempner (Palehound). Expect sugary melodies and (the occasional) reverb-drenched guitar part that work to create a glorious soundscape of pop-punk, riot-girl, indie goodness.
With lyrics that approach themes of queerness and climate change, the duo were also responding to the red skies and wildfires subsuming Australia at their time of recording. The ten songs on the album were written in just two weeks at a house in Topanga where the duo slept in late, made lunch and then spent the rest of the day messing around with instruments. The end result embodies the introspection and subtlety that such a setting affords. (KH)
LIPS – I Don’t Know Why I Do Anything
If you’ve been excited by The Beths, Miss June or the crashing wave of great acts to emerge in the antipodes recently, then New Zealanders, Lips, may be another exciting tip for you. Originally a solo project for Steph Brown, Fen Ikner (Calexico) joined the band in 2012 and since then Lips have released a few EPs, scored a film (Daffodils) and occasionally put out some beautiful covers including The Mutton Birds and Crowded House.
By contrast, this, their first full-length release, I Don’t Know Why I Do Anything, is a bit of an unexpected open-top party bus tour through pop-punk, whimsical indie, gritty synth folk and sad hangover RnB. Lips style themselves as ‘a girl with giant lips for a head’, giving off maximalist Frank Sidebottom vibes. The music is nothing like dear old Frank, but he’d approve of their burning wit and obtuse observations. Check out the madding moods of ‘Heave Ho’, with its scrunchy bass line, the gentler ‘Sometimes I’m Afraid’, the skittish machinery of ‘What The Hell’ and the seamless, atmospheric harmonies of Braids-like ‘It Isn’t Anything I’d Rely On’ to get some measure of this band’s intrigue. (TE)
Ray Sapienz and the Congo Techno Ensemble – Na Zala Zala
Congolese rapper and producer Rey Sapienz is one of the founders of Uganda’s electronica imprint Hakuna Kulala. His debut album Na Zala Zala is out now via Hakuna Kalala’s sister label, the fearsome Nyege Nyege Tapes, and those already familiar with the Kampala scene will be unsurprised to hear that it’s utterly brilliant.
Featuring contributions from percussionist and dancer Papalas Palata and rapper Fresh Dougis, and drawing on their collective experience as survivors of the ongoing conflict in the DRC, the LP is a harsh but ultimately forward-looking dreamspace of futuristic syncopations, looped chants and techno-dancehall mutations. By turns introspective and thunderously explosive, this is passionate and essential music that grabs you by the throat until it’s said what it has to say, and what it has to say needs to be heard. (CB)
Sweeping Promises – Hunger for a Way Out
My God, this album has been so overlooked it causes me actual physical pain. Released last August on Feel It Records, Hunger for a Way Out is a slice of post-punk perfection. Every song on the album is killer and has single potential. Let’s face it there aren’t many albums that you don’t at least skip through one or two tracks on – the songwriting, the bass-driven hooks, angular guitars and a synth all contribute to making this one of the best albums to come out of the Boston underground since The Cars and The Pixies.
Oh, and did I mention that the tracks were recorded in a practice room using the ‘single mic technique’? ie: they hung a microphone from a ceiling whilst playing live, so yeah they just sound this good with basically zero production polish. (KH)
Various – Cameroon Garage Funk
‘African Iyo‘ by Jean-Pierre Djeukam is the insanely wild and brilliant lead track from this forthcoming Cameroonian garage funk compilation from Analog Africa. Riotous and dappled with horns, bustling guitars and skittery percussion, the song bounces across the continent in a clapped-out vehicle. Dip your toe into the ocean of Louis Wasson‘s ‘Song of Love‘, and Johnny Black‘s ‘Mayi Bo Ya‘? It’s the sound of James Brown in the old town and based on these teasers alone, this is bound to be a right old treasure trove.
They say: ‘The country suffered from a serious lack of proper recording facilities, and the process of committing your song to tape could become a whole adventure unto itself. Of course, you could always book the national broadcasting company together with a sound engineer, but this was hardly an option for underground artists with no cash. But luckily an alternative option emerged in form of an adventist church with some good recording equipment and many of the artists on this compilation recorded their first few songs, secretly, in these premises thanks to Monsieur Awono, the church engineer. He knew the schedule of the priests and, in exchange for some cash, he would arrange recording sessions. The artists still had to bring their own equipment, and since there was only one microphone, the amps and instruments had to be positioned perfectly. It was a risky business for everyone involved but since they knew they were making history, it was all worth it.’ (BC)
Carpet – Terror Tear
Leeds-based musician and producer Carpet may be better known as recording engineer Rob Slater (Mi Mye, The Spills, Crake), and also plays in many of Leeds and Wakefields’ great DIY bands. His self-titled EP will be released this September, but you can grab a couple of tracks now, including ’Terror Tear’.
Carpet take cues from the understated genius of artists like Chris Cohen and Stephen Malkmus, shaping their anxious energy into the hidden questions that lurk in the back of our minds every day, the threads of a worry repeatedly picked at. Shifting twists in melody, the scratch of an unexpected guitar and Slater’s lyrical devices all go to increase the tension, which is felt more like a soft pinch than a stranglehold. But the unsettling effect is there nonetheless and a sense of despair in the realisation, ‘all that’s left is all that’s left me hollow’. Carpet are devastatingly subtle and promise interesting things to come. (TE)
Various – Wormhole World August Bundle
There are four marvellous releases this month from your ever-reliable source of eerie, ambient scuzz that is Wormhole World. It’s hard to pick a favourite and why would you, when you could grab all four?
THLTTLDBB’s catchily entitled MtnMtnMtn is constructed entirely from tape loops of sounds they found on the internet. It’s warm, deep and pleasingly understated, saturated in mystery and ambiguity and ends with a stunning 9-minuter, ‘Sugarlands’, in which a female voice mournfully revolves around a weirdly corroded, shimmering foreground.
It segues pretty neatly into The New Emphatic’s Visa to the Stars, billed as a b-movie soundtrack to the singular adventures of a lovestruck astronaut. It’s the old, old story – she falls in love the day before the big mission and then goes into space anyway because that’s what heroes do. I don’t have any information on whether or not she’s a billionaire, but let’s hope so, as I get the impression that it all ends very badly. The second half of the album is replete with drama – Lights blink and options run out, and the void, an eternal chasm both interstellar and existential, threatens to consume everything.
On Rare-earth Experiments, Patrick R. Pärk slips between the micro and macro worlds of ecology, strange minerals and the occasional superorganism. Seemingly both metallic and organic, it’s a creaking soundscape of low-whistling machine noise and tactile, chitinous echoes and is completely absorbing.
WIP’s Theramin is even more inscrutable, although tracks like ‘Macrosoft Hedge’ – which sounds like two fax machines having loud sex in the next room – seem to hint that they’ve traded dreams of a futuristic techno-utopia for snide digs at the nonsense we’ve actually ended up with. There’s something grungy about their ultra-minimal approach to noise-making, but there are nonetheless, moments of serene, albeit highly-strung sweetness. ‘Clogs, Flowers and Wolly Hats’ runs a finger along the razor’s edge that separates a delicate folk air from cloying muzak, while ‘Tyrannosaurus Sex’ wants to sweep you up in its tiny little arms and take the pain away. (CB)
Midwife – Luminol
The world would be a much less dreamy place without Madeline Johnston’s heaven metal project, Midwife. Luminol plays like a washed-out, vintage-tone Instagram filter looks. Written and produced during quarantine, the album explores themes of incarceration, locus of control, clarity, self-harm, confinement, agency, and truth-seeking. There are collaborations from members of DIIV and Have a Nice Life. Luminol is a truly beautiful, soft-gaze album, it’s SUCH a mood and it’s the perfect soundtrack to late-night solitary walks or drives. Try it and thank me later. (KH)
LICE – Persuader
There’s a new entry in the format wars – yes, you may forget the vinyl crunch, abandon the CD revival, and consign the cassette micro-edition to the gutter of history – Bristol’s LICE have found the way forward by releasing their new single ‘Persuader’ on a block of wood.
Drawn from January’s brilliant post-apocalyptic concept album, WASTELAND: What Ails Our People is Clear, we find the song’s genocidal protagonist muttering, ’Consider a virus that can end all life / Here, look, it’s in your hand!’, which suggests they’ve seen Genesis of the Daleks at least as many times as I have. A minimalist, post-punk guitar line slinks irresistibly towards the total destruction of all life in the universe, while the accompanying track, ‘Mediator’, reworks the material in a more euphoric vein.
At time of writing, they were down to the last few bits of wood, an offcut from a mysterious artefact known as the Intonarumori. I expect that when the end does come, you can boil it up to make soup, or summon an ancient horror from beyond the abyss, or something like that. But if you find you’ve missed out you can always, more boringly, pick up a magnificent vinyl repress of the album itself. (CB)
Obey Cobra – Oblong
I don’t know about you, but the past eighteen months has been a slog. There are times when it felt like things wouldn’t turn around, and lockdown would be endless. Suffice to say, Obey Cobra’s brutal recent single ‘Sophia can Walk‘ is a brooding fever dream, a scrawl on the wall that distils that ominous and dystopic feeling, dark nagging and menacing.
For my money, their collision of paranoia-induced stream of consciousness and fractured post-punk, bleeding into a shouty mess of rage oscillating somewhere between Young Marble Giants and Sonic Youth, is far more impressive than anything I’ve heard from Mercury Nominees Black Midi. Today, their album ‘Oblong‘ is released, so nab yourself a copy and release your primal fears! (BC)
Altın Gün – Âlem
Dutch/Turkish psych-disco darlings, Altın Gün, have followed up February’s rip-roaring LP Yol with a new album, solely available as a download on Bandcamp. It’s called Âlem, which joyfully enough translates into English as ‘realm, world, booze, kingdom, universe and orgy’. And why choose when you can have everything, yeah? Perhaps more importantly, all proceeds from the album will go to the nature protection group EarthToday, and each track you purchase will fund a square metre of nature in perpetuity.
Mixing new material with covers and traditional favourites, the album dives deep into the band’s influences – beguiling electronica and ’80s Anatolian pop via such gems as the languid groove of ‘Üzüm Üzüme Baka Baka’, the Kraftwerkian folk-robotic stylings of ‘Cips Kola Kilit’ and the faded Balearic glories of single ‘Kisasa Kisas’, a sweltering, nostalgic tale of holiday romance, all footprints on the sand and vague memories of reggae. Opening track ‘Yali Yali’ bloody bangs, so it does. Give ‘em your money. (CB)
Gee Tee – Chromo-Zone
Five tracks all amounting to under ten minutes of an EP, Sydney-based duo, Gee Tee are the soundtrack to your first teenage basement party gig. Straight up punk (with synths of course!), I challenge anyone who grew up as a snotty-nosed, skater kid not to dig this. Listening to Gee Tee immediately transports me back to every warm can of Red Stripe I’ve clutched (and probably spilt) at some random house party, whilst trying to look cool. (KH)
Sweet Nobody – Other Humans
California’s Sweet Nobody savour the dreamier end of surf rock. The sort of music that, with its bold chiming guitars, steady shoop-shoop beats and huge production, brings out the innate sparkle in the dullest of days. Across a string of singles and 2017 album Loud Songs for Quiet People, Joy Deyo’s voice has that 50s girl band nostalgia, particularly on their latest swooning prom song ‘Other Humans’.
But that’s as far as any such comparisons go. ‘Who makes me worth a damn? Not you or you or any other man’, sings Deyo in defiance of some songwriting advice she received. She says of the track, ‘’Other Humans’ is a question and it’s a shout out to anyone who’s ever felt like they were somehow stuck on the outskirts of something resembling normal human-hood. And maybe that’s pretty normal after all.’ We agree and think the subtly uplifting, loving spirit of Sweet Nobody should be in everyone’s Bandcamp collection. (TE)
Little Majorette – Not Mine
‘Not Mine‘ is a real pick me up, pirouetting neatly across your ears, with bubbly beats and seductive vocals. ‘This heart is not mine‘, goes the refrain above illuminating synth lines. Crafty and insidious it sounds like a promise to herself, not to get hurt again. It’s like Billie Eilish grooving it out with disco ball Goldfrapp – and there’s a comparison that would have got me a job at the Melody Maker back in the day. Zoe Durrant is Little Majorette and this little gem is lifted from a mighty fine EP called Waves. (BC)
Spartan Jet-Plex – Low-Lofi Volume 1 – 4
Nowadays, Nancy Grim Kells, a.k.a Spartan Jet-Plex, is best known as the force that through the green fuse drives Grimalkin Records. But in the 1990s, having become disillusioned with their career in the L.A. gallery scene they went through a period of reinvention and started channelling their energy into creating music. These early recordings, made using toy instruments on a portable 4-track, were never intended for public consumption and at the time were only ever distributed on cassette to close friends and family. They are quite shatteringly beautiful.
It’s not just that there’s something very fully formed going on here – sad, luminous snapshots of life presented with unsparing economy and honesty – it’s also the sense that if you set out to self-consciously make something like this you’d fall a long way short. There’s also an unstated feeling hanging over the music which suggests that the 1990s might not have been a fantastic time to be in any way queer or non-binary, and so Low-Lofi opens a window onto a vanished era.
The cream of these recordings are being released in four batches on the first Friday of each month as a fundraiser for the wider Grimalkin project with the second volume out today. It’s a privilege to encounter these very private documents and anyone who has ever marvelled over those home recordings of figures like Daniel Johnston or Molly Drake will want to engage with this. (CB)