In his new column for FACT, writer Laurent Fintoni tackles Bandcamp, a platform that allows artists to sell music direct to fans, and which, more than ever, is becoming a go-to site for both independent musicians and independent music fans. Each month, he’ll pick out some of the month’s best and most interesting releases from the platform.
Infinities of music and finding your voice
Something’s been bothering me for a while. It’s to do with the constant deluge of new music I often myself under. What bothers me isn’t the quantity but the quality, and specifically how quality relates to artistry.
It used to be that choosing a creative path – music, say – was something that required hard work and devotion. The technology to create tended to be expensive and hard to find, while the knowledge was shared selectively between peers or via magazines with limited reach. As a result you did with what you had, you invested yourself for years on end to learn a craft. Emerging from that period would most likely happen when you’d reached a point where you felt your voice – what made you unique – had developed enough for your music to be heard by people other than your close friends or confidents. It’s a shortened generalisation of a complex process, but you get the idea.
That process still exists today, of course. However, more often than not, it seems to be taking place in the public sphere where previously it was confined to the bedroom. Well, technically it is still happening in the bedroom, which is where most modern producers and musicians are likely to create – but the bedroom is now connected to the world via the internet. Perhaps a more accurate way to look at it would be to say that the bedroom has entered the public sphere. As a result, the private learning process by which a musician would find his voice has increasingly become public, shared across social networks. Trusting a close friend to listen to your music has been replaced by seeking validation from an anonymous public. Coupled with a lower entry point – music making technology and knowledge is available at the click of a mouse – this shift is creating a musical landscape that feels increasingly bland at times. That’s what bothers me.
I understand that things have changed, that the ways of the past are increasingly irrelevant to a growing portion of today’s music makers, and listeners. That’s fine, you can’t change evolution. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about it, or openly critique the loss of a way of approaching creativity that has given us the majority of what is being pillaged or referred to in modern music. It is great that everyone has more opportunities to create today, however it’s just not that simple. Not everyone is going to be good. Not everyone is going to have something to say. Those simple facts remain, no matter how much our ways change. A lot of today’s new music could benefit from staying on hard drives, behind closed doors, until the creators have matured.
In that regard, websites like Bandcamp are both a boon and a curse. You’re just as likely to find music by someone who’s still getting to grips with who they are as an artist as you are a release by someone whose artistic persona has been formed through time and experience. As it grows in popularity, it’s inevitably going to continue attracting more of both.
This month’s selection reflects these ideas, with releases from established artists with a distinctive voice, others who have faded back into obscurity having said what they wanted and yet more who are sharing their learning experiences. Enjoy.
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As far as musical team-ups go, the coming together of Nathan Jenkins (aka Bullion) and Jesse Hackett (of Elmore Judd) is sure to become one of the more memorable of recent years. Their debut release as Blludd Relations sounds like little else out there: wonderfully strange alien pop coated in sugar sweet melodies, playful rhythms and an honesty that translates implacably through the music.
Released on Bullion’s own DEEK label, it’s been out for a little while but doesn’t seem to have got anywhere near the level of attention it deserves. So if, like me, you missed it first time round, brighten up your life right now.
Available as digital.
Tripping On The Wake Of Goodbyes
This debut EP from Berlin-based Phoebe Kiddo is a fitting introduction to the sound of a musician who, despite being a 2011 RBMA alumnus, has remained fairly un-hyped. Across seven tracks, Kiddo offers the listener subtle electronica anchored in the warmth of analogue equipment. There are moments of sheer brilliance – see the broken rhythms and blues-y adlibs of ‘Slowdance On The Fault Line’ – balanced against more intense, driving productions that echo dance music tropes without ever falling into clichés.
Released by L.A’s Non Projects (run by fellow 2011 alumnus Anenon), Kiddo’s opening shot bodes well for her debut album, Artefacts of Broken Dreams, which is out on the label this month and further fleshes out the ideas touched upon in this EP.
Available as pay what you want digital.
EP One & EP Two
Have you ever wondered what music made by a Japanese truck driver might sound like? Well, wonder no longer. Aoki Desu (which means ‘I am Aoki’) is a Japanese producer I was introduced to via Daisuke Tanabe (and Instagram, strangely enough). According to Daisuke, he has a makeshift studio in his truck and that is where he makes most of his music. The two EPs are a collection of short beats with seemingly little logic to them, but plenty of bump and a dragnet approach to sample sources. The use of the tag ‘comedy’ perhaps speaks more than I ever could about the intention behind it all. Sometimes not taking things too seriously is the best approach.
Available as a free download
GEORGIA ANNE MULDROW
To call the world of hip hop production male-dominated would be somewhat of an understatement. While the production revolution of the past decade has undoubtedly opened up the field more than at any other point in hip hop’s history, it’s still very much a man’s world out there. Artists like Tokimonsta, Pursuit Grooves and Georgia Anne Muldrow may still technically be exceptions to the rule but they have proven, through hard work and talent, that it doesn’t have to be like that. With a long list of credits and appearances to her name, Georgia is arguably the leader of the pack. The singer, producer and musician has never shied away from bringing spirituality into her music, and it’s perhaps what gives so much of her work an undeniable fOnk.
Her entire body of work is worth exploring, but if you need an entry point this collection of instrumentals from 2010 is a perfect place to start.
Available as digital.
MORDY LAYE AND THE GROUP MODULAR
The Mystery of Mordy Laye
When I heard this a few weeks back (thank you Julien’s friend whose name I forget) the first thing that came to my mind was MHE, the Californian duo whose early 2000s releases on Sound in Color gave full meaning to the meeting of psych and hip hop and the term dirty drums. Group Modular are a Jewish duo based in Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv and, if the story behind the album is to believed, the music came about from being given unfinished 8-track recordings of sessions by a mysterious artist named Mordy Laye, which they essentially finished. The sound on here is unashamedly retro, soaked in the warmth and fuzz of analogue equipment and the slow, chugging grooves of psych, funk and early electronic and library records. It is a beautiful time capsule of a record.
Available as digital and vinyl (via the distributor)
I’ve harped on a fair bit about established artists using Bandcamp to sell directly to fans, opening up entire back catalogues for worldwide distribution at the touch of a button. Another great side effect of the site’s growth as a distribution platform has been the renewed and expanded availability of lost classics, albums that were the talk of small groups of dedicated fans pocketed around the world, passed on via copies and word of mouth. Jibberish is one such gem.
I recently discovered the album thanks to a two-year old tweet from L.A’s Pay Ray (who used to work at the legendary Aaron’s Records back in the days and rolls with Hit & Run). The debut album of a little known Dutch producer named Harco Pront, Jibberish was released in 2003 by Music for Speakers, a label co-founded by mad scientist Aardvarck. As it turns out my discovery led to some interesting stories about the man from Kutmah, Mr Beatnick and Jameszoo, who reckons Harco is still around and making music though not in any serious capacity. Alongside his releases for the label (an album and two 12”s) he also apparently collaborated with Rednose Distrikt.
Jibberish is a thoroughly riveting hodge-podge of sonic ideas spread across 33 tracks, most of them barely 2 minutes long and often bearing little sonic relation to each other. As you lose yourself in Harco’s world, it’s easy to picture him fitting into the same mold as the likes of Dimlite: modern luminaries who make music first and foremost because they need to. The music clearly taps deep into a personal well of emotions, experiences and ideas for inspiration, ignoring any attempt at fitting into a distinct scene, sound or whatever. Jibberish is the sound of a man talking to you through his art. It’s a modern embodiment of the idea that while man may pass his art will live on.
Available as digital.
Continuing the whole lost classics idea, I stumbled across this gem on Orko Eloheim’s Bandcamp in the past month. The San Diego rapper is perhaps best known in indie rap circles as one half of Nephilim Modulation System with Co Flow’s Bigg Jus, and his lengthy twenty-year discography is testament to the sort of underground dedication that has kept the West Coast thriving over the past three decades.
Forbidden Physics was originally slated for a 2005 release, having been recorded the year before, but never saw the light of day. And then the internet happened. The album is a perfect snapshot of the dark, electronic sound that characterised Orko and fellow experimentalists at the time: brutal walls of densely layered sound, a noughties update of the Bomb Squad approach, squeezing every inch of space out of every available second. Lyrically it’s equally dense, which back in the mid 2000s was essentially a turn-off for most ‘heads’. It’s also interesting to note that this album fits within the late 90s, early 00s West Coast tradition of blending hip hop and electronic dance music, especially drum’n’bass, predating the further meshing of hip hop and dubstep in the later part of the decade thanks to the scene that burst out of Low End Theory.
Available as digital.
Searching for the perfect tag
Cassette Demo #1
[Every month the column will feature one release discovered via a random tag search]
OK, I’ll admit it – I kinda cheated for the tag release this month. I didn’t really find this via a tag search, but let’s just pretend I did, as I was looking at the ‘cassette’ tag and realised I’d already saved this for a later listen.
Released earlier this year, Cassette Demo #1 is a collection of, you guessed it, demos by what I’m assuming is a Belfast-based musician, if the tags are to be trusted. No other information is available, though as with previous tag discoveries in this column, the music is all the better for it. The vibe is quite dreamy, and while these are demos some of the tracks feel way more finished than the title would lead you to believe. ‘Ghost of (cassette mix)’ is a stand out, with its blues guitars and warm bass, while ‘Jazz Sax’ pulls off a 2-step drum pattern in a rather surprising way.