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BANDCAMP

It’s the end of the year. So here goes with the lists.

More lists than you could ever know what to do with. As with last year, the last column of the year is a look back over 2014. Twenty selections, some of which act as the December picks, whilst others were included in previous columns and stand out as some of the year’s best releases – artists, labels or collectives doing great work. As Bandcamp continues to grow, it really is becoming somewhat of an incredible rabbit hole for the adventurous listener.

Best enjoyed with a hangover. See you next year.

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AJA MONET
Courage

Aja Monet is from Brooklyn – born and bred. She’s also a poet, and a damn fine one at that. Youngest ever winner of the Nuyorican Poets’ Café Grand Slam Title, she’s taken her words around the world and used them to teach as well. Her words cut through the bullshit. They hit where it matters. After a first set of songs in 2010, she spent the past few years recording powerful cuts with a grip of European producers, infusing electronic productions with soul to stunning results. On Courage, her first solo release since 2010, she teams up with Shayfer James for a collection of songs that are more organic, leaning heavily on classical instrumentation and bluesy riffs. Her voice is more aligned with what you’d expect of a singer, yet it is just as potent as her more poetic work.

Available as digital. 

FUJAKO
Exobell

A duo from Portugal and Belgium (via France), Fujako make tripped out beats and gut-wrenching dub inspired by the more abstract side of hip hop as well as nature (look up ‘telluric current’) and mysticism. It’s out-there, but it works. Around the first time I heard this release, I saw them open for Shabazz Palaces in Brussels, and there are arguably some sonic parallels between the two. The rhythms on Exobell are stripped down to the bare essentials – melodic flourishes are sparse, and the voice of Black Saturn gives context and fleshes out the body of the music. On paper, the two outfits are a million miles apart, but sonically, there’s something there.

Also worth checking is the Soul Buzz EP from earlier this year, a dub-heavy delirium that offers a nice contrast to Exobell and shows the duo’s other side.

Available as pay what you want digital and limited edition cassette and vinyl.

WANDL
Far Way Home

Affine Records have been holding it down for Vienna since 2008. Home to some of the city’s best known producers and modern musicians – Cid Rim, The Clonious, Dorian Concept – it’s been an integral part of the city’s vibrant, if somewhat rarely documented, scene alongside the likes of The Loud Minority. Wandl is the latest addition to the family, a 20-year-old producer who I first discovered on a visit to the city last year. The music I’d heard then was very much in line with the current electronic zeitgeist and on Far Way Home some of that remains, perhaps inevitably, though the young talent displays a knack for breaking through the stereotypes and delivering something that feels genuine. Certainly one to look out for in the coming years.

Earlier this year, Affine also released the debut solo EP from South African tongue-twister Okmalumkoolkat, Holy Oxygen. Produced by Cid Rim and The Clonious, it is certifiably bonkers, and well worth your time.

Available as digital.

BURNT FRIEDMAN & DANIEL DODD-ELLIS
Cease to Matter

Compelling, bizarre and with a brutally honest feel to it, Cease To Matter is an album that you’d be hard pressed to force into any straight-jacket genre. Experimental and electronic are two adjectives that’ll fit somewhat, but there are also tinges of dub and poetry running through it. It’s not necessarily an easy listen, but it hits exactly right if you give it the time. It feels like a personal work that’s presented with no flourishes – you take it for what it is and make it your own, or you just move on and don’t look back.

Available as digital. 

ENA 
Binaural

Tokyo’s ENA is a man on a mission, it seems, that mission being to twist the boundaries of any given genre he applies himself to until you’re left with something that’s equally puzzling as it is engrossing. His debut on French label 7even Recordings picked up from dubstep-minded 12”s to explore more minimal and abstract ideas and textures – ideas that are carried across to Binaural, his second album. Samurai Horo, a Berlin-based drum’n’bass label specialising in curveballs, handle the album. Binaural has the bpm of drum’n’bass, but feels nothing like it. Instead, you’re treated to a tapestry of carefully crafted electronic works, with no real inkling as to where the machine stops and the human starts. The result is mesmerising, a blend of organic and mechanic that’s fitting to the dystopian times unfolding around us.

Available as digital.

DYM QUELL HOLO
Ball & Ball Appendix

Dimlite. If Kutmah’s a DJ’s DJ, then Dimlite’s a producer’s producer. If you don’t know why, then I encourage you to go and seek out his work and discover that for yourself. Since his last appearance on Now Again in 2011, the notoriously private musician has gone back into hiding, dropping the odd collection of previous work and not much else. Until he popped up again on Bandcamp earlier this month, under yet another linguistic flip of his given name. The Ball and Ball Appendix series are single track releases covered in cuts and scratches, weathered by the winds of life and all the more beautiful for it.

Available as digital. 

NIÑO
Tradato Sobre Musica Absurda Y Artificial

We return to Barcelona’s Galleta Records, who were featured in April’s label-focused column. This time it’s Niño, one of the city’s finest, who gives us a treatise on absurd and artificial music, an 11-minute long composition peppered by the disembodied voice of a British documentarian that deals with the absurdity and beauty that is modern music production and esoteric instruments. Alongside the likes of Mweslee, Niño is one of those Spanish producers with a keen interest in, and appreciation for, the history of electronic music and its ramifications. A singular love letter in musical format.

Available as digital. 

DERT FLOYD
E C L I P S E

Back in the late 2000s, when beat tapes were flying around slowly-dying MySpace profiles, file lockers and a then-nascent Bandcamp, a Californian producer by the name of Dert Beats put out two of the best around. One was Talk Strange, a beat tape inspired by Bjork, which to this day remains one of my top five in that style. The other was West Side Of The Moon, under the Dert Floyd moniker in homage to the tape’s inspiration, Pink Floyd. If you don’t find his flip of ‘Money’ funky than, frankly, there might not be much hope for you. Anyway, Dert disappeared for a while. but thankfully he’s back. First was House Shoes, who put together a collection of some of his finest moments on his Street Corner Music label last year, and now Dert Floyd returns with E C L I P S E, a beat tape-minded release dedicated to fuzzy licks, grinding riffs and snapping drums. Please don’t go away again, sir.

Available as digital.

ALSARA & THE NUBATONES
Silt Remixed

Sudan-born, Brooklyn-based Alsarah is a singer-songwriter. Following her collaboration with French producer Debruit for Soundways in late 2013, she released Silt on Wonderwheel earlier this year, backed by her band, The Nubatones. Put forward as East African Retro Pop, the album is a beauty, straddling the fine line between retro and modern with aplomb. As has become the norm, Silt got the remix treatment with Wonderwheel boss Nickodemus and various label associates digging in, including Jeremy Sole and Isaac Aesilli from Sorceress. There’s also some seriously groovy house workouts from African artists Boddhi Satva and DJeff.

Available as digital and vinyl. 

ANDERSON .PAAK
Cover Art

I’ve been meaning to feature Anderson Paak on this column for a while. The Los Angeles-based singer and drummer has been making waves this year in the city. He was highly recommended by both Busdriver and House Shoes when I spoke with them in the past few months and he released his latest album, Venice, in October, having also featured on Tokimonsta’s Desiderium. Sadly the new album isn’t on Bandcamp, though most of Paak’s work up until this year is. So I’ve chosen Cover Art, which technically came out late 2013, but we’ll ignore that fact in this instance.

The six-track release is an inversion of the concept behind race records: whites remaking songs from black acts marketed to populist audiences, and a precursor to what would eventually become rock’n’roll. On Cover Art, Paak remakes six rock’n’roll classics, including everyone from The Beatles to Toto, The White Stripes to Neil Young, flipping them into soulful covers that cut deep. Released via L.A’s Hellfyre Club, set up by Low End Theory MC Nocando, Cover Art is a stunning showcase of Paak’s talents, a world away from the new album yet also giving clear indications of what was to come. His covers of ‘Seven Nation Army’ and ‘Heart Of Gold’ are worth it alone.

Available as pay what you want digital. 

STRANGE U
EP #2040

The best rapper in London today? That is, as always, a purely subjective opinion. Strange Universe is, at the very least, one of the most interesting and challenging rappers in the British capital today. The latest incarnation of a rapper who’s been around the block for more than a decade (if you know your UK rap, it shouldn’t be too hard to figure it out), he first appeared via Eglo Records and has now stretched his wings on a solo tip for EP #2040, with seven tracks of lopsided head-nod and mind-bending lyrics that act as both the perfect introduction to his eponymous living space and a confirmation of just how consistent he can be.

Available as pay what you want digital. 

BRRWD [Tokyo, Japan]
Label page

Brrwd is a label set up in late 2013 and operated by Tokyo-based Repeat Pattern, an American producer and photographer who I featured just last month in this here column (Full disclosure: we go back, so feel free to call me biased, but then that’s ethics in videogame journalism for you…) Anyways, since living in Japan, Repeat Pattern has made himself an integral part of Tokyo’s – and to a larger degree, the country’s – underground hip hop and beats scenes collaborating with local rappers and producers and regularly appearing at shows. Brrwd acts as a continuation of this involvement, with Repeat Pattern bringing through some of the younger and established talent that populates a small but active musical world. The majority of the music follows the instrumental/beat format, with releases so far from Repeat Pattern and fellow expat Fitz Ambrose alongside lee, Youtaro and Broke/. The presentation and packaging is also spot on. A great way to take the leap into the world of Japan’s beatnicks.

ZEROH
Pool Party

I’ve featured Los Angeles MC Zeroh a couple times already since the beginnings of this column, and he deserves one last mention as one of 2014’s best. He’s only had one release via Bandcamp this year, the trippy Pool Party, though he’s kept busy, most notably with his first European tour alongside Low Leaf and Ras G. Coming out of L.A’s late 2000s beat scene, Zeroh is one of the most refreshing MCs around – a young man hungry for more, and with a reverence for those who came before alongside a desire to break new ground.

FRESH SELECTS
Label page

Portland is easily one of the most active cities on Bandcamp, the website providing the perfect platform to a city teeming with indie DIYers. Last year, I included the ever-excellent Sahel Sounds in the end-of-year round up, and in April it was the turn of Boomarm Nation. This year, it’s Fresh Selects, the label born of the blog of the same name run by Kenny Fresh. Though active since the late 2000s, the label fully took flight this year with a string of killer releases from Low Leaf, Mndsgn and Coultrain that showcase various sides of the modern hip hop, soul and beat equations.

TIPPER 
Forward Escape

As included in the May column, Tipper returned this year with another album of perfectly balanced electronic mind twisting. It might be a little too clean for some, but it’s still some of the best work around from someone who was doing it before it was trendy. Fans of classic IDM will find much to rejoice in. Also worth your time is 2010’s Broken Soul Jamboree, which wasn’t available on Bandcamp when I first wrote this up in May.

THE BUDDY SYSTEM PROJECT [Philadelphia, USA]
Label page

As featured in February’s column, the Buddy System Project is an ongoing experiment from Philadelphia’s electronic maestro King Britt where two artists are brought together to collaborate on three tracks that are then released anonymously. After three releases, a compilation of the tracks are put together revealing names. You can hear the results from the first three releases on Vol. 4. After a short hiatus, the series is starting again, and I hope it continues into 2015, as it’s a refreshing break from the hype cycle. And clearly Britt is not alone in thinking anonymity has its benefits – check the ongoing Blind Music experiment, that follows a similar approach to breaking down hype and focusing on the music.

TA2MI
Travel Through Worlds

I featured Ta2mi in the June column, with the preview to his Travel Through Worlds album. A beatboxing and scratching monk who lives in southern Japan, I was introduced to him by my friend Neil, who’d featured Ta2mi in his excellent KanZeOn documentary, a meditation on sound, nature and Buddhism. This album is composed of tracks made by Ta2mi in his monastery home though its release was spurred by his being sent to hospital with a serious, life-changing illness. Joe Muggs covered Ta2mi’s story for FACT in June, and much as he pointed out then the album makes for a wonderfully refreshing walk down electronic music’s possibilities, and proof that it’s very much not about where you’re from, but where you’re at.

Available as digital.

LOVETURL [Los Angeles, USA]
Label page

One of my favourite additions to Bandcamp this year has been Loveturl, the multimedia umbrella of Ta’Raach, an unsung hero of Detroit’s underground who like other pioneers from the Motor City relocated to the warmer climes of southern California. Launching earlier this year, the releases have been few but the quality has been consistent, dipping into Raach’s extensive back catalogue with The Fevers instrumentals (originally released in 2006 on Sound in Color) and the absolutely essential Fellatio by Nathaniel (AKA a pre-fame Aloe Blacc produced by Raach circa 2005.) There’s also the One Two EP and a cover of The Pretenders.

CHICO DUB [Rio de Janeiro, Brazil]
Hy Brazil

Chico Dub’s ongoing compilation of new talent from Brazil remains one of the finest such projects around, and perhaps now the dubious owner of the most featured act in this column (invoice is in the post, ethics). Six volumes deep, Hy Brazil is a window into the world of Brazil’s electronic and experimental world, though recent volumes have also tended towards sounds more aligned with what’s popular on dancefloors worldwide.

ar-p
opaco

Every month, the column features a release picked out via random tag searches on Bandcamp. Of all the releases I discovered this way during 2014, a-rp’s gritty textural techno is my favourite.

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