Every month Miles Bowe rounds up the best of Bandcamp, unearthing the finest, freshest and weirdest releases the burgeoning DIY platform has to offer.
This month’s Best Of Bandcamp captures a lot of the different ways we’ve previously defined “the best”. There are promising debuts from new artists and labels, experimental oddities and a legendary musician taking the first steps towards ending his finest project. There is also a bizarro release with some of the silliest artwork I’ve ever stumbled upon.
And then there’s the band in the title above, a duo unlike any other who have flown under the radar for way too long. I’ve waited all year for the right time to share this band in the column, and now that they’ve finally made their difficult-to-locate discography available digitally, now is that time.
Bandcamp Release Of The Month:
Technically, Odwalla88’s Lilly 23 came out last year as an ultra-limited release on a USB drive with an embroidered patch for artwork, but now that the Baltimore-bred, LA-based duo have surfaced on Bandcamp, everyone can catch up. To refuse them inclusion on a technicality would only deny you the most exciting new band I’ve heard all year.
Chloe Maratta and Flannery Silva build their music around their own voices, which they weave between stuttering sample manipulation and live performance with a fluidity that still leaves me stunned nearly a year later. This album barely breaks 15 minutes, but they make every single second hit as hard as possible. This locks into place on their best song, ‘What The’, which opens with a sparkling guitar loop and Silva’s Girl Scouts-referencing mantra, “Another petal on my Daisy Learning patch.”
She twists the words, leaving it unclear which manipulations are digital or human. Layering repeated phrases carefully through grinding, second-long feedback loops, Silva deliberately places and repeats lines that can be humorously abstract (“Put me in a pair of white boy-shorts”, “Hot girl everything 14”) or emotionally direct (“Today my best friend / Today my best friend / Today my best friend / Saved my life”). Each song feels like a kind of code, with every sound, word and movement a piece of the puzzle.
Listening to Lily 23 for the first time gave me a rush I’ve rarely felt, the same feeling I got when I heard Hype Williams for the first time, and Macintosh Plus and This Heat and Wolf Eyes and Brainiac. It’s the sound of someone using familiar materials to make something unlike anything else, something that still feels excitingly undefined. It would spoil the surprise to talk about these songs too much here, but I’ll leave you with one more line from the raucous ‘Bleach Lily’: “Make your own trend, make your own instrument, make your own––”. Noise overtakes, leaving the line hanging. I don’t know what Odwalla88 will make next, but there isn’t a single band out there that makes me more excited to find out.
Everywhere At The End Of Time
The Caretaker’s An Empty Bliss Beyond This World was released in 2011, and five years later it still sounds utterly singular. Leyland James Kirby, also known as V/Vm, used warped edits of pre-war ballroom music to examine memory, entrophy and how one succumbs to the other, making for some of the loneliest music of our generation. Kirby’s next project is a six-album cycle about dementia which will decay more dramatically with each release, the implication being that once the final LP sputters to a close sometime in 2019, The Caretaker will simply have nothing left to say.
On the first album we bear witness to the tentative first steps into the void, or “the last of the great days” as he puts it, and true to that descriptor Everywhere At The End Of Time is a beautiful piece of music which only hints at the devastation to come. The delicately crumbling pieces sway with an easy, empty bliss even as the titles (‘We Don’t Have Many Days’; ‘Things That Are Beautiful and Transient’) hint at the sadness hidden beneath. Cracks are beginning to open in some places, as on the spiralling two minutes of ‘Slightly Bewildered’. Ultimately, Everywhere At The End Of Time doesn’t sound that much different from Kirby’s previous masterpiece, but to look for progression is to miss the point. From here on out this is a disappearing act for the ages.
Lindsey French has made music as Negative Gemini for years, but last year’s EP Real Virtual Unison felt like a creative and risky leap forward. With the proper follow-up to 2013’s Forget Your Future, I’d hoped that the attention she’d earned might get her on a big label able to support her vision, but instead she launched her own label with fellow Best Of Bandcamp-alum George Clanton, the cheekily named 100% Electronic. It was the right choice, because Body Work makes it clear that this producer, singer, songwriter and now label owner does not need anything or anyone but herself to shine.
Body Work is a payoff after years of hard work, and it captures French’s most ambitious productions – the glistening ‘Rollercoaster’ and a revved up remix of Real Virtual Unison closer ‘Hold U’ – while also showing her strong songwriting, as on the cat-call-obliterating ‘Don’t Worry Bout The Fuck I’m Doing.’ French delivers lines like “I don’t care about your shit face, the street goes down two ways,” in a silky coo, and in its best moments everything she does just clicks. That’s the case with ‘You Never Knew,’ a lovelorn banger that only sounds bigger in the months since she first unleashed it. Body Work deserves to bring Negative Gemini an even bigger audience.
Amore Per Tutti
Simon Hanes has played in a few great bands that have appeared in this column, including psych-noise outfit Guerilla Toss and loopy experimental charmers Cloud Becomes Your Hand, but all the while, Luxardo lurked under the surface. Luxardo is Hanes’ alter ego, a European loverman and the leader of Tedici Bacci, a 14-piece behemoth which swallows lounge music, big band jazz, Nino Rota’s circus-like Fellini scores and Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti western bombast.
I highly recommend their debut 13 Kisses, which is so committed to its sleek ‘60s vibe that the LP comes with a gold and pink Nat Sherman cigarette, and if Luxardo’s hyper-specific vibe is for you, then the new record Amore Per Tutti is required listening. As the freebie single ‘Give Him The Gun’ shows, with its swooning horns and vocals from Foetus-mastermind and Venture Brothers composer JG Thirlwell, Hanes is edging ever closer to the 70mm widescreen scope of his compositional inspirations.
House, Disco, Boogie, and Other Oddities
For their debut release, Bay Area imprint Easy Bay has put out one of the most fun label comps of the year. As the title implies, it’s a showcase of jittery, off-kilter takes on classic dance sounds, blurring the line perfectly between fun and experimentalism with highlights including the breezy ‘Lourdes’ by North County and Exray’s slinking ‘Miami Advice’. Another enormous highlight is Florida’s 1-800-Dog-Cigs [What a fucking name – Ed.] who unleash two minutes of lounge bliss and spindly guitar on ‘Clean Fun’. (If it sounds familiar, that’s because the track is a collaboration between previous Best of Bandcamp favorites, Ben Varian and Jake Tobin, while the killer guitar solo is Euglossine.)
Last Believer EP
To those feeling bummed, down, sad, gloomy, depressed, low or just a little melancholy, please allow Jordan Martin and her band Daphne the 15 minutes it takes to listen to Last Believer. “All in all / I’d like to meet you / Know you already,” she shouts on the adrenaline-shot opener ‘All In All’, and it feels like a message to anyone and everyone listening. Martin’s spindly guitar riffs place her comfortably in Brooklyn’s DIY rock scene, but her vocal delivery brings to mind Jessy Lanza’s acrobatics on Oh No, and her range is unbelievable. The longing ‘Alice’ has a touching intimacy, while on ‘Carry (The Audience)’ both her guitar and voice are as nimble as they are powerful, hitting those ‘Stay-stay-stays’ and ‘Ah na na na nas’ like a skipping stone. Forget turning your frown upside down, this will turn it into a goddamn rainbow.
I’ll be honest: Electrochongo’s album is not exactly “the best of Bandcamp”.