Every month Miles Bowe rounds up the best of Bandcamp, unearthing the finest, freshest and weirdest releases the DIY platform has to offer.
We’re just about to hit the halfway point of 2017 and Bandcamp is already overflowing with some of the year’s best releases. This month’s column covers several of them, including an excellent full-length from a former album of the year recipient and a revised classic from the artist who originally inspired the column.
And there’s plenty more — an unknown songwriter from Russia, a reissue of one of last year’s overlooked gems, a massive charity compilation for the Ghost Ship tragedy and a family home recording that makes for one of strangest (and most entertaining) pieces of found footage I’ve encountered on the site. Find more below, and in the words of that recording’s birthday boy, ‘Thank you everyoneeeeee!”
Bandcamp Release Of The Month:
Vektroid’s multi-monikered discography has long highlighted her restless perfectionism and it’s never been more evident than over the last year, when she began revisiting and revising her earliest releases. Telnet Complete reimagines her debut EP Telnet Erotika, but rather than feeling like an expansion, it’s a full-on rebirth. At more than double the length, Telnet Complete is a new album and a dizzying data-rush that ranks with her best work. It reminds you why Vektroid’s music was so special in the first place; she never looks back with simple nostalgia, but barrels forward with reckless abandon.
More than anything Telnet Complete is just a ridiculously fun record. Songs like ‘Virgin Pegasus’ and ‘Hydrofuana Nights’ are whirlwinds of distorted drums, jittery rhythms and melting vocals where the bitrate crumbles with every pulse and Vektroid’s only response is to groove even harder. The latter completely unravels with a minute left and one of the best moments on the album is the sweetly ramshackle new melody that springs forth like a bionic Matryoshka doll.
With a clear love for ‘90s video games, Vektroid is a master of twisting a potentially silly synth into something genuinely affecting. ‘Hoshiningen’ and ‘Saudade After The Dream’ use MIDI horns brilliantly, with the latter spilling out in a unexpectedly moving climax. Others such as ‘I Love My New Shears’ and ‘Rokkaku Holy Love’ employ jagged synths that could soundtrack some forgotten 16-bit world.
While Vektroid has gently distanced herself from vaporwave, Telnet Erotika predates her releases that pioneered the genre’s early sound (Floral Shoppe and 札幌コンテンポラリー made their mark in the following two years) and paints a more complex picture for people who haven’t listened that far back. It’s inspiring in 2017 to revisit ‘Nobody Here’, which uses the same Chris de Burgh sample as Oneohtrix Point Never’s memorable eccojam, but hijacks it with the kind of maximalist pop overload that OPN wouldn’t figure out himself until Garden of Delete. It sounds like the work of an artist who saw the 2010 breakthroughs of Skrillex, Oneohtrix and Rustie all as exciting new avenues to explore, while respective scene gatekeepers were still stubbornly trying to unpack their feelings.
Vektroid has been working on her next proper album, No Earth, for years at this point and Telnet Complete feels like a important moment. As simultaneously her newest and oldest album, it offers a chance for us to reflect on her journey. She’s one of the few artists this decade who can genuinely be credited with inspiring an entirely new genre of music, but Telnet Complete reminds you that nobody sounded like Vektroid in 2010 and, despite strong efforts, nobody sounds like her now.
Damian Master’s last appearance in this column was for A Pregnant Light’s Rocky, a eulogy to his late father packed inside one of the most breathtaking metal albums in recent memory. I named it the single best Bandcamp release of 2016. But Master is too prolific for victory laps, especially when he’s juggling all his unique projects. His next move has been to revive two dormant monikers that that explore opposite ends of his wide-ranging sound.
First, there is the return of Alluring whose only previous album, 2011’s The Room, was my introduction to Master. The sludgy, doom metal project featured the most crushing material in the CSR catalog and this self-titled follow-up immediately delivers from its 20-minute opening trial ‘Thorn & Wing’.
It pairs perfectly with Nothing No One Never Everything, the debut album of Deathless Marantha, an acoustic project that’s previously only appeared as one-off in 2014. Bringing to mind Current 93 and Nick Cave, it shows how rich Master’s lyrics and voice are when you strip away the screams and chaos. If the gentler passages of Rocky drew you in the most, this is your next logical step. Both releases are immensely heavy, but in completely different ways, and taken together they only add depth to Master’s vision.
Fear Is The World
Constellation Tatsu is one of the most a reliable tape labels when you need a fix for for celestial, new age-inspired drones. Their latest release, St. Petersburg songwriter Atariame’s Fear Is The World, is a curve ball that left me delighted. The album plays more like a bedroom folk recording, but drifts with that same cosmic grace.
It’s grounded by Atariame’s ghostly voice that drifts through her arrangements of synth and hypnotic acoustic guitar, hovering between dark and light. ‘Fluffy Paws’ captures it best, beginning as a moody synth-pop jam before crackling static builds and eventually overwhelms everything. Passions are burning from the start, but by the end it sounds like the song is literally going up in flames.
Smurphy’s wacky new moniker feels more than earned once you take in Hypnosys’s alien drum ’n’ bass, spaced atmospheres and unhinged techno. The same heady atmosphere from A Shapeless Pool of Lovely Pale Colours Suspended in the Darkness is still here, but Smurphy ties it all to tracks that race forward at breakneck speed — and occasionally crash and explode. Both results make for a gleefully exciting listen.
The opening two tracks (‘Pranayamas’ and ‘Mango Jungle’) build up taut d’n’b, but a bursting cuckoo-clock hints that Smurphy has more up her sleeve – and she does. Unpredictable tracks like ‘Epsilon’, ‘Circuito Interior’ and ‘Higer Self’ all follow their own wild trajectories with Smurphy only unleashing their best moments until past the halfway mark. That applies to the album as a whole, which despite all of its twists and turns, flows even better as a cohesive front-to-back listen. Upgrayedd indeed.
Hand In Hand
French sound artist Felicia Atkinson showed a mastery of tension with her last proper album, A Readymade Ceremony. Pairing spoken mantras and blurry ambience with passages of eerie musique concrete, it felt like a tightrope walk — a trancelike exercise where the threat of danger can’t quite be dismissed. Her new album, Hand In Hand, feels like a slow motion fall while achieving an even tighter hypnotizing grip. Using the same elements as its predecessor — soft synthesizer, field recordings, whispered vocals — but coming in at about double the length, Hand In Hand finds room for expansion in every direction.
The album opens and closes with entrancing melodies (‘I’m Following You’, ‘Vermillion’), but finds enough disorientation in between to give you the spins, particularly on the centerpiece ‘Monstera Deliciosa’ which is carried by brittle metallic creaks and what sounds like a marble rolling down stairs. If a Max/MSP patch could become haunted, it’d probably sound like this. There’s apparently a seven hour version of the album that was broadcast at France’s La Criée Center for Contemporary Art. I’d like to hear that.
Maxwell Sterling’s debut album is one of the year’s best releases — just not of this year. Quietly released last fall, Hollywood Medieval just got a remastered vinyl release and I’ll take any excuse I can to gush after missing out the first time. Conceptually and musically, the album brings to mind Oneohtrix Point Never’s Garden Of Delete and James Ferraro’s Human Story 3 (Sterling has played cello for Ferraro), but do not mistake this for pastiche.
With virtuosic strings, emotive synth progressions and cut-up vocal samples Hollywood Medieval is an ornate wonder where dizzying complexity is only topped by its endorphin rush melodies. Rarely is an album so challenging and pleasurable at the same time. Don’t make the same mistake I did last fall – listen to this immediately.
Lives Through Magic
This charity compilation organized by former DFA label manager Kris Peterson in the wake of Oakland’s Ghost Ship tragedy blasts through 40 eclectic tracks from artists big and small with all proceeds going to a relief fund and the Trans Assistance Project. While contributions from artists like YACHT and Caribou’s Dan Snaith (as Daphni) carry star power, the compilation lives on its sense of discovery. Give it a listen and you’re bound to find something awesome from someone you’ve never heard of.
Ankle Shards’ airy industrial jam ‘Back In Start’ is the only song I can find credited to the artist and absolutely fucking rules. That also applies to the glassy rush of Infinity Knives, a project where repeated searches have only brought up a UK pop punk band and a Facebook page for hunting knives. The compilation is too big to name all the highlights, but I’d be remiss to leave out Benny Boeldt (fka Adventure), bookworms and a surprisingly cheery Gobby, all who deliver some of their best tracks ever. Go for the cassette too and tell me how that Rósín Murphy exclusive is.
Buster Boris Pocket Naumoff
The Day Before I Turned 5
Happy 5th birthday Buster!
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