Every month Miles Bowe rounds up the best of Bandcamp, unearthing the finest, freshest and weirdest releases the DIY platform has to offer.
In this edition of our Bandcamp column, releases veer wildly from club bangers to new age to death metal and beyond. But if there’s one recurring theme its “healing.” For some, like Mexico City’s Smurphy or Japan’s H. Takahashi, that’s an explicitly stated intention of the music, while Violence carefully includes the word as a genre tag.
You’ll find other releases too that can help lighten the psychic load, from the pop culture overload of NMESH’s new vaporwave odyssey to Martin Glass’s luxurious exotica to, yes, the simple joy of hearing some asshole mash-up EastEnders with Right Said Fred’s ‘I’m Too Sexy’.
Bandcamp Release Of The Month:
We, so tired of all the darkness in our lives
Leyland James Kirby released the third volume of his swan song as The Caretaker, Everywhere at the end of time last week and it’s the best in the series yet. It marks the halfway point in the project’s six-album, three-year thematic decline into dementia and death. It’s a required listen, and it’s not even the only release the ambient great gave us this month. Released under his own name for free, Leyland Kirby’s We, so tired of all the darkness in our lives is a record that acts like a glimmer of light in the middle of his bleak series and an even bleaker world around us.
“Maybe you will find some solace in the sounds if your mood is right or you need them. Maybe one track hits home, maybe more do. Hopefully it can help here and there,” Kirby writes in part of a long, revealing note included with it. Though it’s carefully built from tracks made over the last several years, Kirby asks fans not to look at it as a “throwaway work” and I agree. You should look at it as one of the best and most important albums of his long career.
Over 94 minutes, the album offers a brighter, less tape-damaged side that may surprise fans who only know Kirby as The Caretaker, but this . Rather, the album finds quiet strength and immense beauty in the cathartic, march of its drifting synths and somnambulant drums. It’s even a quality reflected in his always poetic song titles — ‘Rotten rave tropes’ and ‘Momentum is not on our side’ may be par for his course, but the empathetic spirit of the album lies in sentiments like ‘Dig deep march on’ and ‘Back in the game’.
The Caretaker project reaches its predetermined end in spring of 2019, but with everything happening in the present, that date feels about as abstract and terrifying as our own slow crawl towards death. So I’ll take what I can get right here, right now and cherish it. Sooner or later, that darkness will close in for the kill and as the opening song from Kirby’s most famous album warns, “all you’ll want to do is get back there”.
Sorry, Please Forgive Me, Thank You, I Love You
Mexico City’s Jessica Smurphy released this album last month right before the devastating earthquake in her city. Afterwards, she removed it from Bandcamp out of respect, but decided to put it back up with a larger explanation of what it means to her. I’m glad she did. Following the incredible full-length HYPNOSYS earlier this year, she presents Sorry, Please forgive me, thank you, I love you as “a healing record” and we need as much of that as we can get right now.
Based on Ho’oponopono, “a Hawaiian practice of reconciliation and forgiveness”, the album approaches healing both personal and communal. Smurphy was inspired by her own struggle with chronic pain and arthritis and each track incorporates part of the title, statements that subconsciously “do the job of deleting negative emotions from the past” aimed directly at club culture, which can often feel as broken as anything else these days. Smurphy knows how exactly how to communicate this and wraps her healing mantras in some of her most trance-inducing productions yet, ranging from raucous, aggression (‘Please Forgive Me’) to total euphoria (‘Thank You’).
Turn on your SNES Classic, smoke weed, load a compilation of ‘80s commercials on your laptop, smoke more weed, put a horror movie on your other laptop. Surround yourself in media of every kind and by the time you hit a 10 you should have an idea of the overwhelming experience of listening to Nmesh’s long-awaited Pharma. From his 4/20 (that is, four hours and 20 minutes) video game music marathon to his FACT mix to gleeful headfucks like Dream Sequins, Alex Koenig’s beloved vaporwave project has captured the pop culture overload of the internet age and Pharma is his best full-length yet.
Sample spotting becomes almost pointless on an album that incorporates Yello’s ‘Oh Yeah’, the Pacman theme and Ash’s memorable, “Hail to the king, baby” from Army Of Darkness in its first five minutes. There’s too much to keep up with, but overstimulation is Nmesh’s comfort zone and it’ll be yours too once acclimated to Pharma’s colorful chaos. It’s a ride that includes distorted vaporwave (‘Fall Any Vegetable’), gleeful drum ’n’ bass (‘White Lodge Simulation’), interstellar exotica (‘Cocktails In Space’), a seriously bad trip (‘Acid Baby’) and appearances from both Japanese Robocop and Koenig’s own baby daughter.
This isn’t even close to the only good album out on Orange Milk right now. with recent releases from Death’s Dynamic Shroud.wmv, Giant Claw and newcomer Machine Girl, the label is absolutely killing it this year. But if I’m only including one, it’s gotta be Pharma. We’ve been waiting too long for this one and as always, Nmesh proves worth the wait.
Japanese producer H. Takahashi understands how to build a world whether sonic or physical. In addition to working as an architect, he’s one fifth of Tokyo ambient gang Unknown Me, who dropped the warm, transportive Release Of The Month Subtropics in the dead of winter. On his own, Takahashi composes soundscapes as still, spacious and starry as a night sky entirely on iPhone. Last year’s Body Trip on Constellation Tatsu was a release I regretted missing here, but the new Raum expands his canvas with only four tracks ranging from six to 16 minutes.
Different from the globetrotting exotica of Subtropics, Takahashi’s music feels built for living in the city. The tracks wander, but never feel lost. They’re meditative, but with so many layers of twinkling synths, spritely rather than slow. It’s a record created on the move — on subways and subway platforms, going home and heading to the office — and that’s where it works. A packed train, a traffic jam, anyplace where you’d rather be somewhere else, it’ll take you.
The music of Violence straddles so many genres at once — death metal, hip-hop, club music, industrial, R&B — that it doesn’t fit neatly into any of them. But listen to Human Dust to Fertilize the Impotent Garden and at some point producer Olin Caprison’s shapeshifting vocals will prove they could make waves in any of them. Their voice can flip from fragile and vulnerable to guttural roar just as easily as the kaleidoscope of blast beats, trap production or bass drops spinning behind them.
‘Be Still’ opens the album with all the bombast and outward emotion of Post-era Björk, while ‘Human Dust’ is as wounded and harrowing as Prurient. ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ meanwhile takes on the submissive side of BDSM as Caprison raps with a dominant flow over aggressive trap beats capturing a complexity the subject rarely receives. They present ideas which could easily be blown up into entire records of their own, but Caprison makes everything fit into their passionate and bracing vision.
“OK, I wrote a film — and now I want to burn it,” goes the opening line on SADAF’s debut SHELL EP. She begins by explaining the opening shot, where the credits come in, even titles of upcoming tracks, but by the end of song, whatever concept she’s introduced has collapsed in on itself. But ripping herself apart quickly proves to be what SADAF does best. Deconstruction is all too common in music right now and while plenty of artists see that as the end goal, SADAF makes it the starting point. As a result, SHELL only gets better as it progresses.
Her surreal line readings and distorted vocalizations become provoking pieces of wreckage in amongst the overdriven drum machines, jagged synth crashes and shrieking strings that populate her tracks. ‘Let It Burn’ throbs with pyromaniacal glee, ‘Walk On Water’ twists and wrings itself to an emotional release, while ‘Vita Char’ is just pure caustic catharsis. It all amounts to a jigsaw puzzle where half the pieces are on fire, but the picture that SADAF’s made from it is undeniable.
The Pacific Visions Of Martin Glass
I’m still not sure if the Martin Glass of The Pacific Visions Of Martin Glass is a real person, but I don’t think it matters. This unbelievably lush record presents Mr. Glass as “an American businessman exiled in Taiwan working on a deal that never gets done” and doesn’t so much parody exotica as charge it with the same hyperrealism that James Ferraro brought to Muzak at the beginning of the decade. But while Ferraro used records like Far Side Virtual and more recently Human Story 3 to reflect the overstimulation of the internet age, Glass deals is pure decadence and relaxation.
Inspired by ambient greats like Midori Takada and Ryuichi Sakamoto and in line with contemporaries such as Visible Cloaks and Lieven Martens Moana, Pacific Visions blends nature recordings of birds and streams, bubbling new age synths and easygoing elevator Muzak. There’s a soft-focus narrative (“Mr. Glass welcome to the Four Seasons Pacific,” we hear a concierge murmur on one track while another ‘Glasshouse at Izu’ could be the hotel’s bar band), but the luxurious music often implies a narrator too relaxed to be a reliable observer. The result is a vividly realized dreamworld, a fourth world cyber-spa only accessible down some hidden hallway in vaporwave’s virtual plaza.
The NeverEnding EastEnders Album
Dismal times call for something more than the standard dose of Bandcamp goofs here, so cleanse yourself with this “awful infinite album” that explores every possible mutated mash-up of the pretty damn catchy theme song to god-tier UK soap opera EastEnders.
It’s an endless string of mash-ups in the spirit of another all-time classic Bandcamp shitpost and Shitmat promises to keep them coming until he dies or someone kills him. With remixes already including the Bon Jovi-improvement ‘Livin On A Square’, ‘Lucy Beale In The Sky With Diamonds’, ‘I’m To Sexy For This Theme’ (yes, it’s misspelled) and ‘That Obligatory Smash Mouth All Star Remix’ let me be the first to toast DJ Shitmat to a long, long life.
Miles Bowe is on Twitter.