One of the heartening things about Bandcamp is the feeling of being part of a community. Perhaps it’s a bit of an illusion, but during the lockdowns we had last year here in the UK, which I think we’re only really starting to process, it was that sense of connection between artist and audience that drew me in. Usually, I’d be heading off to gigs a few times a week, and you’d get to know the kinds of things that particular venues or promoters would be putting on. You’d come to trust them to create a particular kind of experience, and to expect to see the same faces cropping up both in the crowd and onstage.
Obviously, Bandcamp is not like that at all. But it also kind of is, as you slowly become aware of the quiet heroism of the labels, often releasing micro-runs of stuff that they’re just really, really passionate about. For me, it’s been the obscure ambient labels that have most exemplified that – there’s a whole bunch of them following each other on Twitter, supporting each others work, gossiping, joking and generally propping each other up against the onslaught of reality we’ve all had to endure. To sit on the fringes and watch these amazing people share photos of synth racks on my timeline has been strangely quite lovely.
So when Trev Elkin suggested a few weeks ago that we each should pick out a few of our favourite labels for the readers to check out and follow, it felt like something we should do. Because if one of these imprints put out that EP that you got excited about last week, it’s no stretch to assume there will be more to come next week. Hit the follow button, sign up for email notifications and thrill as your inbox fills up with amazing sounds, news, special offers and other urgent comms from the frontline of pop.
Anyway, it all got a bit out of hand, as these things usually do. Put the kettle on, fire up the Bluetooth headphones, and make yourself comfortable as Trev Elkin (TE), Kate Haresnape (KH) and I, whatever my name is (CB), take you through rather a lot of new music.
It’s ok… Bandcamp Friday is on all day. You’ve got, like literally, hours.
Citrus City (Richmond, Virginia, USA)
Citrus City are a small, Latinx, queer-run group who, being music fans foremost, aim to document and release physical mediums for artists and bands they enjoy. With mostly digital and cassette and occasional vinyl releases, they have an eclectic roster, spanning lo-fi folk, emo, rap and bedroom pop to skater punk and shoegaze. Always well ahead of the game, Citrus City have released the first albums by both Corridor and Crumb. Have a peep at our picks to get you started before you buy their entire Bandcamp catalogue (with a huge discount!).
Keep – For Your Joy
A wild trip into oblivion and back, For Your Joy by Keep, is an overlooked gem that bursts with chiming guitars and synths that occasionally collapse into chaotic shoegaze.
True Blossom – In Bliss
By contrast, True Blossom are saccharine sad pop at its very best. Be prepared to sway and step awkwardly in your corner to high-gloss guitar riffs, shimmery disco beats and 808 cowbell blues.
Public Interest – Between
You’ll be hooked by the opening hypnotic buzz of Public Interest’s Lights in the Fog, or your money back. Chris Natividad makes guitars and synths sound like a harmonic sawmill, effortlessly churning out gripping distortions of post-punk packed with vitriolic melodies and, yes, singalong choruses. (TE)
Detriti Records (Berlin, Germany)
A Berlin-based label that is your new go-to for anything post-punk, coldwave and electronic. Label-owner Davide started the enterprise as a hobby and as a place to publish his own projects. All the releases have a really strong aesthetic which makes you want to own physical copies of the records, especially if you’re a sucker for unique artwork.
Dead Branches – Forgotten
This band’s bio states that this is a ‘forgotten demo from a never existed band, don’t look for info, you won’t find any.’ Which is a shame as they possess a moody post-punk attitude that makes you want to put on your best black nail polish and dance among the ruins.
Acid Test – Special Music
Want to party like it’s 1991? Then don that bucket hat you threw in the back of your wardrobe all those years ago – unless you’re a poser wearing one of those revival attempts from Urban Outfitters, then presumably you’re already there – and look no further than this 24-minute acid-house track. EAZZZZZZY BRUTH!
Dearly Departed – Identity Grief
Dearly Departed sound a bit like a lo-fi version of DIIV if they were fronted by Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. Lovely stuff.
Her Absence Fill the World – Part-time Punk
This EP contains five tracks that Desire wishes they’d made. It’s darkwave, synth-punk designed to provide the soundtrack to late-night walks amongst totalitarian city-scapes. (KH)
Sahel Sounds (Portland, Oregon, USA)
Big shout out to Sahel Sounds, based in Portland, Oregon, who specialise in bringing you music from West Africa. The region is most associated with Tuareg blues, represented here by artists like Mdou Moctar, Afous d’Afous and the unmissable lo-fi genius of Abba Gargando. You’ll also find plenty of Bamako street party music (DJ Sandji, Supreme Talent Show), hip-hop compilations and blissed-out synth-wave (Luka Productions, Hama). For reasons that are probably obvious, they were a bit quiet last year, but seem to be getting back up to speed again. We’ve covered them a couple of times, but since there’s always someone who doesn’t know, on Bandcamp Friday the entire back catalogue is available to download on a pay-what-you-like basis.
Anyone feeling newly-arrived-and-somewhat-overwhelmed might like to check out the seminal compilations Music From Saharan Cellphones and This is Kologo Power. Alternatively, this weekend only, there’s a live stream from Etran de L’Aïr, ‘filmed and edited in classic Agadez wedding style by local videographer Lezy Production’. I’ll be there, raising a cup of mint tea to the notional bride and groom.
Les Filles de Illighadad – at Pioneer Works
Recorded live in New York in 2019, Les Filles de Illighadad hail from the scrubby deserts at the edge of the Sahara and are noteworthy for their position as women musicians in the male-dominated Tuareg music scene. The set draws on their acclaimed debut LP, Eghass Malan, and their chant-like, polyphonic vocal harmonies combine with the mesmerising, just-outside-the-beat interplay between choppy guitars and simple percussion to create a moody, shifting soundscape. Completely gripping.
Mamaki Boys – Patriote
DIY hip-hop reissued from 2007. Mamaki Boys sampled and looped traditional Nigerien instruments and took aim at a burgeoning local rap scene they viewed as suspiciously derivative. A heady, anti-colonial brew – the music of the village elders mashed up with righteous dancehall ragga – Patriote is a clear forerunner of contemporary favourites like Nihiloxica and Alostmen.
Tidiane Thiam – Siftorde
A real if-in-doubt-stick-this-one-on recording chez-moi, Tidiane Thiam’s immaculately dreamy instrumental album was recorded on a single microphone during nocturnal sessions at his home in Podor, Senegal. Listen carefully and behind Thiam’s sublimely contemplative melodies you can hear the local crickets on backing vox. (CB)
Gringo Records (Nottingham, UK)
This Nottingham based D.I.Y label is over 20 years old! Gringo Records captures some of the most interesting indie, noise rock efforts in the UK. If you haven’t heard of them before, now is the time to check them out.
Sauna Youth – The Void
Forming in 2009, the London based band Sauna Youth is formed of ex-members of The Steal and Captain Everything. Sometimes they sound noisy and sometimes they sound indie pop, you never know what you’re gonna get, but either way, it’s good.
The Wharves – Electa
The Wharves are an overlooked band, hailing from Ireland, France and England. Vocally they invoke ’60s girl groups and possess intelligent intricate guitar parts heard in bands like The Amps and The Breeders as well as ’70s progressive folk. (KH)
Maple Death (Bologna, Italy)
Experimental rock and fetish electronica lie comfortably with gorgeous giallo psychedelia, oily Americana and Italian post-punk on this curious label. Their preference is for the stickier end of those scenes, releasing music from the likes of Cindy Lee, Qlowski, Blak Saagan, SabaSaba, Whitney K, Havah and WOW to name a few.
Label owner, Jonathan Clancy (of His Clancyness notoriety) says, ‘Maple Death started really to document most of the incredible Italian underground that’s been overlooked for a long time and then sort of evolved through my connections with my homeland Canada and where I used to live, UK. So it’s a weird mix now of music from all over the place but I think and hope with a strong identity, with many records carrying local stories and narratives.‘
Qlowski – Quale Futuro?
London-based Qlowski are post-punk rebels with a Sarah Records heart. The interplay between Mickey Tellarini and Cecilia Corapi’s guitar, synth and vocals is the proverbial iron hand and velvet glove. Emotionally charged, politically sharp and as good as anything the ’80s ever produced.
WOW – Come la Notte
Centred around the creative partnership of Italians China Wow and Leo Non, WOW make Lynchian dream-pop, full of sultry side-glances and psychotropic smoke and mirrors. Close the curtains, light up a candle and crash headlong into the beautiful terror of the night.
Ancient Plastix – S/T
Liverpool’s Paul Rafferty a.k.a. Ancient Plastix resurrects the analogue simplicity of ’90s ambient electronica on his self-titled album recorded spontaneously using a Tascam 414, a cheap Yamaha synthesiser and a small collection of guitar pedals. Recalling the sprawling inner worlds of Sinoia Caves, S/T is a dark, cinematic adventure. (TE)
Silk Road Sounds (Hong Kong/London)
A Hong Kong/London label that predominantly hosts electronic music alongside side some post-punk stuff. As a label, they help draw focus to experimental rhythms from various parts of Asia.
N.Y.P.D. – Chicken Monster
N.Y.P.D is an abbreviation of Nan Yang Pai Dui which means ‘drifters of South Asia’. The band take part of their name from a singing style developed by the blues artist, Huan Du, that was often sung in opium dens. It represents an anarchic and free-spirited style that N.Y.P.D’s lead singer Jon expresses in his vocal delivery.
DJ Droopy – 4 Tha Freakz
South London producer throws down this funky-house, bass-heavy dance track.
Chungking & Mansions – Opium War Riddim
‘A pairing of two Hong Kong underground titans, Fergus Heathcote and DJ Yakuza team up to form Chungking & Mansions. The production duo pull inspiration from the fast pace lifestyle of their home city and the sinister late-night warehouse parties’. ‘Opium War Riddim‘ is a jungle/jazz-infused break-beat track that pays. An ode to Death Row Records. (KH)
Hakuna Kulala (Kampala, Uganda)
Sister label of Bandcamp Friday regulars, Nyege Nyege Tapes (who you are surely following the ever-living heck out of by now), Hakuna Kulala specialise in the madder, clubbier end of the West African experimental underground. Here you will find the white labels, EPs and albums of virtuoso badness and head-fuckery from the acts that make the Nyege Nyege family so special, including Rey Sapienz, MC Yallah, Don Zilla and Slikback. Collaboration and cross-fertilization is the ethos, with nothing apparently off-limits. They look far beyond their local scene, acting as hosts to visiting artists and producers such as Shigeru Ishihara and DJ Wulffluw XCIV, and for all of the music’s dark, confrontational energy, beneath the hardness, there’s something dead wholesome going on.
Scotch Rolex – Tewari
Clearly one of the best things to have come out this year, Tewari is the fruit of the 2019 residency with Berlin-based Shigeru Ishihara, a.k.a. DJ Scotch Egg. It boasts vocal contributions from the likes of MC Yallah (see below) and Lord Spikeheart of Kenya’s incomparable trash-metal breakcore outfit Duma. The presence of Spikeheart alone should get your attention – his ferocious howl offers an auditory maiming you won’t forget in a hurry. Tewari is an intense, uncompromising experience that goes way further than you would expect, somehow clinging to coherence under a storm of noise.
Leon Duncan – Fuck a Rosetta Stone for my Brainwaves
Talking of Duma, Spikeheart’s Lust of a Dying Breed bandmate, Leon Duncan put out a sprawling, chaotic labyrinth of an LP a few weeks ago. Experimental electronica that feels genuinely radical in execution and concept, Fuck a Rosetta Stone for my Brainwaves veers between the dancefloor mania of ‘Rucio’ to the freefalling scuzz-jazz of ‘Digital Drug’ via the more relatively self-explanatory ‘Nintendo Dub’ or ‘Plugged in Kalimba Blues’. This is the sound of a man on a quest. Deep.
MC Yallah X Debmaster – Kubali
Go back to basics with HK’s first full-length platter of dextrous rhymes from MC Yallah, a multi-lingual veteran of the Ugandan hip-hop scene. She’s joined by Debmaster, whose taut, claustrophobic beats seem to lean back into the fierce, staccato flow of Yallah’s voice. It’s all the more satisfying when you feel Debmaster let rip, as he does on the industrial glitter of ‘Teba Kuda Mabega’ or the glitchy mayhem underneath the prowling, siren-like ‘Balibanyoma’. (CB)
Dream Catalogue (London, UK)
Dream Catalogue is a London based label that is your new go-to for all things vaporwave, ambient, warped and weird. Their discography is extensive, so if you’re new to this kind of thing there’s a lot to get your teeth into here. Many releases are also accompanied by neat, limited edition merch such as cassettes and t-shirts.
Fentanyl Embrace – Cyberpunk 2020
Whoever wrote the copy to go alongside Fentanyl Embrace’s Cyberpunk inspired album really needs a job in PR because I’d be much less bored reading press releases if they did. As if you’re not going to listen to an album described thus: ‘Avoid reality with this brand new, aesthetically pleasing alternative by guiding cool guy Norman Kawasaki-Gucci, his gender non-binary, otherkin journalist friend Frankie Franks and robot dog Scraps by exploiting the same reiterative game mechanics and cliched story for the millionth time in your short, precious lifespan!’
Kobayashi Yamato – Graphics Engine Video Preview Featuring Pleasant Specter (Sega) (unreleased)
Kobayashi Yamato is sort of low-key famous for being the person who composed and released a lost soundtrack for an unreleased Dreamcast game. Whilst this album isn’t technically a vaporwave album, Yamato’s life and career is about as vaporwave as it gets.
The/End – Hyperwhatever
The/End comprises the duo David Russo and Jude Frankum and, boy, are you in for a treat. Can you imagine if Begby and Sickboy from Trainspotting made an album in the year 2021? Well, you don’t have to anymore because Hyperwhatever exists. Thankfully, the pair have included all the lyrics on their Bandcamp page to every song on this album because you’re not going to want to miss a single word.
Fox Food Records (Mirfield, UK)
Good Good Blood’s James Smith started Fox Food Records at his home studio in Mirfield, Yorkshire, with an idea to try and build and support a community of like-minded, talented and distinct artists.
‘There was no plan,’ he says, ‘everything has happened organically and if I look back over the last 8 years, I am immensely proud of what we have achieved through a shared love for music.‘ We agree and while FFR’s catalogue of releases may be humble, it features some real hidden folkish treasures and original art-rock you wouldn’t find just anywhere.
As well as Smith’s own albums as Good Good Blood, our picks, for your pleasure, include the painful stillness and honesty of Joseph Futak with his David Berman inspired compositions, the genuinely inspiring and unique experimental stirrings from Sweden’s Fanpage, and Through Them Fingers, Yours and Mine, a Whisky-stained Americana-via-Aberdeen treat by Fair Mothers featuring Kathryn Joseph. (TE)
Hreám Recordings (Brighton, UK)
So, it’s au revior, if perhaps not exactly farewell, from Brighton’s supremely ambient Hreám Recordings who will be pulling up the drawbridge on their micro-label at the end of November, citing ‘distractions and hurdles’ and the feeling of having reached a natural end-point (or hiatus?) for the project. Looking back, I wish I’d covered them more as they put out some bloody good stuff, including two outstanding albums from there are no birds here, which one reviewer (ok, it was me) described as ‘just the sort of thing I go a bit silly for’, and Mota Rolla’s excellent Sound Effects of Death and Horror, which so nearly made it in, but it was late and I was tired and there’s just so damn much to listen to.
Meanwhile, there are still a handful of releases to come and, bargain hunters take note, all remaining cassette stock is available for half price. Thanks for the good times, Hreám. All at GiitTV salute you. Rest in power, bro.
Spacelab – Knell EP
Shady stuff from Spacelab, a.k.a. Kaleidomission. Knell continues his multifarious sci-fi themed adventures, here finding something unexpectedly organic – monastical reverb seethes around the listener and dramatic, mountainous drones of unclear origin conjure shades of MBV and early Cocteau Twins. Forged during a period of personal loss, Knell packs an understated, but powerful emotional punch. There’s a full album, Dead Dimension, to follow in November. I have encounterted Dead Dimension already and can completely confirm that it is similarly brilliant. An ancient evil awakens.
Quiet Clapping – Arctic-Air
Some of the most memorable music from Hreám has spoken of landscapes, but this pair of ambient guitar works stand out. Created last winter by Jonathan Deasy, any hint of a stringed instrument has been pared back, leaving just a steady pulse that evokes the otherworldly beauty of ice and sky. Magisterial and austere, a blinded and blinding journey into the void.
Sinnen – Hecate
Sinnen is the band of Hreám Recordings’ proprietor and guvnor, Darren j Holloway. Consisting of remixes and outtakes from their LP Prosm, which is around here somewhere, Hecate pushes interestingly at the bits leftover from a guitar band when they ditch all the boring stuff – you know, vocals, hooks and all that other largely pointless and irrelevant stuff that gets in the way of atmosphere and feeling. A great, immersive colour-field painting of an EP. Readers who like this kind of thing and can sit still for longer than about a quarter of an hour should check out Holloway’s solo album proper, Salt Heart, available through Hreám in an expanded special edition. Splendid work from someone we should probably be keeping more of an eye on. (CB)