COVID Jams from Bandcamp

With most people currently under some type of self or government imposed movement restriction, there's a lot of time for indoor pursuits. One of my favorite usages for this indoor time is listening to music. Music is a mind-expanding art form in a time when we all would benefit from that as well as a time when you can put on some headphones and escape for a few moments from those you may be trapped indoors with. Bandcamp is nearly the only place I buy music from nowadays, and the sales have been frequent and generous since the beginning of March. Here are some of the best records I've had on rotation since the lock down began.

March

Lucy Gooch — Rushing

Lucy Gooch is a new UK artist signed to Past Inside the Present whose technique is not dissimilar from Liz Harris, although her music is not all that similar stylistically. She's definitely heavy on creating soundscapes to live in, but approaches her work with more traditional songwriting. It's tough to come up with a comparison point for this work but if you enjoy the music of Liz Harris or Juliana Barwick, you'll want to keep a close eye on Ms. Gooch.

Akasha System — Epoch Flux

Akasha System has become one of my go-to artists for downtempo techno futurism in recent months, and his new work is yet another home run. If I have to come up with a loose description of his music, it's in the vein of Detroit techno with a lot of modern flair. It's highly evocative and will make you really look forward to a long country drive.

Standing on the Corner — RED BURNS

Standing on the Corner's RED BURNS is a jazz-cum-plunderphonics freak out expedition that somehow feels custom-made for this absurd time in history. Both of their records are great, but the newer one seems particularly invigorating while trapped in four walls.

Patricia Taxxon — Beauty

Patricia Taxxon is a meme music maestro and turns her attention here to nightcore. Taxxon is extremely prolific and releases a lot of music for pay-what-you-will, so it's just a matter of exploring and seeing what you like. Beauty is as good of a place to start as any, but I would recommend almost anything off her Bandcamp.

Waxahatchee — Saint Cloud

It's hard to say that Saint Cloud feels like a career rebirth when Katie Crutchfield continually put out better and better records, but it does. The Waxahatchee project has always had filigrees of Americana but this one embraces it in a way that Crutchfield had never been willing to do. It's a classic road record at a time when that's needed more than ever.

George Clanton — Slide

Clanton first came to public view with his Espirit project, a standout of vaporwave's golden era. There are hints of that here, but it's wider in its nostalgia, bringing in elements of shoegaze and new wave to create a fresh and vital sound. The hype around this album was loud when it came out, but it sat in my wishlist until very recently.

Insecure Men — Insecure Men

Insecure Men is a side project of Fat White Family guitarist Saul Adamczewski and if that brings to mind a notion of what this record sounds like, you are likely completely wrong. In some ways this is the opposite of Fat White Family, melding 70s exotica and easy listening sounds with classic pop songwriting that's almost teeth-rotting. It's music to get sober to.

Sean Curtis Patrick — Arête I - 3.1

Sean Curtis Patrick makes what I would refer to as static music. It's very meditative and transcendental and when it's working, it can absolutely transport you to another place. Arête I - 3.1 is the sound of Curtis working at the height of his powers as an artist. It's probably my favorite work by him, and it could not have come at a better time.

April

Dogleg — Melee

Dogleg is a very promising post-hardcore group from Michigan, as you might have guessed given that they are named after a Bear vs Shark song, and Melee is their debut album. It's really gonna scratch the emo itch you're having from being indoors too long.

Healing Sounds II: A compilation for those in need

Past Inside the Present has released a 2nd volume of their comp to benefit Feeding America. It's chock full of four discs of deep cuts from PItP's brilliant roster of ambient and abstract electronic artists. A must-get.

Doom Mix Vol. IV

Doom Mix Vol. 4 (and you can get the others cheap as well) is a sampler of the electronic label Doom Trip's versatile avant-garde tastes including new cuts from Fire-Toolz, Dntel, and Rangers amongst others.

La Dispute — Panorama

If you're into trying out La Dispute, now is as good of a time as any as they've put their entire catalog on pay-what-you-will. For those who aren't already on board, Panorama might be a great place to start as they've fully embraced their obsession with weird mid-90's post-rock, settling into a style that's a bit of a riff on Rodan more than the post-hardcore screamo tendencies that have often kept people away from them. Although honestly, just pick up Wildlife for a buck while you're over there.

An Isolated Mind — I'm Losing Myself

A black metal album in style, I'm Losing Myself is a genre-warping one man excursion into bipolar disorder that's definitely worth a listen, especially given that it's pay-what-you-will. Kameron Boggs might to do well to hire someone to master the album next time but this is really a remarkable accomplishment for a single person.

default genders — pain mop girl 2020

A sort of companion piece to last year's brilliant main pop girl 2019 with reworkings and remixes and a few tracks to boot. It's not quite as impactful as that record but it has enough new goodness to still give it your time even if you've spent weeks with the 2019 release.

May

Imaginary Softwoods — Annual Flowers in Color (2020 Remaster)

As truly Earth-shattering as Emeralds was as a band, it's been amazing to hear the post-Emeralds output from the various members and makes you understand why the band needed to move on. McGuire has evolved into a sort of hippy drone songwriter, Hauschildt into a neo-Tangerine Dream synth god, while Elliott's psych-ambient Imaginary Softwoods project has flown relatively under the radar comparitively. This is something we need to remedy immediately and the remaster of the limited Annual Flowers in Color tape should help with that task.

Matt Weston — Tell Us About Your Stupor

Avant-jazz stalwart Matt Weston drops a high quality 30 minute set of hyper-experimental electroacoustic drumming he claims is inspired by Jerry Lewis, and honestly I can kinda hear it.

Whirling Hall of Knives — WHOK Lab Emissions Vol. II

Quality experimental electronics in the vein of Editions Mego. WHOK doesn't get out to do new released material much so pick it up when they do.

Bonnie "Prince" Billy — BPB Mix Tape Volume 6

The newest volume of the wonderful BPB Mix Tape series, one of the true treasures of Bandcamp, focuses more on morose and quiet BPB material. All of these are worth picking up as Dennis Loeser always takes an interesting and deft approach to curation of these archives. If I had to recommend a single one, it might be Volume 4, but Oldham devotees will find all of them essential.

In Order to Care

For a few bucks you can have the R&S Records benefit compilation for the NHS which contains almost 4 hours of techno bliss. Pick it up and have your own afternoon club session alone.

Jason Lescalleet — _The Feckless Dreamer

An odd temporarily available release from noise and musique concrète composer Jason Lescalleet constructed from recent field recordings on the Salmon Falls River in Maine. It's probably a great time to consider field recording and documenting your surroundings especially if you're quarantined near a significant natural landmark.

June

Lee Gamble — Exhaust & In A Paraventral Scale

Lee Gamble has released the first two parts of his tryptich album Flush Real Pharynx and they are just a ton of fun. I've always liked Gamble's approach to dance-oriented music and this one is slightly more by way of Autechre than his regular ambient-sphere approach. Really looking foward to that third part.

Medhane — Cold Water

Medhane has been kicking just below mass awareness for a few releases now and Cold Water might be the push he needs to get over the top. Most of the beats are in greater post-Clams territory and Medhane is the perfect foil for them. He lurks just below the surface of consciousness, delivering short singsongy missives that stick more in the craw than hit you in the jaw. It's important to note that right after this album dropped he has been been dealing with some serious accusations but there's no real way for a simple blog about Bandcamp shit to really deal with this, eh?

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith — The Mosaic of Transformation

I'll be up front that this album hasn't quite hit in the same way Smith's previous works, the towering EARS, the sensual album The Kid, or her phenomenal split with synthesist Suzanne Ciani Sunergy has, but the new age inspired themes represent another volume of growth for the prodigal modern keyboardist. I've grown into this one even if the impact is slightly lesser.

Snowy Hill House — Under the Stars

This is probably the best of the releases I picked up from a Bandcamp blog on "comfort synth," a horseshit genre not dissimilar in form and intention than dungeon synth. I still don't know if these microgenres are anything more than an overstated aesthetic but I do like the composition on this album quite a bit.

British Sea Power — Disco Elysium OST

We can debate where the game Disco Elysium sits in the pantheon of CRPGs (and personally, it's my favorite CRPG ever), but it's easy to praise British Sea Power's masterful soundtrack whether you like the game or not. It's catchy, cerebral, disconnected, wistful, and heartbreaking, just like the game. Just like humanity. This would have been in my top 5 albums for 2019 had I considered it as a solo work in that year. Probably my favorite soundtrack since Insomnia by Biosphere.

Panchiko — D>E>A>T>H>M>E>T>A>L

Panchiko's works have filtered through two decades of slowly-travelling word of mouth to Bandcamp. Their lone proper album is a mashup of late 90s British genres from trip-hop to Britpop that is prescient in tone to the vaporwave works of 15 years later. Highly recommended if unlikely.

July

Julianna Barwick — Healing is a Miracle

Barwick brings a more pop sensibility to the light instrumental chorale of Nepenthe with outstanding results. It's a step back from Will in complexity and tone, but in a good way. A gift from a remarkable artist and composer.

Hiroshi Yoshimura — GREEN

The brilliant Light in the Attic label has a track record of reissuing essential overlooked works from previous decades and 1986's GREEN is yet another unequivocal triumph. Yoshimura, a composer and synthesist from Tokyo was largely ignored in his time but has posthumously become regarded as one of the great ambient musicians of the 1980s as his works have been reissued. Much like other musics classified in the greater dumping bin of New Age, Yoshimura's GREEN was only available in the US covered in ambient sound effects. While this album is interesting in its own right, it is mostly as a postscript to the original. Yoshimura was a booster of the at-the-time cutting edge Yamaha FM synths and they lead his music to be imbued with an odd synthetic warmth that presages modern corporate music nostalgia.

Emeralds — Allegory of Allergies

The individual and collective genius of Emeralds is now in full display in Bandcamp as the band has finally put all of their generally available works up on the store. The double LP Allegory of Allergies is one I had simply missed entirely during the band's run and to my chagrin it turns out it's one of the group's finest releases, maybe the very finest of the tape era.

Lido Pimienta — Miss Colombia

Lido Pimienta's big US breakthrough is a classic South American psych pop album with a strong permeation of indigenous Colombian music and culture. It's been a joy to spend summer with it and all I can suggest is giving it a chance. It feels like someday we might look back on this record as a sort of landmark for Colombian music.

Percival Pembroke — Music for Shin Megami Tensei Dungeon

Vapor-adjacent electronic artist Pembroke releases an album of nostalgic dungeon music from an imaginary Megaten Super Famicom game. It's one of those hyper specific vaporwave concepts that seems like it could be total bullshit, but this record revels in the aesthetics and sound of dark 90's video game music.

OHMME — Fantasize Your Ghost

Inventive pop-psych from Chicagoland gals-about-town that might make you forget how sad you are about the Dirty Projectors sucking now. I feel like this band is on the cusp of a real phenomenal run as this album shows so much more range than their debut while still pointing towards more fertile lands ahead.

SAULT — UNTITLED (Black Is)

Latest timely release from enigmatic and mostly anonymous British dance/funk project SAULT revels in black power and the politics of its time. SAULT is the Sly Stone to RTJ's MC5 at the moment.

July: Geometric Lullaby

I also in July purchased the full catalogue of Geometric Lullaby albums for, you know, $3 or whatever these Internet labels charge. Geometric Lullaby is one of the best labels to follow if you like postcapitalist music like avant chiptunes and vaporwave. They consistently have some of the best work in the genres. What follows is a subsection of stuff from the label so as not to pollute the rest of the list. I will add more standout releases here as I slowly work through the catalog.

August

Cindy Lee — What's Tonight to Eternity

G.S. Sultan — music for a living water

Bing & Ruth — Species

the Microphones — Microphones in 2020

Phil Elverum's return to the Microphones moniker is one of the most interesting developments of his career. Essentially a single 40 minute fanservice piece that toys with self-mythologizing while simulataneously being like reading a diary of his most private moments. It's a phenomenal conceptual work while still being entertaining, funny, and beautiful. One of the primary questions you might be left with in considering this album is whether it really needed to be a Microphones record at all, and I think you'll find it did. It contains deep references to the Microphones catalog while actually considering that very question within. I'm still grappling with its full scale but it's a record that only Phil could have made because it's literally about Phil.

Jorge Cantu-Ledesma — HERMANEUTICS & ON THE ECHOING GREEN

DEHD — Flower of Devotion

DEHD's last album gained some wide buzz but I simply felt like it was a little half baked. Great sound but apart from the singles, it was just flat songwriting. Flower of Devotion addresses this with a great collection of songs, fulfilling the band's promise while leaving plenty of headroom for future growth.

September

Shackleton/Zimpel — Primal Forms

Samia — The Baby

With Lana Del Rey trying her hardest to be highly unlikeable this year, it might be up to someone else to deliver our needed ration of angsty passive aggressive bedroom pop. Samia might have put forth as good of an argument as anyone in recent memory. Almost the entire album is great and if young Samia can keep her head screwed on straight, this could be a starting point for a long and brilliant career.

Emeralds — Emeralds

Vatican Shadow — Persian Pillars of the Gasoline Era

Neil Cicierega — Mouth Dreams

This is not on Bandcamp, because it's basically illegal, but it's free anyway.