Under-the-radar Bandcamp Friday picks, in a time of flood waters and self-discovery

Repeat after me: there’s never too much music. So sure, while artist are not always hyped, a particular music project isn’t associated with anything trending or might be tough to package – the sounds hit you. Here are some picks for Bandcamp Friday you very possibly won’t see elsewhere, but … you don’t need to, because you’re here.

“Under-the-radar” is on my mind, as I have in mind the image of hurricane hunter scientists going up on roller-coaster propeller plane rides into the literal eye of the storm, then shooting packages of weather-sensing electronics through tubes like they’re firing t-shirt cannons at halftime. (No, really.) And if culture seeking doesn’t feel like that, you’re probably doing it wrong.

Here we go:

Let’s start with the release out of this bunch that may be most important, as we live in times of natural devastation and a climate whose worst forces have been unleashed by human intervention. Slovenia and Kamizdat embody that sound in the chilling sounds of overwhelming floods and a call to action – timely, as this summer also saw a hurricane in Florida, following the Russian-produced flooding disaster in Ukraine, fires atop a hurricane in Maui, and (as we covered with Soundtoys) flooding in places like Vermont.

Here’s the call from Slovenia. It’s Creative Commons-licensed music and you can give whatever you want, or play it loud and share with others if you have no cash at all. Thanks to AGF for this one (who also contributes a track.)

In the wake of devastating floods that hit Slovenia in early August, many find themselves without homes and irreplaceable memories. In partnership with Kamizdat Label, we wish to lend a helping hand to these resilient people by curating an online audio compilation that features the generous contributions of artists who have donated their music to this cause. All financial contributions from the sale of the compilation will be sent to the flood relief fund of the Volunteer Fire Fighting Society, Črna na Koroškem. Our hearts go to those who depend on gestures of solidarity at the time of our planetary transformations.

Solidarnostni sklad · Hidro

Po uničujočih poplavah, ki so Slovenijo prizadele v začetku avgusta, so mnogi ostali brez domov in nenadomestljivih spominov. V sodelovanju z založbo Kamizdat želimo tem vztrajnim ljudem ponuditi pomoč s spletno zvočno kompilacijo, na kateri so zbrani prispevki umetnikov, ki so za ta namen darovali svojo glasbo. Vse finančne prispevke od prodaje kompilacije bomo nakazali v sklad Prostovoljnega gasilskega društva Črna na Koroškem. Naša srca so z vsemi, ki so odvisni od solidarnostnih gest v času naših planetarnih sprememb.

Iranian duo Temp-Illusion, the combination of Shahin Entezami and Behrang Najafi, has been a favorite around CDM parts. (“CDM – motto – synth news and constant Temp-Illusion fanboy/girlism.”) If they’d just stop putting out brilliant outings like this one, I could stop doing that. Seriously, this is one of my favorite releases of the summer – growling, sophisticated rhythms and boundless energy.

That was okay, but it feels limp as a drop quote review, so here’s an alternative: “F******uuuuuuuuuuu*****

Beirut-Montreal artist Liliane Chlela always delivers gut-punch productions; this time you get a high-speed, anxiety-inducing gem of a track:

Dark and lush, Machinedrum is at it again in this co-production with Holly – like a intense dream you don’t want to wake up from. Layer it on thick, like North Carolina BBQ sa– no, wait, that doesn’t work, that has a vinegar base. Okay, just listen to the track. Kansas City BBQ sauce is the win, every time, so Travis, just move to St. Louis metro to fix my metaphors.

God this is good, every cut.

Detroit at peak weird-futurism, “Do You Like My Bath Mat?” from Secret Shower is endlessly imaginative, like one of those really top-quality alien abductions:

This noise- and asymmetry-filled sonic assault is a compilation of tracks of artists who will play in Tokyo later this month. It features not only some of Japan’s experimental best, but the likes of Shanghai-based ayrtbh. Every track is a runaway train:

Sometimes, you have music made with guitars. Sometimes, you have music made with magnetophones. This is both – a duo for our volcanic planet and human instrument:

nondi_. This is not Ibiza.

This is not Ibiza.

This is not Ibiza.

Also not Ibiza? Kharkiv is not Ibiza.

“Fine, let’s go on a pleasant beach holiday to Indonesia.”

Okay; you asked for it.

I have thoroughly been enjoying London’s re:lax lately, and they do it again – a potent cocktail of deep broken rhythms at full tilt. It’s one of those releases where you see a bunch of influences that don’t fit together, and then you listen and it does fit:

Jurango joins the re:lax family for their second outing. Enchanting yet explosive, Isle of Crass EP explores driving rhythms, deep textures and heady atmospheres across four high-tempo tracks. The release sees the Bristolian entering new territory, drawing inspiration from Rian Treanor, Djrum and the pulsating energy of Singeli and Nyege Nyege Tapes.

From Niger, there’s this music that will tug instantly at the deep recesses of your soul, as if you always knew each cut, in the greatest sense of the blues, sad and celebratory. They’re due in Berlin on the 3rd of September. Let me just cut to the description, as it’s terrific. 2022 release, but there is no time like now, folks:

Etran de L’Aïr (or “stars of the Aïr region”) welcomes you to Agadez, the capital city of Saharan rock. Playing for over 25 years, Etran has emerged as stars of the local wedding circuit. Beloved for their dynamic repertoire of hypnotic solos and sun schlazed melodies, Etran stakes out a place for Agadez guitar music. Playing a sound that invokes the desert metropolis, “Agadez” celebrates the sounds of all the dynamism of a hometown wedding.

Etran is a family band composed of brothers and cousins, all born and raised in the small neighborhood of Abalane, just in the shadow of the grand mosque. Sons of nomadic families that settled here in the 1970s fleeing the droughts, they all grew up in Agadez. The band was formed in 1995 when current band leader Moussa “Abindi” Ibra was only 9 years old. “We only had one acoustic guitar,” he explains, “and for percussion, we hit a calabash with a sandal.” Over the decades, the band painstakingly pieced together gear to form their band and built an audience by playing everywhere, for everyone. “It was difficult. We would walk to gigs by foot, lugging all our equipment, carrying a small PA and guitars on our backs, 25 kilometers into the bush, to play for free…there’s nowhere in Agadez we haven’t played.”

From the days of the Trans-Saharan caravan in the 14th century to a modern-day stopover for Europe-bound migrants, Agadez is a city that stands at the crossroads, where people and ideas come together. Understandably, it’s here where one of the most ambitious Tuareg guitar has taken hold. Agadez’s style is the fastest, with frenetic electric guitar solos, staccato crash of full drum kits, and flamboyant dancing guitarists. Agadez is the place where artists come to cut their teeth in a lucrative and competitive winner-take-all scene. Guitar bands are an integral part of the social fabric, playing in weddings, baptisms, and political rallies, as well as the occasional concert.

Whereas other Tuareg guitarists look to Western rock, Etran de L’Aïr play in a pan-African style that is emblematic of their hometown, citing a myriad of cultural influences, from Northern Malian blues, Hausa bar bands, to Congolese Soukous. It’s perhaps this quality that makes them so beloved in Agadez. “We play for the Tuareg, the Toubou, the Zarma, the Hausa,” Abindi explains. “When you invite us, we come and play.” Their music is rooted in celebration, and invokes the exuberance of an Agadez wedding, with an overwhelming abundance of guitars, as simultaneous solos playfully pass over one another with a restrained precision, forceful yet never overindulgent.

Recorded at home in Agadez with a mobile studio, their eponymous album stays close to the band’s roots. Over a handful of takes, in a rapid-fire recording session, “Agadez” retains all the energy of a party. Their message too is always close to home. Tchingolene (“Tradition”) recalls the nomad camps, with a modern take on traditional takamba rhythms transposed to guitars. The dreamy ballad Toubouk Ine Chihoussay (“The Flower of Beauty”) dives into call and response lyrics, and solos that dance effortlessly over the frets. On other tracks like Imouwizla (“Migrants”), Etran addresses immigration with the driving march parallels the nomads’ plight with travelers crossing the desert for Europe. Yet even at its most serious, Etran’s music is engaged and dynamic, reminding us that music can transmit a message while lighting up a celebration. This is music for dancing, after all. 

If there seems to be the attitude that music should be released sparingly, carefully, in small quantities, maybe that’s because it’s convenient for reviewers – compatible with capitalism’s idea of scarcity – and protective of gatekeepers who want to preserve the illusion that music is like a rare gem that only they can dig for you.

Part of what makes Bandcamp radical – even after that Epic buyout – is the artists. It’s saying “here’s five hours of pads I made, religiously, each day of December. Five hours. 5 bucks.”

And you know what? This is utterly beautiful, shifting plays of light that tickle your neurons. And while gatekeepers may not think of anything particularly clever to say about this, hitting play here is a bit like settling into a massage chair, instantly changing your mood.

Speaking of platform capitalism, I found this and a few other selections via Mastodon instead of X or elsewhere, perhaps a sign of things to come. And artist tsrono is one of the first I’ve seen to list their Mastodon address on Bandcamp, something we should perhaps all follow

For something completely different, I’ve long been a great fan of Local Sound Network and Ryuji Takeuchi’s unforgiving, brutalist approach to techno. (Maybe not completely different, as somehow I can mix directly from the previous into this.) The whole collection is great, and they’ve been digging into the archives. This will hit you with all the force of getting jammed into the Tokyo subway – that sort of peak hour. (I’m full of terrible metaphors today, which is probably just a sign that the coffee at the end of the week has hit actual neurotoxicity.)

DIY? Yes. “Vinyl and digital oriented Techno record label owned by Ryuji Takeuchi. Also, LSN Booking takes care of bookings of Ryuji Takeuchi.”

But this is as poetic as it is hard:

Syrphe is a label devoted to that which is not getting enough attention. And today, C-drik has not one but three epic releases. You can even get CDs if you like.

Axiome is the duo project of label boss C-drik Fermont with Olivier Moreau. The Ant-Zen vets deliver a sufficiently crunchy, demolished ambient-noise range. Note: “Spanning more than thirty years of Axiome’s recordings but focusing on lesser-known tracks, ‘Axiome – RMX’ by Aluviana utilizes oblique strategies to introduce the former’s music to an unfamiliar and, quite possibly, unsuspecting audience.” – Lord Ferdzilla

From Beirut 2016 is Tasjiil Moujahed, here with a released that had to be dragged from a pressing catastrophe and other delays. But don’t miss it; it feels just as fresh now. I wish I had words for this one; it’s dizzingly good at crossing genres – sort of leftfield post-punk, but weirder and more deliciously cynical:

Also in 2016, but in Istanbul, the duo of Zeynep Ayşe Hatipoğlu and Fulya Uçanok met up and iKKi Duo was born. The two experiment across instruments and electronic sounds and research. This recent work is ethereal and perhaps best summed up by the title of the dance piece it was composed for – “Sunset Melodrama.” It’s a musical theater of the ionosphere, bathed in solar rays.

Let’s get ahead of ourselves a bit. I talked recently about Ukraine’s Muscut label. Muscut x Mida: Volia x Rahu is a multi-course meal of unexpected delights, like one of those dinners blindfolded – especially as there are no notes out yet. But experimental fans, Смачного!

Another October release to look forward to is this one – “Evil Eye” is pure malevolent improvisational genius.

Zyggurat present the product of a one off studio session, recorded in two parts by four musicians, resulting in eight tracks. An inverted stepped pyramid constructed from the musical equivalent of a futuristic super alloy, in this case a furiously imaginative hybrid of groove and improvisation. The sound is that of searching, of finding and giving space, the balancing of intensity and calmness. The sound is free but the all important scaffolding for the musicians to work from, or in other words the intent, has been thoughtfully prepared in the form of themes of hedonism, isolation, liberation and salvation. The hope is for a vivid, transformative listening experience that captures the imagination.


releases October 6, 2023

Pete Grimshaw – modular synthesizer, kalimba
Sam Wooster – trumpet, electronics
Xhosa Cole – tenor saxophone, flutes
Nathan England-Jones – drums, percussions

Recorded 2nd August 2022 at Birmingham Conservatoire.

Just one above-the-radar release – in that it got some attention from Bandcamp Daily and looks like a bump – but I adore this outing from Brazil. About it:

On “Teghnojoyg” Babe, Terror Explores Trauma and History

Denmark’s Rime Trails delivers Ephemera, a melancholic, fragile outing that feels like finding a ruin. And again, there’s a sense that practice in these digital releases is partly about marking the passage of time, the progress of production. From their description:

Cathedral clouds, shadow beneath.

Collection of songs from throughout the year.

Music making is so often about mental health, actualized selfhood – even if the industry around it seems hell-bent on the opposite. So here to close, from the Netherlands and Gagi Petrovic is a release that is explicitly about that. It sounds violent, but it may be healing.

Unfold Yourself is a story about personal growth, about taking care of your own mental health.

It’s about an overwhelming darkness – seemingly endless. Giving yourself attention, trust, and time doesn’t make these moments easier, but inevitably transforms the volatility into something fresh, someone new.

Unfold Yourself is a reminder not to give up.

Don’t stop. Don’t give up. Reach out for help and reach out to others to help them.

And keep, you know, creating digital music.

Have a good weekend.

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