Hey y’all, it’s been a minute, so let’s get right into it. It is, once again, Bandcamp Day, when that platform waives its revenue fees for 24 hours to help out artists during this pandemic. You buy a tape, a record, MP3s or just the bragging rights of a good streaming collection, and 100% of that money goes to the artist or label. Good deal, good folks.
This is my third guide, following May and June. Below are 23 albums, EPs or long songs released today in full that exemplify a certain Viking’s Choice je nais sais quois. Some of it’s loud, some of it’s weird, some of it’s sad, some of it wrestles with the divine, some of it’s cooler than I’ll ever be and I just have to deal with it — you know, Viking’s Choice stuff.
There’s plenty that I’m gonna miss, especially since I’m scheduling this newsletter to hit your inbox while I’m out hiking somewhere in western North Carolina with my folks who’ve been quarantining only with each other for three months. Like, I’m pretty sure the Krallice dudes are up to something… teasers on Instagram stories don’t really disappear (because Zuck), but they don’t lie, either, y’all. — Lars Gotrich
Thiago Nassif, Mente (Gearbox): Been keeping my eye on this Brazilian for a couple years now, hoping that his wildly disparate influences would congeal; it’s with Mente that he truly lets his funky freak flag fly. Thiago’s got the psychedelic free-spirit of Tropicália running through his veins — punk, but funk; bossa nova, but no-wave; noise, but fuzz. (Tropicália was, of course, more of an insurgent art movement than any one sound, but something in the music tells me similar lyrical themes run throughout Mente, too.) Just a very cool, very weird record that hangs together with a cliff-dancer energy.
Lamin Fofana, Blues (self-released): The ambient musician calls this release a reflection on Amiri Baraka’s 1963 book Blues People; it’s about “the experience of Black people making a culture in an alien world. All that beauty, mystery, tragedy, joy.” In turn, Lamin Fofana’s music is alien in the way that Earth sometimes feels alien — the tones, the textures, the bird calls all feel familiar, but sculpted in unfamiliar forms that are beautiful, ancient and new.
Convocation, Ashes Coalesce (Sentient Ruin): Finnish funeral death-doom, but make it devastatingly celestial. No doubt indebted to the cathedral organ majesty of Skepticism, but features some genuinely peculiar composition more akin to Japanese weirdos Sigh.
v/a, Physically Sick 3 (Allergy Season): Dance music for the mind racing with rage and sadness. Stellar tracks from SHYBOI, Dreamcrusher, Robert Aiki Aurbey Lowe, Korea Town Acid, Surgeon and tons of others spanning house, techno, ambient, noise, jungle — sounds for movement of all kinds. Third in a series curated by Discwoman co-founders Frankie Decaiza Hutchinson and Umfang along with Allergy Season’s Physical Therapy.
David First & The Western Enisphere, The Consummation of Right and Wrong (Important): Still making my way through this three-disc set, simultaneously a mammoth undertaking of drone and a deeply dynamic display of ensemble shuffling. For as wide the range of instruments, the textures within the slowness only become apparent the deeper the drone.
Chris Forsyth / Dave Harrington / Ryan Jewell / Spencer Zhan, First Flight (self-released): More goodness from the live Nublu residency. The guitarist Chris Forsyth and drummer Ryan Jewell are a known quantity (shouldn’t it be quality?), but here they improvise with guitarist Dave Harrington and bassist Spencer Zahn for the first time: no pre-meditated chord progressions, no suggested BPMs, just instrumental language. The cool thing about these two jams is that you can hear the collective gears turn from free-floating psychedelia to a Grateful Dead choogle to spectral motorik groove. The second jam, in particular, slams a surprising hard-rock blooze.
Howlin Rain, Lost at Sea: Rarities, Outtakes and Other Tales from the Deep (Silver Current): The real gems of Howlin Rain’s discography typically claim squatter’s rights in the outtakes, unreleased recordings and live bootlegs. These tracks go back as far as The Russian Wilds (with a few produced by Rick Rubin) all the way up until Alligator Bride, with some Leon Russell, Rolling Stones, Kris Kristofferson and Grateful Dead covers between. “Hot .22” is such a ripper; no idea how it never landed on an album until now.
Little Kid, Transfiguration Highway (Solitaire): Somewhere between heaven and the long road that ends somewhere lies a heart trying to make sense of God and girls and guys and existence and whiskey and sin and redemption. Like everyone else, Kenny Boothby and Little Kid do their best considering, jamming on a few fuzzy chords and bouncing around the piano like Neil Young not really making folk or country or rock and roll — just making music that feels the most right to say the most honest truth, even if the whole thing comes off like a big question.
Mulatu Astatke & Black Jesus Experience, To Know Without Knowing (Agogo): How blessed are we that the godfather of Ethio-jazz is still out there funkin’ some modal jams? Mulatu Astatke’s second full-length collab with the Melbourne-based band is vibrant and urgent, lacing grooves with history and current-sy.
Dead Neanderthals, Blood Rite (Utech): The Dutch sax-and-drums duo ditches the free-jazz squall for gooey, morgue-hauntin’ doom. No saxophones, bub, just stupidly lo-fi synth distortion, gut-spilling growls and the slowest possible drum fills.
Omega Men & Women, Spirit of the Egg (self-released): Scented-candle flickerin’, morning cup of tea-sippin’, Pure Moods ambiance from James Toth (Wooden Wand) and Leah Toth (amelia courthouse) with some Twin Peaks-ian sax and flute from Nick Shadow.
MC Yallah & Eomac, Mama Waliwamanyii (Phantom Limb): Eomac’s razor-sharp synths and snipped rhythms meet the sharply emotive rhymes of Ugandan rapper MC Yallah, whose vocal dynamics run somewhere between Fever Ray and M.I.A.
Boris, NO (self-released): Nearly 30 years later, the Japanese trio can still make music that can rip the skin off a skull. No matter how sonically sprawling — there’s some glam, sludge metal, noise, doom-drone, shoegaze, rawk and roll — NO is Boris’ punk record. Every track spits with basement-show energy as if Boris’ still got something to prove.
Dream Wife, So When You Gonna… (Lucky Number): Fell in love with this spunky, pop-forward punk band’s 2018 debut album, especially its Life Without Buildings-style abandon. This new one doesn’t quite slam your head the same way; the trio leans into its poptism with an old-school mixtape enthusiasm, as tracks sprint from DFA dance-punk to early 2000s indie-pop to glammy grunge to festival-ready pop anthems to downright Robyn worship.
v/a, Will tomorrow be the dawn of humanity’s ruin? (Deathbomb Arc): Love this idea. Noise weirdos Deathbomb Arc asked its fans if they have any music they wanna share for a benefit comp, which is normally the kind of thing that would backfire, but I’m sold. Daiy Mortem does 100 gecs better than 100 gecs (fight me). bioQuery somehow transitions from bionic shout-rap to emo. Indra Menus spits frenetic Indonesian fire over Joe Million’s harsh noise.
Gong Gong Gong, Rytme Og Drone III | 節奏與嗡鳴三 (self-released): The Beijing sure-let’s-call-it-post-punk duo gets into a hang-loose groove with Anton Rothstein (Whistler, Marching Church) and Angel Wei Bernild (First Hate) in Copenhagen. Hypnotic boogie ensues.
Icepick, Hellraiser (Astral Spirits): Back when I had a live cooking show on the internet (no, really!), I crammed trumpeter Nate Wooley, drummer Chris Corsano and bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten into my record room to make an improvised racket while I whipped up some chipped beef in the kitchen. As a free-jazz trio, Icepick dance around melody and groove with noise and grit – there’s always a ton of wall-scraping texture, but tangible in ways that are challenging, thrilling and, ultimately, very fun. Hellraiser does what it says on the front.
Phil Niblock, G2, 44+/x2 (Room40): Not that we’re gonna have live music any time soon sobs but Niblock’s drones are most fully experienced on a stupidly loud system with bodies vibrating nearby. “Guitar Too, For Four” is probably best that way, as well, but there is an intimate quietude to this piece that whistles like a pack of Tuvan throat singers. This reissue adds a book, but you get one performance by Rafael Toral, and another by Kevin Drumm, Alan Licht, Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo.
M.S.W., Obliviosus (Gilead Media): The dude behind the no-fun doom crew Hell making more no-fun doom as M.S.W. Couldn’t really tell ya the difference myself, but Obliviosus makes me wanna hide in a hole and rock band and forth with a can of beans.
Geld, Beyond the Floor (Iron Lung / Static Shock): Geld is very good at making very ugly music. I liked 2018’s Perfect Texture, but thought its hideously noisy hardcore needed something to break up the blasted monotony. With lurching rhythms, wild stabs at melody, death-rockin’ flange bleakness and fast songs that speed into the dirt, Beyond the Floor is the Geld record I was looking for.