Viking's Choice Guide To Bandcamp Friday (May 2021)
What started as a way to help out musicians and labels beset by the pandemic (by Bandcamp waiving its revenue fees for 24 hours) has become a monthly tradition of surprise album drops, gratuitous spending and just a whole lotta music nerds sharing their wares online. There hasn't been an announcement about the future of Bandcamp Friday — maybe like everyone else, they're just waiting to see how the world opens back up.
So maybe there's another Viking's Choice Guide to Bandcamp Friday in June, maybe not — in any case, here's the 8th iteration! This month, I'm grouping the recommendations by what I think characters from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would jam! I've been reading The IDW Collection, a truly engrossing re-telling of the TMNT origins with original co-creator Kevin Eastman at the helm for the first 12 issues (he contributes as the story develops in further collections, too). As someone who grew up on the animated series and the movies from the '90s, these comics not only weave a complex, ancient mythology but also present multi-dimensional characters I'd never seen before.
There are 30 releases here, all released on or around May 7. Follow along my personal Bandcamp collection for more recommendations. Cowabunga, dudes! —Lars Gotrich
key words: a leader who still wants to be led • black olive pizza
James Brandon Lewis & Red Lily Quintet, Jesup Wagon (AUM Fidelity): James writes jazz tunes like a pointillist painter: his precision is microscopic, but the overall effect reveals the bigger picture. I think that's especially the case here, as the saxophonist enlists cornetist Kirk Knuffke, cellist Chris Hoffman and a head-turning rhythm section: bassist William Parker and drummer Chad Taylor. Super sharp songs that get stuck in your head, and sprout new leaves every listen.
Claire Rousay & Patrick Shiroishi, Now Am Found (Mended Dreams): One of three cassettes released today on Claire's new imprint under American Dreams. That title, Now Am Found, comes from such a specific language and lineage and, like "Amazing Grace," wanders through grief and redemption with equal parts uncertainty and elation. Through field recordings, hummed hymns, bells, out-of-tune piano and plucked guitar, the duo resolves the spiritually fraught arc with someone strumming the chords of a bleakly pitch-perfect cover that I won't spoil here — just know that the song, drenched in sympathy, caught me off guard.
Ilyas Ahmed & Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, You Can See Your Own Way Out (Devotion): These two have such distinct approaches to otherworldliness and, yet, have never collaborated. Ilyas Ahmed's wandering psych-folk hum Between Two Skies / Towards the Night (2008) and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma's blown-out bliss-out Love is a Stream (2010) still get major spins in my house, so I'm very very curious how those other-worlds find each other.
key words: wicked smaaht • bewildered by mystery • mushroom pizza
Kosmodemonic, Liminal Light (Transylvanian): Another knockout from Transylvanian, a label that consistently digs deep for gnarly metal gems. Kosmodemonic's got a serious Celtic Frost thing going on — black metal-derived, but with an emphasis on the doom — featuring a psychedelic snear a mile wide.
Terminalist, The Great Acceleration (Indisciplinarian): Metal bands that dub their own style are kinda lame, but, hey, "hyperthrash" really does get to the point (even if that just means: "We really like Voivod"). FFO: tech-thrash bands like Black Fast, Expander, Cryptic Shift, but toss in a gruff sense of punk melody and 'tude.
The Montréal Scratch Orchestra, Cornelius Cardew: The Great Learning (Tone Glow): Music that sinks to the abyssal plain and finds light in the sublime darkness. Archival release of Cardew's underwater alien choral music conducted by Dean Rosenthal.
Beastlor, Galaxies of Death (self-released): It wouldn't be Bandcamp Friday without a drop from one of the Krallice boys! It's cool to hear Mick Barr return to this one-man (?) black-metal band, which presaged Krallice by a decade. (Fun fact: "This Forest for Which We Have Killed" from 2017's Go Be Forgotten was named for an old Beastlor track.) Frenetic riffs rupture at warp speed, as is Mick's way of being, but there's a mournful centerpiece that allows us to contemplate the black void.
key words: party hard • listen harder • pepperoni pizza
V/A, Arc Mountain (Hausu Mountain / Deathbomb Arc): Mad-wild comp featuring the rosters of Deathbomb Arc (Dos Monos, Fielded, SB the Moor, Angry Blackmen) and Hausu Mountain (Fire-Toolz, RXM Reality, Khaki Blazer, Mukqs) in Judgment Night-style freakazoid hip-hop and electronic music collabs. For a pair of labels that consistently put out left-field ragers, this one's the glitched bacchanal.
India Jordan, Watch Out! (Ninja Tune): This five-song banger ends with a track called "And Groove," a perfect summation for India Jordan's raison d'être: she drops you right into her groove oblivion, thumping like a heart in motion.
Me & E, Rap (Mixed Signals): If Arthur Russell had produced a minimalist hip-hop record, this might be it. Reissue of a 1989 EP by two 18-year-old kids in love with New Order and Kraftwerk, with few tools at hand, but a lot of charm.
V/A, Mutants: Best of 1-4 (Mutants1000000): These comps curated by Arca's Discord server have become crucial insights to the frazzled electronic experimentalists of hyperpop, techno and trance. No tossed-off loosies, always A-game material from the likes of galen tipton, Dorian Electra and Gupi. This is a vinyl campaign featuring the choicest tracks from the charity mixtape series.
key words: despite all my rage everyone forgets I'm still teenaged • banana pepper pizza
Corubo, Ajuricaba (self-released): My bud Kim Kelly turned me onto this Indigenous black metal band originally from Brazil, now based in Uruguay. Corubo's been around since 1999, but this is my first blast and holy crap is this some wrathful anti-colonial rage. Restless black-metal riffs clash and swirl with Amazonian field recordings and Indigenous instruments — dense, unsettling and raw.
Polly Fae, Earthlight (Projekt): Dark dream-pop with the mystery and beauty of a flower blooming after a midnight rain.
Aduanten, Sullen Cadence (self-released): Doom and gloom death metal from members of Vex, Obsequiae and Horrendous. The melodic, yet muscular Kataonia immediately comes to mind as an influence, as does Tribulation's gothic flair, but Aduanten's backbone is ripping post-punk.
Daniel Bachman, Axacan (Three Lobed): I'll eventually have much more to say, but this might be Daniel's masterpiece. A fingerstyle record that buries his acoustic guitar under blood-soaked dirt.
Mystic Storm, Из хаоса древних времен (self-released): Russian metal at ramming speed! I keep seeing this St. Petersburg band called thrash, but Mystic Storm's got more of a reverb-heavy hardcore-punk, NWOBHM-ish biker-metal vibe. Like Détente's Dawn Criosby, Anya's vocals add a tortured witch's wail to the chaos.
key words: voice of reason who struggles to find sense • Hawaiian pizza
Rosali, No Medium (Spinster): Few fuzz like Rosali. She drags fuzz through life's bullshit and comes out roses… or at least writes songs that grapple with the ugly and the pretty on equal terms. Members of the David Nance Group back her up on this record, churning out Crazy Horse rockers, but also hang-dog Cat Power ballads.
Carlos Niño & Friends, More Energy Fields, Current (International Anthem): Nostalgic for a future that never was, but still building castles out of sky. Jazz jumbled from Windows PCs.
Violet Cold, Empire of Love (self-released): The stupidly prolific one-man post-black metal band has always had such a stylish aesthetic: austere artwork complemented by music that's equally lush and harsh. So you take notice when the new album sports the Azerbaijani crescent and eight-pointed star on a rainbow flag. Savage blackgaze remains the backdrop, but underpinned by banjo, Auto-Tune and raver beats.
Mark Freedman, One Man Posse (RVNG Intl.): Music comes in cycles, mysteriously and suddenly, returning when the world's ready again. I think that's the case with this lovingly assembled mix of '80s private-press avant-pop from Mark Freedman, a musician and studio owner who ran in Arthur Russell's circles (he plays cello on a few tracks here). Elastic jams for weirdo dance moves.
Angel Olsen, Song of the Lark and Other Far Memories (Jagjaguwar): Been thinking about my favorite singers lately. I've really enjoyed not only hearing Angel Olsen's journey as a singer but also as a vision of what her music can question, reach, elevate. I'm not usually one for deluxe editions of albums only a couple years old, but 2019's All Mirrors and 2020's Whole New Mess are really meant to exist in the same tangled-yet-glamorous space. These records, in particular, deepen her sound and songwriting in such a way that discovers new shades… so, yeah, I sprung for the box set myself!
Cruel Reflections, Through Motions (Cold Transmission Music): I did a double-take when I first heard "The Sound of Your Name": the hushed vocals, the buoyant New Order-y bass line, the chiming guitar, the clipped and danceable drums… is this secretly a Starflyer 59 song? Then I saw the album was recorded in Riverside, Calif., and, welp, now I've got my conspiracy cap on.
key words: sorrow is a sage • veggie lover's pizza
Chris Schlarb & Chad Taylor, Time No Changes (Astral Spirits): Open tunings open hearts, y'all. As much as I love Psychic Temple and his Big Ego productions, I'm partial to Chris Schlarb in a duo format, where his ruminative guitar playing gets an intimate spotlight (see also: I Heart Lung). It's hard to believe that, before last year's Houses of the Holy, Chris and percussionist Chad Taylor hadn't jammed before — there's an immediate understanding here, as they get lost in a loose ramble of acoustic ragas, front-porch strum-and-drums and even something that might pass as a James Taylor tune.
Jusell, Prymek, Sage, Shiroishi, Yamawarau (山笑う) (Cached Media): Just in time for summer, the ambient-jazz quartet's spring album! (Can we just call them the Fuubutsushi Quartet now? Typing out all those last names takes too long.) Shades of classic ECM remain, and the music's gentle bloom can be read as spiritual, but perhaps guided more by a spirit of newness. The group has an egalitarian approach to composition, but I must say, Chaz Prymek's (aka Lake Mary) exquisite guitar playing gets some serious shine throughout.
Annie Hart, Everything Pale Blue (Orindal): The keyboardist from Au Revoir Simone goes full komische in this soft melange of arpeggiated synths, soft tones and overlapping wafts of melody.
Loren Connors, Domain of the Wind (Family Vineyard): Everybody dunks on 10" records, but Loren continues to make the case for the odd format. Maybe it's the straw hat on the cover, but this 22-minute suite for solo electric guitar features Loren in a mode of Western expanse… bleary, dusty and heavy.
key words: bonehead • a heart for vigilance • hamburger pizza
Hostile Takedown, Demonstration (Words of Fire): Jack Cooper runs the What It Takes HC Blog account on Instagram, which has turned me onto so much great hardcore from around the world. Sometimes that amount of knowledge and passion can be hard to translate into a band, but dangit, their Hostile Takedown ingests the muscular grooves and mean mugging of '90s metallic hardcore with the vision of someone who's truly seen it all.
Mouthbreather, I'm Sorry Mr. Salesman (Dark Trail): I would not want to meet this band (or the grinning terror on the album cover) in a dark alley. Mathy grind beaten with barbwire and strangled by Boston's long history of tough-guy hardcore.
Mega Drive, Neuroframe (self-released): Mega Drive delivers the knife's edge of cyberpunk that I crave: bit-crushed beats, speedcycle synths and leather-gloved fist-pumping hooks with a metallic sheen.
Sentinel, Sense of Dread (self-released): One of many, many Mindforce side projects sprung from the pandemic. The roots are hardcore-punk, but the whole thing's got a moshable and shreddy swingin' swagger.