Over the last few years, Bandcamp has gone from being a fairly niche platform to a vital tool for independent artists who want to get their work noticed. The freedom it gives artists has resulted in a mind-blowing amount of variety on its digital shelves, from one-man bedroom projects by bored teenagers to massive scale multi-person experiments, from traditional acoustic numbers to bizarre electronic brain-fucks.
There’s something for everyone hidden somewhere on the site, and I felt like sharing a few of my favourite things I’ve stumbled across at one point or another, to showcase the ways in which people pushing the boundaries.
Note that I already covered a few Bandcamp artists in the first follower shoutout, so go read that if you want more along similar lines.
Pavel Enzi - Not Far From Our Imagination [$5 / Link]
Bandcamp is a great place to find merges of various genres. With music software getting ever more user-friendly and flexible, more people can experiment to their hearts content. Pavel Enzi, for example, takes elements of folk, glitch and ambient music and combines them to create soundscapes that weave between serene and melodic, and twitchy and unpredictable. Opening single ‘Look for the Brook’ features a gorgeous combination of keyboard and xylophone that occasionally jumps and cuts, creating an organic experience.
Good Amount - Opening Eye [PWYW / Link]
Bandcamp is also a place for artists and even labels to experiment with distribution methods. Crash Symbols are a bandcamp-based label who have created a tight-knit group of artists who release everything only on carefully preserved cassette tapes (as well as digitally). They have a strongly DIY aesthetic, but the music they release is still complex and layered. Opening Eye is only 4 tracks long, but travels through multiple layers of the ambient spectrum along its half-hour length: From the dark psychedelia of ‘Closed’ to the spacey clutter of ‘Gain’.
Karizma - Nothing is Noise [Free / Link]
“I couldn’t have done this without God, a pen and a piece of paper.”
Any hip-hop fan worth his salt knows that often the best rappers are found on the outskirts. Karizma even states upfront that his work is ‘not for the masses’, and Nothing is Noise covers many topics that radio wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole. This is an album about inner demons and turmoils, and tracks like ‘Her Story’ and ‘Potion for the Pain’ are absolutely heartbreaking.
But don’t get the wrong idea - this is a fantastic album. The rhymes are inventive, the beats varied and professional, and the topics as wide-ranging as they are thoughtful. It’s the best kind of hip-hop: The kind that stays with you long after you finish listening.
Single Mothers - s/t [$5 / Link]
Single Mothers are a completely different kind of catharsis: 12 minutes of driving guitars, shouted lyrics, and general kicking-down-doors anger. “We’re not a band, motherfucker we’re a gang!” yells Andrew Thomson on ‘Hell (Is My Backup Plan)’, just before the, um, band launches into yet another assault of feedback-driven punk rock. This isn’t the most nuanced music, but if you’re looking for something to pump yourself up, this should work wonders.
Macintosh Plus - Floral Shoppe [Free / Link]
Even after researching it, I still haven’t got the faintest goddamn clue of what vaporwave is, but apparently this is a good example of it. All I know is that this is infomercial music put through several dozen filters and possibly also Hell, until it becomes music’s version of the uncanny valley. I think if you were to actually make an infomercial using this music the salesperson would only communicate in alternated whispers and screams, and halfway through his head would rotate 180 degrees and he’d start speaking in tongues. I don’t even know if I like this album any more.
The Dead Pirates - Malevolent Melody [£3 / Link]
I discovered these guys before I even knew what bandcamp was, through a free poster I grabbed on my first day at uni. Fronted by artist mcbess, they play fantastically tight, catchy garage rock, with upbeat guitar-driven melodies and great drumming.
The real draw though, is the music video for ‘wood’; animated by mcbess, it’s smoothly animated, wonderfully surreal, and probably one of my all time favourite music videos. It’s a brilliant exercise in world-building and aesthetics, which just happens to have a kickass song to go with it. The moment where a single piece hanging note turns into a driving guitar riff is just unbelievably perfect.
Chiptune x3 Combo!
Slime Girls - Vacation Wasteland EP [PWYW / Link]
Starscream - Future, Towards the Edge of Forever [$5 / Link]
Disasterpeace - Rise of the Obsidian Interstellar [$2 / Link]
I love chiptune music, but I’ll freely admit that a lot of it can sound somewhat samey. Thankfully, bandcamp once again comes to the rescue with artists that are freely experimenting what can be done with the genre.
First off, Slime Girls. Slime Girls are just happy as shit. Combining chiptune with more classic instruments, they create music that sounds like every invincible power-up and sunny beach you could imagine. It might be old hat to compare them to Anamanaguchi, but I’m going to do that anyway because they really are just that upbeat and awesome.
Starscream, meanwhile, is the frankensteinian combination of two genres that would never normally touch: Chiptune and Post-rock. Sweeping orchestral statement mesh with 8-bit bleeps and trills. It’s the kind of thing that really shouldn’t work nearly as well as it does - and it really, really works.
Finally: Progressive Chiptune-Rock Concept Album. If that description didn’t intrigue you I really don’t know what else to say. Rise of the Obsidian Interstellar tells a story about space travel, fated meetings and mysterious forces through nothing more than some track titles and brilliant music. And there really is a story here, albeit one that is partially left to the listener. I can hear the confrontation in the wretched hive that is ‘Club Wolf’. I can feel the loneliness of the lost soul in ‘Adrift’. I can hear the urgency of the travelers in ‘Wagering Lights’.
Not bad for a wordless 8-bit album, huh?