First Floor #29 – Bandcamp's Big Day
a.k.a. Highlighting my favorite electronic music offerings from last Friday.
|Shawn Reynaldo||Mar 24|| 1|
Hello there. I’m Shawn Reynaldo, and welcome to First Floor, a weekly electronic music digest that includes news, my favorite new tracks and (usually) some of my thoughts on the issues affecting the larger scene / industry that surrounds the music. If you haven’t done so already, please consider subscribing to the newsletter by clicking the button below.
ON MY MIND
We’re going to change things up this week.
Don’t worry, it’s nothing too dramatic. Long story short, I’m going to be sending out the “normal” newsletter tomorrow. Given that most of you are likely stuck at home in self-isolation mode, there’s a fair chance that you’ve already lost track of what day it is anyways, so I can’t imagine this will be too big of a deal for anyone.
So what are we doing today?
Well, I want to talk a bit about Bandcamp. As you’re likely aware, in an effort to help artists during the COVID-19 pandemic, last Friday the site waived its usual 10-15% cut of music and merch sales through its platform. The idea proved enormously popular, both with artists and fans, and yesterday Bandcamp reported that event resulted in sales of 4.3 million dollars, a figure which they claim is more than 15 times what they average on a regular Friday.
By any measure, the event was a success, especially considering that the whole thing was only announced a few days prior. I still think the music industry’s prospects are looking pretty grim for the foreseeable future, but it was nonetheless encouraging to see such a high level of engagement—not to mention genuine appreciation and excitement—amongst music fans on Friday. My social media feeds that day were jammed with Bandcamp-related commentary, as people shared recommendations, touted their purchases and even commiserated about the site intermittently crashing under the weight of all the web traffic. Even with everyone isolated in their homes, last Friday felt like a real community event, something I think most of us are craving these days.
I could go on, but I’m going to save the deeper analysis for another day. Right now, I’d like to focus on music, and specifically all of the special releases that artists put together for the Bandcamp event. These releases came in all shapes and sizes (unreleased tracks, previously shelved albums, DJ edits, reissues, odds and ends collections, etc.) and listing them all would be impossible. (For what it’s worth, this list that Resident Advisor put together is fairly comprehensive.) Nevertheless, I’ve spent the past several days trawling through Bandcamp and have done my best to put together a list of the ones I liked the best.
And yes, I realize that these recommendations would have been more helpful on Friday, when 100% of sales was going to the artists, but there were a ton of special releases and Bandcamp was moving rather slowly that day. I needed time to listen, and even though these selections might be arriving a little late, if they lead to purchases now, the vast majority of the money is still going to the artists.
My selections are below. There are 35 in total, listed alphabetically.
One quick editorial note: remember that the pool for these selections was strictly limited to releases that were put together especially for last Friday’s Bandcamp event. “Regular” releases that just happened to come out last Friday (e.g. albums and EPs whose March 20 releases had been scheduled weeks or months prior) will be covered in tomorrow’s “normal” edition of the newsletter.
You can click on the titles to hear each song individually, or you can also just head over to this convenient Buy Music Club list to find them all in one place.
One of electronic music’s most prolific artists, this Finnish producer dropped eight (!!!) releases on Friday, all of them bearing the title Spectrum. It’s worth taking a deeper dive into the whole series (I have to admit that I haven’t yet listened to the whole thing), but this track is from Spectrum 6 and captures Perälä’s mystical vibe, thanks to his signature chiming melodies.
Vancouver producer Khotin has adopted a(nother) new moniker, and will be releasing an Area 3 cassette in April. He moved up the digital release to coincide with last Friday’s Bandcamp event, and the washy aquatic textures of “Bubble” showcase why he’s one of the finest ambient artists out there.
Synthy, tweaky, acid-laced dance music out of Appalachia. Center released a tape on Jacktone last year, but “Paradise 2020” is taken from a two-song effort called Service; all sales will go towards helping displaced service industry workers in and around Huntington, West Virginia.
An unearthed DJ tool from the Berlin-based Irish duo. Big drums, ravey synths and lots of fun. Nothing fancy, but it gets the job done.
Back in 2015, Montreal producer CFCF did a mix for the esteemed Blowing Up the Workshop Series that essentially consisted of an album’s worth of new material. Now he’s disassembled that mix and has thrown its tracks (with some minor tweaks and additions) online. Lots of styles are represented, but this is a low-key house cut that balances delicate melodies with ominous psychedelia.
A collaborative live jam from Montreal artists Persuasion and Softcoresoft. Recorded back in 2016, they’ve excavated three tracks, along with a Minimal Violence remix, for an EP called First Sessions. Heady, hypnotic techno with a bit of orchestral flair.
London producers Itoa and Dolenz remixed each other for a two-song digital release. The former specializes in fast tempos, but the drums here percolate more than bang, as he’s let the track’s arpeggios and bell-like melodies shine.
Those seeking serenity during these crazy times should check Hill, Flower, Fog, a collection of tunes this LA-based artist recorded earlier this month. “Moon View” is a delicate lullaby that also verges upon the same sort of Japanese ambient that’s inspired groups like Visible Cloaks.
Glacial, gorgeous ambient out of Washington, DC. Gentle guitar, floaty textures and a skyward gaze.
One of Glasgow’s rising talents (see his previous releases on Dark Entries, Dixon Avenue Basement Jams and Super Rhythm Trax) has cobbled together a collection of unreleased tunes called Posh End White Label Trax Vol. 1. “Dreams Become” is pure ’90s rave worship, but there’s a lot to love about its diva chops, synth stabs and ramshackle rhythm.
Sparkling synth melodies and burbling nature sounds; this tune is a beautiful follow-up to the LA artist’s Six Songs for Invisible Gardens EP that dropped back in January.
Green is a Japanese ambient classic from 1986, and it’s slated for the full reissue treatment this summer. Light in the Attic, however, decided to just go ahead and drop the digital version on Friday. The whole LP is great, but the pristine tones and uncluttered composition of “Creek” really showcase what makes Yoshimura’s music so phenomenal.
Colorful and adventurous sounds out of Japan, courtesy of the always intriguing Alien Jams label. The new album is Odoriko and “Matsushima” pits raucous drums and unique rhythms against some striking crystaline melodies.
Fans have been clamoring for this tune for the past decade, and Joy Orbison finally decided to dig it out of his hard drive. If I’m being honest, I’m not sure why people are so over-the-top nuts about this track, but it’s an enjoyably bouncy bit of swinging, R&B-kissed house music. Even better, all proceeds are being donated to the Southwark Food Bank in London.
The Amsterdam duo has often done their most transcendent work in the live arena, which makes Deep in Gowanus—a recording of a show at Brooklyn’s Public Records from last year—an especially rewarding prospect. The whole thing (which runs about 90 minutes) is worth checking, but here I chose the session’s second half, which is a bit more lively.
Although he’s best known as The Field, Axel Willner goes by many names and dabbles in a variety of styles. Although he hasn’t put something out as Lars Blek since 2003, he’s cobbled together a collection of unreleased tunes from the project, which includes this song and its sharp-edged ambient drift.
A seemingly bottomless pit of creativity, Legowelt slipped out a new album called Tips for Life that moves between Dutch electro-techno, Memphis-style rap beats and more. “Vamparch” is a swirly, Italo-flavored cut with some slightly silly voiceovers; in other words, it’s classic Legowelt.
With its warbling tones and stirring spoken word, “Errors of Skin Variante” kicks off a collection of outtakes from Dalt’s 2018 album Anticlines. Also worth checking: this assemblage of field recordings she made with Aaron Dilloway during an artist residency in her native Colombia.
The Objects Limited founder put out a 20-minute composition called Guided Meditation that is very much intended as a tool for doing just that. The release contains three versions of the piece, and seeing as how I’m not someone who’s into meditation myself (shocker, I know), I’ve opted for the instrumental, which still offers a wonderfully serene listening experience.
MyMy was a collaborative project from Nick Höppner and Lee Jones, who in 2006 released an album called Songs for the Gentle. The LP has now been made available digitally (with a couple of EPs from that era thrown in); it’s a nice document of the post-minimal moment of the mid 2000s and “Pelourinho” is a classy bit of polished house music with some subtly funky undertones.
Originally pressed on a limited run of vinyl (only 10 copies were made) and given to friends, Ondo Fudd—better known as Call Super—has made two versions of “Mietmiorse” available digitally, but only for two weeks. This is the more club-oriented take, but both tunes are quirky and playful bits of avant-garde house music.
The UK outfit released a trio of edits, and this one puts a new spin on their track “Cult Hero (Do You Wanna Touch Me),” which features Simon Topping of A Certain Ratio. This one sounds like a dreamy (but danceable) slice of ’80s new wave.
New Atlantis is closing up shop, but the London new age hub is saying goodbye with New Beginnings, an immersive collection of tape rips from a variety of ’90s cassettes. The lush “Celestial Journey” was originally done by John Simmon, but it’s been tweaked/edited here by New Atlantis co-founder JQ. All proceeds from the compilation will go to the Trussell Trust, a charity that operates the UK’s largest network of food banks.
The busy Montreal producer brings the technicolor sounds of his trance- and progressive house-influenced productions into a mellower framework here, landing somewhere between ambient and new age. This one is the title track of a seven-song collection he fittingly describes as “somber yet uplfiting.”
Originally available only as an accompaniment to the book edition of the Penelope Two album, the Withdrawn EP has now been issued digitally. This expanded edition also includes the somber, piano-driven “Hold,” a previously unreleased song that finds Trappes heading into Grouper territory, which is not at all a bad thing.
Clocking in at nearly twelve and half minutes, “So Much Over Me (Together)” is a brightly colored dancefloor epic from this veteran Swiss producer. Worth it for the twinkling synths and new wavey vocal clips.
Recorded at her home in Los Angeles this month, Horae finds Canadian artist Sarah Davachi constructing quietly affecting and gradually evolving drones and tones, using only a vintage Korg synth and a tape echo. The beautifully patient “First Triad” kicks off the release.
Tehran and New York City meet up on this cinematic collaboration, which weaves field recordings and gently plucked guitar into a thick glaze of echo and distortion.
One of dubstep’s first breakout stars, Skream couldn’t go back into his own archives to put together Unreleased Classics Vol.1 2002 - 2003, as simply he didn’t have the files. Luckily, his old friend Plastician did. “Kontrast” is an upfront tune with thick, oscillating bass, not to mention a great reminder of how special that early dubstep era was for UK dance music.
2019’s Redemption of the Cryonauts was originally meant to be an album for Dekmantel, but Space Dimension Controller thought it was too dark and chose to issue it as a limited-edition white label instead. A year later, it’s now been given a digital release and “2076 A.D.” showcases his special talent for spacey electro-techno hybrids.
The London-based Italian dug into his archives and put together a collection of bassy club bangers called OLD/UNRELEASED. The klaxon-filled “Syyyyymn” is probably the liveliest of bunch, and while its various sirens and alarms will surely grab anyone’s attention, don’t sleep on those rattling drums and huge bass drops.
Two Installations is a self-explanatory title, and includes a pair of pieces that this Portland duo created for site-specific installations. The twinkling tones of “Gallery 211” conjure images of being at a Japanese temple, but they were actually part of an installation inside the Art Institute of Chicago’s European wing.
One of the UK’s top purveyors of bass-heavy club sounds, Walton dropped Unreleased Tunes, a collection of 20 tracks that had never before seen the light of day. There’s a lot of heat in there, but “Steppa” is just plain fierce, layering brawny bass wobbles and a tweaked dancehall vocal over clacking, energetic drums. It’s a big tune, or at least it should be.
Lobster Theremin went BIG on Friday, releasing a three-volume compilation called LOBSTER PLUR that contains 45 tracks in total. Moving through house, techno, electro, jungle, ambient, breakbeat, garage and more, it’s impossible to sum up in a single song—I went with “Holla” because it’s a lively, piano-driven rave throwback—but what’s really important is that all profits will go to mental health charity Mind, homeless charity Shelter and an independent fund for contributing artists.
Hymns of Oblivion isn’t The Disintegration Loops, but it’s a beautiful suite of songs Basinski recorded between 1989 and 1991 during what he calls he goth phase. “Mesmerized” lands somewhere between early Tears for Fears and classic 4AD; it’s slow, sad and emotionally moving.
That was a lot of music! Hopefully you heard some things you like, and maybe even purchased a few of them. (Don’t forget, you can find all of my selections on this handy Buy Music Club list.)
Otherwise, don’t forget that the “normal” newsletter will be delivered tomorrow, and will include all of the usual First Floor content. Thank you so much for reading, and stay safe, wherever you are.