Monday, 3 July 2023

Bandcamp Recommendations (July 23)

Hello everyone. I'm back after a brief (and much needed) hiatus with a new list of fantastic Bandcamp recommendations for you. Some of these reviews were written weeks/months ago, but I was unable to find the time, energy and mental focus to publish them. I'm feeling a little better now, so here we go...


Cassie Wieland & Vicky Chow - HYMN (2023) 

GENRE : contemporary classical, experimental, ambient, chamber music
RECORD LABEL : Cantaloupe Music

A beautiful and heartfelt journey of minimalistic classical piano, fuzzy granular synthesis and shimmering ambient dissonance... full of tenderness, fragility and peaceful melancholic yearning...

Cassie Wieland is an Illinois-born and Brooklyn-based composer. Wieland masterfully experiments the relationship between intimate and massive sound worlds to achieve the “hand-made” sound she is often looking for: imperfect, but intentional.
Vicky Show is a highly-acclaimed Hong Kong/Canadian pianist who is based in Brooklyn. She has collaborated with numerous composers, artists and ensembles in the field of contemporary classical music. 

This collaborative album aurally explores the theme of connection, and is musically centred around solo piano and electronic experimentations. It consists of four longer compositions and two short interludes.
The album begins with a lonesome minor chord played on the piano, sustained and repeated over and over again, with subtle changes and melodic variations occuring as the piece evolves. Beautiful reverberations and peaceful echoes fill the soundscape. As the song progresses, you will eventually hear dulcet ambient tones, drifting and swirling through the atmosphere. The piano chords intensify and a choppy delay effect makes the additional flourishes dance throughout the song's dramatic climax.
Then things simmer down for the first quiet electronic interlude, full of beautiful bleeping melodies...
Track 3 begins with gorgeous bittersweet arpeggios being played quickly and repetitively... until higher staccato variations emerge from the mix, giving the piece a bit more colour and urgency, along with some kind of frantic reverse-delay ambient effect which makes the whole thing very mesmerizing and cinematic.
In Track 4 the piano notes tinkle and descend in rapid succession like heavy rainfall, accompanied by (what I think is) some shaker-like percussive sounds, until the dramatic crescendo of the song comes where powerful piano chords and howling sorrowful vocals fills the air...
The second interlude of this album consists of an organ-like ambience with wonderful rippling textures and tones.
The final track consists of plodding fuzzed-out grainy piano chords, thumping repeatedly through the composition while another piano layer comes in and taps out a haunting, creeping, dissonant melody over it. By the halfway point, these syncopated lead melodies become richly harmonious together. As the album gets closer and closer to being over, these lead parts quieten down before dreamy ambience and ghostly choral vocals float into the mix and carry us to the end...

'HYMN' is a quietly captivating and richly evocative album of minimalistic piano compositions and electronic textures and timbres. A beautiful mixture of contemporary classical, atmospheric chamber music and experimental ambience. Brilliant stuff.

Stream/Download the album here...


Manja Ristić - Awakenings (2023) 

GENRE : experimental, sound art, ambient, field recordings

Ethereal drones, eerie piano notes, mysterious noises and soft rippling ambience drifts solemnly through the air over placid waters in a strange desolate landscape. The atmosphere is tranquil and calm, but also somber and tense. The lonely motions of the water allow for quiet contemplation, child-like wonder and deep introspective thought...yet there's a darkness gurgling away, just below the surface of all things...

Manja Ristić is a Serbian violinist, sound art, field recordist, poet, curator and researcher. A sick talent and an incredible artist. 'Awakenings' is an album of beautiful sound poetry and haunted ambience, made using hydrophone & contact microphones (in various different locations around the Balkans), violin, abandoned pianos, a toy synth found in the garbage and an array of found objects.
The eight compositions that comprise this album are dreamy, serene, melancholic and strangely playful...with a vast array of underwater recordings taking up the foreground of the mix. You will hear water trickling and gurgling over aqueous rocks, gently rippling and swaying, rushing rapidly through narrow channels, whirling and swirling through drains, sloshing and reverberating through caves, and sometimes crashing violently against everything its path. 
The music that Ristić has layered over these field recordings is minimalistic and subtle, evocative and atmospheric. Mournful organ-like ambience, tingling bells, glistening chimes, sparse piano notes and an array of percussive object sounds dance and ricochet about in quiet freedom and slow sullen beauty...

'Awakenings' is a beautiful, poignant and haunted sound journey. The mournful tones, mysterious watery textures and plaintive soundscapes that Ristić has created in this album are wonderfully immersive and emotionally engulfing. This is exquisite sound art, and a delicious aural treat. Great stuff.

Stream/Download the album here...


Aphir - The Halo is Shapeless (2023) 


GENRE : dark ambient, cinematic, choral, electronic, soundscape
RECORD LABEL : Art As Catharsis

Here's a stunning album of dark cinematic choral music...

Aphir is the music project of esteemed Melbourne artist/producer Becki Whitton. In this album, Whitton has created a collection of dark ambient tracks comprised solely of vocal layers, which have been electronically manipulated and exquisitely produced to create a haunting and immersive album of lush meditative soundscapes. 
In these compositions, cacophonies of voices weave and intermingle into a vast array of tones, textures, rhythms and atmospheres... drifting, fluttering, shimmering, floating, blowing and rumbling through this dark and mysterious world. These recordings originated from a series of live improvised vocal loops, which were then sonically sculpted in real time. There's a feeling of desperation and urgency in these songs, and a strong sense of deep emotional turmoil driving it along. The sound is simultaneously heavy and airy. Just press play and allow all the soaring angelic voices to guide you to heavenly (or perhaps unholy) heights.

'The Halo is Shapeless' is a beautifully mesmerizing album. The densely-layered voices, the richly crafted arrangements, the intricate melodies, the haunting atmospheres, the funereal ambience and the powerful production makes for a dramatic and transcendent sound journey. Brilliant stuff. Highly recommended.

Stream/Download the album here...


Ayany Jowi - The Raging Buffalo (2023)

GENRE : African Music, Fiddle Music, Orutu Music, Traditional
RECORD LABEL : Dagoretti Records

Ayany Jowi was one of Kenya's most famous fiddle players, and one of the original pioneers of ''Orutu Music''. He was called ''Jowi'' which translates to ''Wild Buffalo'' in English. He was named this after his wild and uncontrollable nature, which is utterly reflected in the way he played the fiddle in this set of rare recordings. These recordings were created as individual singles throughout the 1970s, which have been lovingly restored and remastered by the wonderful Dagoretti Records for the wide world to hear and enjoy.

'The Raging Buffalo' is a collection of raw, frenetic, intense and mesmerizing performances that consist of Ayany Jowi on orutu (a vertical one-stringed fiddle) and vocals, with minimalistic percussive backing. I'm not sure what specific instruments or vessels are used to make these percussive sounds, but it doesn't really matter. These thumps and rattles provide a powerful and trance-inducing rhythmic foundation for Jowi to enrapture and hypnotize the listener with his beautifully captivating fiddle playing and mindblowing vocal performances. Even without understanding the words, the passion and intensity of these songs will make you want to get off your feet and dance, or at least sway violently from side to side in wild demented fashion. The rapid poetry, cacophonous chanting, exquisite orutu melodies and explosive percussion takes hold of your entire body and spirit, and fills you with the joy, zest and exhilaration of life.

This is a wild, visceral and fascinating album of recordings filled with joyous rapture and (possibly) some kind of divine intoxication. The lo-fi sound quality adds to its unique charm and authenticity, and brings out the spirit of these organic recordings. A beautiful and thrilling album by one of the most important figures in Kenya's (and African) recorded music. Highly recommended.

Stream/Download the album here...


Broken Chip - Bells (2023) 

GENRE : ambient, lo-fi, minimalist, drone, electronic
RECORD LABEL : Flaming Pines

This album is a gorgeous miniature world of soothing miniature sounds, floating on a sparkling sea of soft crackling ambient fuzz, and gently caressed by warm sleepy breezes...

Broken Chip is the solo music project of Australian artist/musician Martyn Palmer. 'Bells' in his latest release. It's an album of beautiful minimalistic lo-fi ambient music, mainly centred around the glockenspiel, with some atmospheric electronic accompaniment.
As the title suggests, the sound of this music is bell-like - vibrating, chiming, clinking, ringing...
Throughout the course of these seven fleeting compositions, Palmer takes us on a peaceful dream journey of fluttery tones, rippling grainy textures, hypnotic audio hiss, sweet soothing melodies, gentle drones and soft subtle percussive hits. Whilst the performances are fairly simple on the surface, there's quite a lot of micro-movements and wonderful subtleties happening within the compositions, adding some lovely intricacy and depth to the ambient musical atmospheres. And the whole thing is over before you know it...

'Bells' is a short, dreamy and delicate collection of soft, emotional, fuzzed-out soundscapes that shimmer and resonate within your mind. There's a distinct lack of warm summery ambient music in my collection...and this album really hit the spot for me. It will definitely be revisited too. Great stuff.

Stream/Download the album here...


Machinefabriek with Monika Bugajny - Recytle (2023) 

GENRE : experimental, classical, electronic, ambient, clarinet music
RECORD LABEL : self-released 

Machinefabriek is the musical nom de plume of Dutch musician/sound artist and graphic designer Rutger Zuydervelt. 'Recytle' is his latest album - a collaborative album with clarinetist Monika Bugajny. 

In this wonderfully inspired album, Bugajny reinterpreted and recorded eight classical pieces (namely Poulenc, Brahms, Copland, Horovitz, Messiaen, Stravinsky, Debussy & Arnold) on the clarinet, which Zuydervelt then manipulated and reworked into his own unique style of experimental electronica. 
The end result is a densely immersive, eerily emotive and beautifully haunting album, full of rich poignant melodies and tense atmospheres.
As stated on the Bandcamp page, these are not faithful renditions of these classical pieces - more like reimaginings. You may recognise the original score in the cut-up fragments and flourishes of Bugajny's exquisite clarinet performances, but they've been transformed to create these abstract ambient soundscapes. I can't claim to understand the technicalities of what Zuydervelt has done to these recordings, but I found myself getting completely immersed in the stretched out reverberations, sustained echoes, ethereal delays, swelling drones, shimmering dissonance, swirling distortions and glitchy electronics...along with the other additional musical embellishments that lift up and enhance these compositions.

'Recytle' is an outstanding work of experimental manipulation, reductionism and restraint. Machinegabriek's minimalistic approach to this project makes for these slow meditative atmospheres, in which the notes and chords can breathe and ring out within the soundscapes. It's a quietly introspective album - full of dulcet tones, rich timbres and rippling textures. And it's the perfect length. Ideal for quiet reflective mornings or night time reveries. Highly recommended.

Stream/Download the album here...


Blessed Are The Hearts That Bend - Edgelands (2023)

GENRE : modern classical, ambient, field recordings, post-rock
RECORD LABEL : Spectral Industries

Blessed Are The Hearts That Bend is the solo project of London-based musician & filmmaker Luke Seomore. 'Edgelands' was inspired by a place of the same name, where the city and the countryside melt into each other, and become one and the same. It is the place where Seomore spent his childhood years.

In this album, Leomore has created a collection of huge majestic soundscapes filled with soaring classical instrumentation, beautiful subtle field recordings, heart-wrenching ambience and poignant echoes of cinematic post-rock. Cacophonous strings, pretty birdsong, sustained guitar notes, howling echoes and dark rippling tones all rise skywards towards the heavens, evoking and conjuring all kinds of strong images and haunting atmospheres of ghostly places that have been long forgotten and left in a dilapidated state.

This music moves in slow dramatic waves, ebbing and flowing, sweeping you along on its mysterious journey, tugging at the heart strings all the way. It feels triumphant yet utterly haunting at the same time. It constantly treads a fine line between sadness and hope, which makes for such a powerful and emotional listening experience.

'Edgelands' is an album of rich, expansive, beautiful soundscapes from someone who's clearly as much a filmmaker as a musical artist. This is music for intense introspection, nostalgic reflection and wonderful immersion. Highly recommended. Brilliant album.

Stream/Download the album here...


Daniel Alexander Hignell-Tully - I Hope They Let Us Hunt Like Men In The Next Life (2023) 

GENRE : experimental, avant-garde, contemporary classical
RECORD LABEL : Difficult Art & Music

Daniel Alexander Hignell-Tully is a composer, performance artist, and researcher from Lewes, UK. The initial idea for this album started as a graphic score composed in the Italian wilderness, during a residency at a repurposed candy factory. You can read the story at the Bandcamp link below...

This album was performed by a trio of musicians - Kev Nickells & John Guzek on violins, and Daniel Alexander Hignell-Tully himself on synthesizer and piano. Even though the players were bound by a strict meter, these performances were semi-improvised, and you can really tell. There's a certain amount of openness, spontaneity and freedom to the sound that lends itself really well to the concept and sonic environment of these pieces.
The album is comprised of three compositions - the title track (split into two parts) and the final track, which is a minimalistic solo piano work.
On Tracks 1 & 2, duelling violins and subtle synth atmospherics paint stark lonely images of empty landscapes and barren plains. The music is heavy with tension and unsettling tones of danger and dread. Violins scratching, squawking, squealing, buzzing, moaning and groaning their way towards some unknown finishing line...while woozy warbling synth notes colour the background with their weird rippling tones. I really love that eerie theremin-like woowoowoowoowoowoo sound that keeps drifting in and out of the soundscape. It reminds me of a spaceship landing in a 50's sci-fi movie. 
There's plenty of emptiness and space in these compositions for the violins to either ring out or stop abruptly, and so much rich interesting variation within the physicality of the playing. There's dissonant weaving, dreamy legato, violent strikes, haunting trills and flourishes, desolate staccato plucks, agonized scraping, eerie spiccato, muted strums and more... with lush cavernous reverberations that beautifully enhance the atmospheres. Tully's additional synth/piano parts are subtle, subdued and delicate - wonderfully complementing the violins while bringing their own dark dramatic flair. 
Track 3 is a solo piano composition, and a suitably quieter and more reflective way to follow-up the previous two tracks. As the title suggests, it's a percussive style of playing which involves a lot of bouncing, tapping and thumping of the keys...with constantly fluctuating rhythms, tempos and intensities. The rugged unadorned bareness of this piece leaves a lot of room for the natural ambience to ring out, and the imagination to run wild... 

'I Hope They Let Us Hunt...' is a dark, haunting and cinematic album of free-form contemporary classical music and avant-garde sound experimentation. The evocative title alone makes me think of the premise of a Black Mirror episode. The music is full of frightening tension, creeping dread and stark drama... but it's also beautiful, captivating and strangely meditative. Great stuff.

Stream/Download the album here...


Cabbaggage - There was smoke for a whole month (2023)

GENRE : psych folk, outsider art, lo-fi folk, field recordings
RECORD LABEL : Human Geography Recordings

A collection of 22 twisted quirky lo-fi recordings, sequenced and blended together into a bizarre and beautiful concoction of haunted freak folk, nostalgic avant-pop, off-kilter singer-songwriter songs and psychedelic sound art.

Cabbaggage is the music of experimental Canadian musician/songwriter Levi Kempster. Although pretty difficult to pigeon-hole or define into any particular genre or category, his previous works fall somewhere in between dreamy modern classical music and avant-garde sound experimentation.
This latest album of his is simply summarized by the artist himself as ''songs about growing up''.
There's a lot going on in these recordings - hazy acoustic pop, poignant balladry, gothic psych-folk, avant-garde guitar fingerpicking, muffled spoken word, demented sound samples, abstract field recordings, etc... all against a noisy backdrop of loud audio hiss and various creepy textures.
Kempster's vocal delivery is also impressive, unique and unpredictable - from the hushed mellow baritones of 'A Star (Go Out)' to the warbling falsetto of 'Never Again (Will I Love You)' to the wailing yells of 'Welcome (To Heaven)' ...

'There Was Smoke For A Whole Month' is a raw, visceral and captivating album of lo-fi avant-folk songs, crooning piano ballads and abstract sound collages about the complexities, frustrations, difficulties and weirdness of growing up in this world. There's a strong sense of apathy, confusion and strange nostalgia that permeates through this long winding collection of recordings which I find both haunting and endearing. I also feel that the spirit of Jandek definitely runs through this music, but it's more melodic and pretty, and a lot easier on the ears. Great album.

Stream/Download the album here...


Evadnè - Green Cat's In The Back (2023) 

GENRE : lo-fi folk, dreampop, electronica, experimental
RECORD LABEL : Adventurous Music

Evadnè is a 20 year old English/German singer-songwriter that lives in London, UK. This EP consists of four stripped-down dreamy folk songs, centred around guitar, piano and Evadnè's voice...with some subtle electronic flourishes and manipulations adding some additional colours to this sonic palette.

These recordings are filled with ghostly whispers, haunted echoes, eerie reverberations, dreamy ambience and soothing audio hiss...with slowly-strummed acoustic guitars, melancholic piano and Evadnè's hushed and vulnerable vocals cutting beautifully through the fuzzy mix. I don't know what these songs are about, but they seem deeply personal and introspective in nature. The heaviness of Evadnè's words, and her heartfelt delivery of them permeates its way right through the hazy atmospheres of these lonesome ambient environments.

'Green Cat's In The Back' is a gorgeously fragile mix of eerie psych folk, lo-fi shoegaze and fuzzy ambience. The minimalistic musical arrangements, along with Evadnè's enchanting voice and raw production makes for a haunting yet soothing listening experience, and an awesome little EP from a young natural talent. Great stuff. 

Stream/Download the EP here...


Fletina - Causal EP (2023) 

GENRE : sound art, field recordings, avant-garde, noise, sound collage
RECORD LABEL : Here Free Press

This is the debut EP of mysterious Scottish sound artist & field recordist Fletina - recently released on the Here Free Press label, digitally and on limited edition CD.

'Causal' consists of three intriguing audio collages. These collages are made up of a vast array of raw organic audio fragments and subtle sonic particles that probably don't belong in the same soundscapes, but this artist manages to bring them together and blend them seamlessly and fluidly, creating eerie abstract sound environments that feel quietly ominous yet strangely soothing. The foundation of these compositions are primarily made from room sounds, environmental noises and natural acoustic phenomena, over which Fletina has layered all kinds of non-musical sounds - some distinguishable, some not so much... 

In these bizarre and wonderfully immersive soundscapes you will hear quiet scrapes, eerie rumbles, radio static, desolate echoes, cellotape squeaks, air blown through hollow vessels, toys rattling, doors opening, water sloshing, mechanical devices humming, cicadas chirruping, varying frequencies of audio hiss, soft percussive sounds, the pitter-patter of a shower, distant birdsong and countless other objects being shaken, ripped, crackled, shuffled and banged.

'Causal' is a subtle, eerie and hypnotic EP of rich atmospheres and surreal sound phenomena. The mesmerizing auditory elements contained with these quietly unsettling soundscapes drift, dance and reverberate beautifully, which makes for such a captivating and immersive listening experience. A wonderful debut EP from an intriguing new sound artist.

Stream/Download the album here...


Mollbury Medical Research Centre - The D7 Project (2023) 

GENRE : experimental, avant-garde, noise, drone, ambient, medical science
RECORD LABEL : Sensory Leakage

This is one of the most disturbing and unsettling albums I've ever listened to. What scares me most is what's NOT being said here. It's what is (possibly) implied by the song titles/sounds/atmospheres that really disturb me.

I don't know what Mollbury Medical Research Centre is exactly, and I don't think I want to know... but artistically it's an experimental, avant-garde, dark ambient drone project with all kinds of eerie unsettling futuristic sci-fi soundscapes mixed with creepy field recordings.
This is the excellent debut album from Mollbury Medical Research Centre. It was originally self-released back in early 2022, but it's been recently re-released by the experimental label Sensory Leakage. The seven compositions that make up this mini-album sound like they were conjured, created and recorded in some sort of haunted medical lab. These cold, sterile, clinical soundscapes are filled with the scraping and rattling of medical equipment, the eerie shuffling of hushed, secretive human activity, broken and tortured transmissions, electrical pulses and blips, erratic wails of distortion, non-human vocalizations, psychedelic noise experimentation, sinister sonic abstractions, deep ominous drones and dark melancholic ambient music.

There's a miasma of sadness, terror and dread that imbues its way throughout this entire album...but it's also a mysterious, intriguing, unpredictable and captivating album of dark soundscapes and wonderfully unsettling atmospheres. Excellent album. Highly recommended.

Stream/Download the album here :


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