The Merch Table: August 2016

Merch Table - August 2016
Every month, The Merch Table brings you the best and most bonkers merch you can find on Bandcamp. We commend bands and labels who get a little creative and think outside the tote bag. Whether it’s a fashion accessory, a piece of art, or something entirely unique, The Merch Table will showcase inventive, original—and, occasionally, downright strange—stuff that you might want to get your hands on. But, sorry: the electroluminescent animal mask is sold out.

1. Jef Elise Barbara Lapel Pin

Jef Elise Barbara Lapel Pin

Jef Elise Barbara is an R&B singer based in Montreal.  The perfectly coiffed Barbara is captured for eternity by artist Christina Baudin in this enamel pin. Whether worn on the lapel of your silk shirt at the disco or affixed to your cavans record collecting bag (see below), this pin is a must-have for the last days of disco, whenever they may be. No extra shipping in your order with the Sexe Machin / Sex Machine 7″ out on Fixture Records.

Also available from Jef Elise Barbara: Limited edition vinyl 7″.

2. Teranga 7″ Record Bag

Teranga 7″ Record Bag

The ultimate accessory for the tenacious crate digger. While out searching for singles, sling this gorgeous canvas russack over your shoulder and tote your treasures in style. Leave plastic bags and damaged corners to less experienced record collectors. This Senegalese label does stunning reissues of jazz, dance and a unique brand of psychedelia, all popular in the late 1970s.

Also available from Teranga: Deluxe gatefold LP from Royal Band de Thiès

3. il culo di Mario Cowbell

il culo di Mario Cowbell

There’s always room for more cowbell and this rambunctious Italian psych pop outfit have taken matters into their own hands. Add this cowbell to your drum kit or just have it around the house for emergencies. I’ve heard it makes an excellent door stop as well.

Also available from il culo di Mario: Dripping logo t-shirt.

4. Lobster Theremin Beer Koozie

Lobster Theremin Beer Koozie

Spark conversation around this musical crustacean and keep your beer cold at the same time.  Lobster Theremin, a London-based electronic label, has put out some of the year’s best intelligent house music; see Ross from Friends and S Olbricht.

Also available from Lobster Theremin: Lobster logo sweatshirt, Lobster logo packing tape and Lobster Theremin FC football jersey.

5. No Joy Alien Charms

No Joy Alien Charms

An alien charm that changes color from your favorite Canadian psychedelic punk band, what could be better than that? Made from a heat-sensitive material (like a mood ring), these plastic extraterrestrials will warm up or cool down as you do while being blasted with the sounds of No Joy.

Also available from No Joy: Alien t-shirt.

-Ally-Jane Grossan

Matt Christensen Finds Creative Freedom

Matt Christensen

Matt Christensen.
“As soon as it sounded cohesive, I rendered it and didn’t second guess it. I often played the last note and posted [the release] minutes later.”—Matt Christensen

It’s hard to say if there’s a right way to release an album in 2016. Does one follow the boilerplate schedule: put a completed album in the calendar for release anywhere from three to six months into the future? In recent years, the music industry’s rusty mechanics have adjusted to the fast and often unpredictable schedule of digital press; sure, there are big-name surprise album drops sometimes—but largely the train keeps rolling: the ideals of publicity are favored over the instincts of creation.

To buck this standard, artists often have to be willing to sacrifice certain benefits of proceeding down the (often costly) assembly line (press outreach, release shows, and so forth) that are built in to ostensibly aid the record in reaching listeners’ ears. Matt Christensen was born ready. A Chicago instrumentalist and founding member of longtime ambient avant-rock trio Zelienople, Christensen prefers a more organic process for creating and releasing music. When Christensen began uploading his recordings directly to Bandcamp, he discovered a medium that was perfectly tailored to his creative reflexes.

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A Starter Guide to the Finnish Electro Scene

Hari Kondabolu

According to a recent Slate infographic, in Finland, there are 54 metal bands per 100,000 residents—so it’s no wonder that bands operating outside of that sphere can be overshadowed. That’s a shame; the nation is also home to a burgeoning electronic music scene, bolstered by the long winters—an extended season that allows for plenty of time to work on music—and the fact that anyone with a laptop and Ableton anyone can translate the beats in their head to real-world sounds.

In every corner of the city’s musical world, dancefloor masters, outside-the-box visionaries, and pop princes and princesses have embraced the flexibility and possibility of electronic music. From Phantom’s odes to life, the universe, and everything, to Jaakko Eino Kalevi’s creation of an enticingly weird world, here are a few of our favorite under-praised heroes of the emerging Finnish electronic scene.

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Album of the Day: Various Artists, “Mambos Levis D’Outro Mundo”

For the past five years, Lisbon’s Principe label has been documenting the otherwise-neglected dance music being made in Portugal’s African immigrant communities. Primarily hailing from Angola, Cape Verde, and Guinea-Bissau, the rhythms that these new producers create draw on kuduro, zouk, batucada, kizomba, and tarraxinha, as well as footwork and hip-hop. But taxonomy isn’t as useful as the one word that covers it all: “batida”—my beat.

It’s a manic, mutant, trickster sound, one usually restricted to online forums and in the tenement housing well outside of Lisbon. But Principe’s efforts have seen a great deal of this music released, usually on vinyl in hand-painted record sleeves as rough and striking as the music itself. This 23-track compilation is even handier, though, providing an immediate (and thorough) glimpse of this ever-changing sound. It familiarizes newcomers to the scene’s elders (still in their 20s for the most part), people like Marfox, Firmeza, and Nigga Fox, and also introduces up-and-comers. Marfox (the godfather of the scene, as you’ll note from the number of producers who have adopted his –fox suffix) contributes “Swaramgami,” which spins so fast it becomes giddy 140bpm gibberish; Nigga Fox’s “Lua” moves from a hiccupping hand drum pattern into an electro-asthma attack.

The influx of new talent brings new wrinkles to batida. Puto Marcio’s “Não-Queiras-Ser” adds a minor-key synth wash to the tricky percussion so it arcs like a shooting star, while DJ CiroFox adds a smooth R&B melody. It promises that the scene might soon grow beyond both its sonic and geographical confines.

—Andy Beta

Cheena are Messy, Glorious, and Real

Cheena. Photo by Edwina Hay for Bandcamp

It’s the most sacrosanct of critical principles: a band is never a just a band. If you want a profile written about you, if you want to get that rent money, you need a thesis, a moral, a philosophical mic drop. But Cheena could care less about parables or big pictures. They’re not your test subject or case study. They’re just a five-piece band from New York City who enjoy getting drunk and playing loud rock music, no symbolic strings attached. To them, there’s no story but the music. Everything else is just getting in the way—including, at present, yours truly.

I don’t blame Cheena for giving me a hard time during an attempt to interview them at the Brooklyn bar Post No Bills. After all, try as I might to convince myself of the contrary, I’m really just another cog in the PR machine, that loathed apparatus powered by viral hot takes and attention-grabbing narratives. These have grown even more noticeable in the face of print journalism’s trudge towards obsolescence; most online publications subsist on clicks, retweets (and of course, ad money) to survive. And so, searching for some kind of entry into the world of Cheena, I stick to the usual questions of day jobs and night moves, favorite bands and memorable shows.

For instance, when I ask “So what are the themes of this album?” lead singer Walker Behl pipes up: “Just do drugs and fall asleep.” Exasperated, the rest of the band sighs. “Hey! Everyone else at the table, shut the fuck up!” he barks, before returning to the subject at hand: “Dude. Fun stuff.” A minute or so passes, before the musician grabs his beer, and heads to the bar. He doesn’t come back.

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