Bandcamp’s outer limits continue to be a rewarding place for psychedelia, experimental club music, noise, vaporwave, and other sounds that are wholly uncategorizable. In each edition of Acid Test, Miles Bowe explores its far reaches to dig up hidden gems and obscure oddities. This November, we explore lounge music turned inside out, a legendary sound archive transformed into a funhouse, an entire aviary of synthetic birds songs, and more.
Imagine My Surprise
Roy Werner’s previous work under the moniker G.S. Sultan consisted of deep dives into the often dense world of Max/MSP music programming. But releases across experimental labels like Orange Milk, Umor Rex, and Mondoj were often so pretty that their labyrinthine foundation felt like an afterthought. Imagine My Surprise, Werner’s first album under his own name, feels like a culmination of all of that, as the bemused delight of those early releases rises to the top like soda bubbles.
Starting off with the woozy Martin Denny-style shuffle of opener “Rainbow Metal Chime In The Sun,” Imagine My Surprise can often feel like a hall of mirrors with a corner tiki bar hidden somewhere in the reflections. Werner is joined here by contributors who bring defining brushstroke to each impressionistic lounge tune—playful ripples from Andy Applegate’s vibraphone and Eric Werner’s percussion and perfectly placed woodwinds courtesy of Cole Pulice, Patrick Shiroshi, and Baptiste Martin. It’s the featherlight touch offered by all throughout Imagine My Surprise that makes it such a wondrous listen—and a rewarding new chapter for Werner’s work.
Return To Archive
Compact Disc (CD), Vinyl LP
As Matmos, Drew Daniel and M.C. Schmidt are just as skilled at splitting a single idea open into countless possibilities as they are at honing a vast subject to a fine edge. They do both on Return To The Archive, an album built from the near infinite possibilities offered by the Folkways Recordings catalog that celebrates the Smithsonian-owned collection as both a library and funhouse for unique sounds. On “Mud-Dauber Wasp” a swarm of insects form a buzzing industrial groove, while the sprawling 13-minute title track enlists Aaron Dilloway to conjure an entire junkyard of haunted machinery. “Music Or Noise? ” a voice asks on a ghostly loop at one point. Matmos defiantly answer the question with “Music and Noise”—the fact that they throwing everything else and the kitchen sink in just feels like the cherry on top.
Natalie Chami’s softly soaring project TALsounds makes a welcome return on Shift, her first album in over three years. While previous releases were overflowing with synth loops and vocals that felt both hypnotic and cathartic, Shift pushes those elements into uncharted territory while feeling like a natural progression. On “Eyelines” and “Climbing,” her voice almost seems to merge into the other instruments; she pushes it into new textures and ranges on the raw “Still Talking” and the eerie, operatic “Searching.” Meanwhile, tracks like “Water Bodies” and “Slides” highlight Chami’s incredible use of synthesizer, offering vivid new shades to her work. It all makes Shift feel a showcase of TALsounds many strengths, while letting you follow all of their unique trajectories.
Cassette, Compact Disc (CD)
The title of Tiger Village’s new album is The Celebration, which is a fitting description for Ohio musician Tim Thornton’s project as a whole. Across releases on labels including Hausu Mountain, Orange Milk, and his own Suite 309, Thornton’s thrilling, glitchy computer music always seems to exude—and even share in—the listeners’ joy as they hit each disorienting bend. More than any release before it, The Celebration slows down just enough to let you marvel at Thornton’s impossibly warped compositions. Highlights like “Bliss Tech” and closer “In Bloom Of” twist gorgeous synths into endlessly knotty forms, while “Three For V” and “Cat Chew” stretch a seemingly narrow palette of sound to expansive ends. The result is Tiger Village’s most unexpectedly beautiful album.
On his new album, sound artist David Bird draws inspiration from a time when, as a teenager, he accidentally broke a cello during practice. As such, Wire Hums is the sound of 14 cellos breaking—and dissolving, exploding, transforming and miraculously reassembling—as he pushes and processes a synthesized version of the instrument through algorithmic bottlenecks. The results can be playfully percussive, like “Quilted” and “Cellular Noise”; there’s also the silvery drones of “Half Tone” and “Autophasia”; and “Cyberlathe,” which arrives in swarms of Penderecki-ian hiss. Everything is in a constant state of change, a sensation best captured in “Superposition,” which shifts from perhaps the album’s tenderest moment to its most ominous. It’s a line that Bird walks masterfully throughout all of Wire Hums.
Synthetic Bird Music
This labor of love from Slovakian label Mappa brings together 32 different artists to conjure synthesized birdsongs. The collection combines new material with previously released tracks—including from some albums covered in this column, like Vic Bang’s Lira or Dialect’s Under ~ Between. All of them fit together in this sonic aviary so well you’ll forget you’re listening to a compilation. Pieces range from the spectral flutter of Olli Aarni’s “Kirkas laulu, haalea valo” to the stark, singular cry of Hmot’s “Irekle Qoştar,” while Infant’s immensely intimate “Starlings Gulls Doves” feels like an egg hatching right in your ear. I can tell you from experience, Synthetic Bird Music is best played loud with your windows wide open. At one point I went to mute it for a moment, only to realize the album had already stopped playing—what I was hearing at that point was real, an unexpected new contributor outside the window, invited over by this tremendous release.