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 January, we start the year with hypnotic eccojams stuck between TV channels; a polluted, industrial take on exotica; and a glowing sound collage crafted from radio noise.
The cross-haze between two radio stations can sometimes produce flickers of beauty you might be lucky enough to catch, in the same way that being in the right place at the right time, with a little rain and sun, you might stumble onto a rainbow. On the stunning AM/FM USA, Phil Geraldi fuses radio noise and lonely highway field recordings as elegantly as sunlight meeting rain. He ends up with a rainbow of his own: Two sides of warm radio static, howling wind, and panoramic steel guitar. It never stays in one place too long, but the drift feels emotionally moving, not scattershot. It’s a quality best captured on “Oklahoma After Dark” where a slow-burning guitar builds to a glowing solo and gradual fade—only to be broken by the jagged shift to another channel, where an ethereal, jangling guitar drifts into a wormhole of radio noise. It’s a too-perfect ending that’s undercut by a genuinely perfect non-ending, leaving you with the sense that the sonic highway of AM/FM USA could go on forever.
Last January this column kicked off with the twinkling, ear-crushing debut by Bagel Fanclub, the duo of Caybee Calabash and River Everett. So it feels perfect to begin 2024 with a pair of spectacular solo projects from each of them. Despectral maid is a joyful rush of bitcrushed chiptunes, fizzy drum ’n’ bass, and surging noise from Calabash’s project apollo bitrate. After a few brain scrambling minutes, third track “Submarine Gun” hits a stride that never lets up, as despectral maid careens from one dizzying delight to the next, like carnival rides running way too fast and way too close to one another. It brings to mind a sparking, glitching take on Ghost Box greats like The Focus Group, Belbury Poly, or Plon, albeit one rewired for a generation raised on file-sharing and video game emulators.
Compact Disc (CD)
From the other half of Bagel Fanclub, rkgk introduces another distinct side of River Everett, who’s also known for crafting hypnagogic gems as New Mexican Stargazers. Rkgklp collects a few years of worth of bugged-out IDM and breakbeats that feel both carefully considered and satisfyingly unruly. Highlights like “Care2much” shift between eerie synths and frenetic drum programming. Contrasted with the spaciness of the recent release from NMS, it makes for an enjoyably different and dense new soundworld.
Worlding With Earth
Across nine spacious tracks, Worlding With Earth, the new album by Berlin producer Madelyn Byrd, flies through bleary clouds of ambience, flurries of percussion, vibrant field recordings, and the sighing saxophone of contributor Sarah Allada. The sounds are so fleeting they leave your ears wanting more time with each element. The tracks are spacious, full of life and spontaneity. On “Dripping Marshes on Flower Skin,” distorted whispering gels with sounds of insects and birds. Evocative, absorbing and—to borrow the title of one highlight—“Playfully Rendered,” Worlding With Earth is an album full of details that both invite and reward repeated listens.
Mike Cooper & Pierre Bastien
Aquapelagos Vol . 2: Índico
Vinyl LP, Vinyl Box Set
The Aquapelagos series is a collection of splits and compilations that draw inspiration from oceans, islands, and cultures surrounded by water, ranging from the tropics to distributing label Discrepant’s home in the Canary Islands. Like a musical archipelago, each release feels loosely connected while existing within its own unique musical biome. Índico offers a haunting pairing of experimental greats, with the polluted exotica of guitarist and sound artist Mike Cooper and the clattering musical robots of instrument-maker and composer Pierre Bastien. The result is a collection of industrial soundscapes, put into all the more unsettling focus by the faint signs of nature surviving at its edges.
Astrid Sonne makes a great leap on Great Doubt, an album that reframes the Copenhagen-based composer and viola player’s approach as a singer and songwriter, while expanding on the brilliant experimentalism of her earlier work. Much like the records of contemporary ML Buch (on which Sonne plays), Great Doubt builds an intensely focused foundation of abstract sounds—hyperreal piano, crashing drums and silvery viola—with intensely direct songwriting. They flourish on “Do You Wanna” and the sweeping “Give You My All,” while Sonne isolates the same elements in other moments—like the delicate pairing of viola and voice “Almost,” the chilling spoken word piece “Everything is unreal,” and the dubby, drum instrumental “Boost.” Great Doubt is an album of immense heart and otherworldly construction.
Compact Disc (CD)
Snuck out at the tail end of last year, producer Marco Farina’s second album is a spectacular expansion of his project Canva6, originally introduced on the debut 10 Minutes To Midnight. The sole 2023 release on Lorenzo Senni’s label Presto!?, Cco2 builds on an immense palette of hammering supersaws and crunchy synths, striking a balance between operatic sweep and steely minimalism. Highlights like “Venom Age” seem to push every direction, but much like Midnight’s jaw-dropping highlight “Queni Waiting Room,” Farina is at his best when he’s aiming for your heart. It’s a mode he locks into on Cco2’s emotional second-half with the lightning strike of “Raging Euphoria” before “Infinite Silk” and closer “Forever Q” bring the album to a tender, restlessly beautiful finish.
Compact Disc (CD),
Mike Meegan, the producer best known as RXM Reality, unleashes colorful chaos on this release under new moniker When 2. Here was made in part by putting different song samples through the same Max/MSP patch, which acts here as both blender and gem-polisher. Meegan grinds samples into digital gravel only to transform what’s left into something rare and beautiful. Highlights range from the bouncy “Man” to the cruising, hypnotic “Gas” or the accelerating bliss of “Girls Like You” and “He Fell Out.” Bringing to mind Oval, The Automatics Group, and Death’s Dynamic Shroud while generating a pulse all its own, Here makes for a relentlessly good time.
Laundry detergent commercials, perfume ads, old movie clips, and more are spun into eccojam gold on this mysterious collection of exquisitely skipping slivers of television. It’s a fitting concept for a project that translates in English to mean “Satellite TV,” a release that becomes even more absorbing when you dip into the videos accompanying each track, where the full picture of what’s happening comes into view. It’s a fantastic release whether you are listening or simply channel surfing your way through.
Spite of Azathoth
For anyone taking the start of this year slow, consider giving yourself a pat on the back in the form of this pancake-themed comfy synth album. Pancake Haus is a gentle and delicate collection of peaceful breakfast vignettes—among them: “Warm Maple Syrup” and “Bottomless Coffee—perfect for setting aside the stress of the coming year. So pull up a chair and let Spite of Azathoth do the rest. And I hear you: It’s not the coziest name, but it’s 2024, things are looking grim and comfy synth projects have names like Spite of Azathoth now.