BANDCAMP NAVIGATOR Bandcamp Navigator, October 2023 By Robert Newsome · Illustration by Jim Stoten · November 13, 2023

It’s time for another trip around the world through the Bandcamp tags. We’re beginning with an album that I, and probably lots of other people, have been eagerly awaiting for quite some time.


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Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD)

Let’s get this out of the way first: Harp songwriter and vocalist Tim Smith is likely best known for his work with Texas-based folk rock band Midlake, and it’s difficult to listen to Albion without making mental comparisons, especially to their 2006 masterwork The Trials of Van Occupanther. Those looking for a continuation of the Midlake sound will not find it here, though the folk influences are still present at the edges of Albion, the record’s calm exterior covering intricate constructions of brittle guitar, minimal synths (used to particularly stirring effect on the almost-title track “Daughters of Albion”) and Smith’s versatile voice, often layered to sing harmony with itself. On a track like “Shining Spires,” acoustic guitar and flute weave together with synth lines and barely-there electric guitar to create something new while acknowledging the past, trading the influence of Pentangle or Plainsong for The Cure (think Pornography rather than The Top) and early Dead Can Dance. This is a declarative step forward for Smith, a talented artist finding a new sound.

Harp lists their location as #North Carolina a state whose mountain music influenced our next featured artist

Bailey Horsley
Easy Way Out

This is a fantastic EP of “Front Porch Music,” a genre that I may have just made up (although surely someone has had this idea before) that blends folk, bluegrass, country, and probably some other forms of “roots” music that I haven’t thought of. The songs are presented in a direct, unassuming manner, just a group of musicians coming together to make great music. There’s probably an old dog sleeping next to a rocking chair somewhere. Obviously that’s not the case. These songs were definitely recorded in a studio, but their easy-going feel effortlessly conjures up this sort of imagery. Easy Way Out showcases strong songwriting talent, which I assume is Horsley’s, though there is no writing credit on the album’s Bandcamp page. The strength of the songwriting is augmented by the extreme talent of the musicians Horsley has assembled. Particular attention should be paid to fiddle player Lyndsay Pruett. Everyone’s at the top of their game on this recording, but when Pruett plays, there’s a flowing, soaring sensation that ties everything together perfectly.

The #bluegrass influence in Bailey Horsley’s record is obvious, and we’re going to continue down the road of artists who share this influence. That road leads from Asheville, North Carolina all the way to one of France’s largest cities: Lyon.

Silène and The Dreamcatchers

Merch for this release:
Compact Disc (CD)

Ranging from moving and contemplative (“Far & Wide”) to lively and celebratory (“Heart”) with several stops in between, this album of country, bluegrass, and folk is an exceptional example of the style’s reach and appeal. Silène and The Dreamcatchers wisely combine the genres into a smooth and satisfying blend; you can hear some of the better elements of ’80s country floating around, as well as some Indigo Girls–style folk pop and more traditional folk/bluegrass components. Each of the musicians involved with this project are polished and talented; Guillaume Faure’s nimble banjo practically leaps out of the speakers into your ears. Anchoring the proceedings is the rich, bold voice of Silène Gayaud, expressive enough to stand with minimal accompaniment, as in the opening moments of the title track, and versatile enough to blend in with the band as another powerful instrument. Even on the more subdued “sad” songs, NOW is a record filled with life, hope, and joy.

Staying in #Lyon for a moment, we’ll be leaving country and bluegrass influences behind now, trading in banjos for synthesizers.

Perspective of a Lonely Terraformer

Outside of a couple of heavily effects-laden vocal samples, there are no words on this record. All you have to go by is the title, which evokes a science-fiction scenario of a lone pioneer sent through space to ready a world for exploration and, possibly, exploitation. Scaphander has crafted a collection of jittery, techno-influenced tracks that capture the stark bleakness of an unpopulated world and the anxiety and unease a lone explorer might feel. Stuttering drum machines and buzzing synth bass create a mechanized feel, and you can almost see the robots working in precise order while listening to “Orbital Chill Salsa.” Within this order and precision, though, synthesized voices sing out in a way that, at times, seems almost human. These warbly arpeggios and melodies bubble up from the uncanny valley to bring a feeling of personality and (near) warmth to the album. It’s an artificial construct, sure, but in the absence of humanity, it’s the closest thing to home Scaphander’s lonely terraformer can feel.

Of course you’re going to find the #electronic tag at the bottom of Scaphander’s page, and of course we’re going to see what lies ahead down that major highway, leaving Lyon and heading southwest to Seville, Spain.

Pueblo Nuevo

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP

I like to think of myself as somewhat well-rounded, at least in terms of familiarity, in regards to music, but this record from Seville’s Fiera took me completely by surprise. Maybe there are similar artists, but this is truly like nothing I’ve heard before. The drum machines go beyond “minimal” to the point of almost being tentative, as if they’re waiting in the shadows for the right time to pounce. On Pueblo Nuevo, wide open sonic spaces are sparsely filled. “Tirador Franco” uses an extremely minimal drum and bass template which slowly builds to a frantic (but danceable, if you’re so inclined) climax, while “Hi Tec” flirts with early EBM, hissing hi-hats nervously wrapping themselves around repeated staccato phrases from a bass guitar, eventually joined by piercing synths. Everything here seems to be barely sticking together, a skeletal construction of wobbling basslines, synthesizer whoops, and shouted vocals. It’s a thrilling listen, one during which you truly never know what you’re going to hear next.

Fiera’s #post punk influence is obvious, and that’s always a fun tag to explore. I’m still not sure what, exactly, it means, but we can debate the etymology of genre descriptors another time. For now, we’ve got more music to listen to.

Who Is Gay Chaos?

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Sometimes you find something good at exactly the wrong time. Right there in the notes on this album’s Bandcamp page is the declaration “This is Spetters‘s last album.” These songs are electric shocks to the system, noisy in a sort of Jesus Lizard way, presented with an energy that crackles out of the speakers and directly into your nerves. Even the nonchalant shuffle of a track like “It Does Not Exist” delivers a solid gut-punch when it jumps from the poppy verses into the noisy drone of the chorus. There’s a jumpy nervous energy pervading Who Is Gay Chaos? and when the unidentified vocalist (sorry, no musician credits on the Bandcamp page) ends “Burning Books” by repeatedly screaming “I can’t trust you anymore!” you’ll feel it. With luck, the musicians in Reading, Pennsylvania’s SPETTERS have gone on to form more bands through which this energy will live on. For now, I’m gonna listen to this again and wish I’d found it just a little sooner.

There’s an immense pool of varied sounds to be found in the #alternative tag, but we’re using it to jump from Pennsylvania to Sweden for some Indian-influenced pop.


Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP

Ishaaq is a Swedish-Indian artist who creates captivating pop music infused with traditional sounds from his Indian roots. Tablas and violins meld with synths, organs, and the expected “rock band” instruments with enthralling results. On “Bang Bang,” there’s a groove that feels like the Specials’s “Ghost Town” rerouted through Ishaaq’s familial roots in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The chant-like meditative vocals of “Nada” build a feeling of tranquility until the thunderous guitar and synth climax comes in and knocks it all down. “Snälla Snälla” presents a more traditional rock sound at the outset, with more raga-like elements being added as it progresses. Listening to Isaaq’s previous work, 2018’s Best of Klasson LP, you can see the music evolution he’s experienced. We should be excited to see where he goes next.

I’ve used the word “pop” several times in this article so far, and I can promise you that there’s more to come, but for now we’re going to get slightly more specific, focusing in on some #psychedelic pop, or, at least, artists who describe themselves as such.

File Under Foliage
File Under Foliage

One-person pop project File Under Foliage is the work of Nashville-based QC Green, who certainly knows how to craft infectious pop gems. The descending melody of album opener “I Burnt All My Letters” has a sharp hook that pulls you into File Under Foliage’s world of bright synths and upbeat electronic percussion. The They Might Be Giants–esque “Change My Shirt” pairs clever lyrics with an elastic bassline and shuffling drum machines. The syncopated “My Name” veers pretty close to ska territory, practically begging for a Jeff-Rosenstock-style reworking more strictly adherent to that style. When lo-fi pop is done well (and let’s be clear, it’s done very well here) it’s a unique listening experience; the feeling of just hanging out, listening to someone create goofy songs with whatever equipment is available. It’s a great feeling, and one that File Under Foliage consistently delivers.

I like the #geek rock tag. It says more about the personality of the artist than about the sound of the music they create, and that means a greater variety of sounds waiting for us when we jump into the tag.

Urusei Yatsura
We Are Urusei Yatsura (2023 Xxtra Version)

Merch for this release:
2 x Vinyl LP

Whether you (like me) missed the 1996 release of Glasgow’s Urisei Yatsura’s 1996 debut or you’ve been a fan for the past 27 years, there’s plenty of cause to pick up this reissue from London’s Rocket Girl Records. The music here is fuzzy, noisy pop, the type of which was seemingly everywhere in the 1990s; the casual, unpretentious delivery of the vocals (founding members Fergus Lawrie and Graham Kemp are both credited with vocals here, and I’m not sure who’s who) perfectly fits the unassuming, sometimes shambling delivery of the music. “Kewpies Like Watermelon” veers close to Thurston Moore territory in that regard. “Pachinko” really dials in the late ’90s “loud/quiet/loud” dynamic, but subverts it a bit by delaying the inevitable stomp on the distortion pedal just a little longer than expected, creating a delightful sense of tension and a feeling of pop euphoria when the guitars start to growl. In “First Day on a New Planet,” the lyrics speak about the joy of “playing a tape that I just found.” It’s a joy that I definitely experienced with this reissue.

If you listened to even a couple of minutes of the last featured album, then the #fuzz tag’s use should be pretty obvious. We’re going to use it to leap through time from 1996 to present day and finish strong with a lo-fi artist who also loves a good fuzz effect.

Stitch O’Donovan and the Happy Band
Wazzy Woo

Merch for this release:
Compact Disc (CD)

On “Magic Beans,” Stitch O’Donovan opens by singing “Come along with me/ There’s nowhere you have to be.” This is an apt introduction to Wazzy Woo as a whole, which is a relaxed affair: a collection of 10 tracks of either punk-infused folk or folk-infused punk, depending on how you look at it. These are songs, according to artist’s bio, that “don’t fit in” with O’Donovan’s other bands, the tighter pop sound of Young Steve or the swirling psychedelia of Electric Freak Show. What’s on display here is more immediate and seemingly spontaneous, combining the feel of the more raucous lo-fi moments of Fishboy mashed up with the early home recordings of the Dead Milkmen’s Joe Jack Talcum. These tracks explore relatable themes like love, the horror of having a job, and the experience of never leaving the house because you’re playing too many video games, all expressed by a band able to balance aggression, introspection, and a heartfelt earnestness with pop sensibilities all while—and this may be the most important part—not sounding like they’re trying too hard.

As the final acoustic chords of Stitch O’Donovan and the Happy Band’s “Deus Ex Machina” fade into silence, our most recent journey comes to an end. Maybe there was something along the way that caught your attention. I hope so. Those solo side-trips are the real reason behind these journeys in the first place. Your new favorite record is waiting somewhere out there for you. Go find it!

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