BANDCAMP NAVIGATOR Bandcamp Navigator, September 2022 By Robert Newsome · October 04, 2022

We’re starting again with something I missed out on the first time around. I don’t know why I feel the need to tell you this. I’m not some sort of living computer with instant and complete knowledge of all new releases as they happen. Nobody is. You’re going to miss a couple (or more) things every now and then. That’s why these trips around the tags are so much fun. There’s something out there somewhere that you love, but you haven’t heard it yet. Maybe this will help you find it.

Girlfriends and Boyfriends
Fallacy of Fairness

Merch for this release:
Compact Disc (CD), Vinyl LP

From the guitar of opener “Memento Mori,” which is tonally reminiscent of The Smithereens’ “Blood and Roses,” Fallacy of Fairness grabs on and doesn’t let go. There’s a strong influence here from the goth/death rock side of late ‘80s/early ‘90s “alternative” music, combined with huge pop hooks. Songs like “Forever By My Side” and “Ride With Me” manage to combine sweeping Carved in Sand-era Mission UK guitars with New Order’s danceable synth-heavy pop for a result that is timeless and ridiculously catchy. It’s that catchiness that makes this whole album work as well as it does. We could talk all day about the obvious sonic references Girlfriends and Boyfriends are making (The Ocean Blue! The Housemartins! Duran Duran!), but that’s bound to get boring, which is something this record could never be. It satisfies over and over again; an expertly crafted and performed collection of pop songs that stands out as one of my favorite releases of the past couple of years.

I’ve listened to that Girlfriends and Boyfriends record at least once a day since I first heard it while I was working on this article. It’s really great. Even though they’re not exactly spooking around the ossuary wearing bat wings, it’s pretty easy to see why Girlfriends and Boyfriends would make use of the #gothic tag. Let’s see what else is down here in the catacombs.

The Ninth Heaven
Purple Sequins in the Mist

Near the end of the opening track on this EP, “A Dream Lost In Time,” vocalist Enrique Abu intones the song’s title repeatedly and you know what? He’s right. These five tracks really are temporally misplaced. Any selection from this release would fit in perfectly on the soundtrack of a mid-to-late-’80s film about teens coming of age and maybe solving a crime. I’m specifically thinking of the remarkable soundtrack to Albert Pyun’s 1986 Dangerously Close, but anything similar you’re thinking of would probably work just as well. These tracks conjure up languid late afternoons, the setting sun casting sharp shadows. A sense of dread lurks just out of reach, moving close as the shadows lengthen. It’s dramatic, sure, but take a listen to “The Adept,” with its warbling bassline, brittle echoing guitars, and chant-like vocals. It’s nothing if not an omen. The light, like those bright synth washes supporting the song, is there, but it’s fading. Darkness is on the way.

The #alternate reality tag is a new one for me. I’m not sure if it refers to the state in which The Ninth Heaven exists or the feeling that their music is meant to create, but either way, it’s a road that I’m not about to leave un-taken.

The Enjinz
Incredible Scenes Here!!!

The Enjinz is a transatlantic collaboration between Birmingham, England’s Zaeb Dust and West Virginia’s Hash Made, but the physical distance separating the artists involved isn’t felt in the end result. Unified in their approach, the production here (credited to both members) sounds uniform and focused, with thick rumbling bass buoying sharp, tight beats. Though the two members often handle things themselves, as exemplified by the forceful and direct “The Price,” The Enjinz also bring several friends to the party, providing variety and depth. On the earworm “Strain,” guest MC Myka 9’s nimble, acrobatic vocals weave in and out of a beat that sounds like a roughed up sibling of the beat on J-Kwon’s 2004 hit “Tipsy.” Incredible Scenes Here!!! is more than a mere collaboration. It feels like the birth of a collective. The assembled case and the quality of the finished product are enough cause for raised expectations for future work. Under the creative vision of The Enjinz’ central partnership, anything feels possible.

Bobby Digital, Deltron 3030, Shabazz Palaces, all the way back to the funk-electro sounds of bands like Parliament and Jonzun Crew—hip-hop has never been a stranger to concepts taken from science fiction, or, if you want to be just a little more highbrow about it, #speculative fiction. But it’s not all rhymes and breakbeats. We’re using the tag to travel in a less linear direction to some improvised sounds.

Bios Contrast
Dragon Rising

Merch for this release:
Compact Disc (CD)

Regardless of the textures layered on top of it, Dragon Rising, the latest from Kolkata-based experimentalist Bios Contrast, always comes back to the drone. Violins, concertinas, vocal samples, and other less-identifiable instruments get artfully layered atop it, but at the heart of this release is that thrumming resonance. It’s the beating heart that gives life to these compositions. Some, like “Anahata,” center it, presenting the listener with one, then adding another creating a harmony that rattles the listener to the core. Elsewhere, as on the jittery “Under the Tree By The River” it’s obscured—cut into tiny pieces and jumping, through hard stereo separation, around (especially if you’re listening with headphones which, here, is strongly recommended). Although broken into 13 tracks, it’s easy to view these tracks as movements of a suite, each contributing to the thoughtful, meditative, and—at times—challenging nature of this work.

Although Bios Contrast is Indian, the label releasing the work is based in #Hong Kong, the birthplace of Canadian violinist Phoebe Tsang.

Alinovsky vs. Phoebe Tsang
The Angel Particle

From her home in Toronto, musician and author Phoebe Tsang recorded several violin pieces and sent them to Belgian collaborator Alinovsky, who embellished them, transformed them and, along with producer Pierre Vervloesem, shaped them into this fascinating document. Tsang’s violin takes center stage here, as it should. It’s never overpowered by Alinovsky’s additions, but uplifted by them; the skill, emotion, and soul behind her playing is heightened and emphasized. Take “Seal” for example—a plaintive, longing piece. The addition of the sound of ocean waves and clicking, slightly off-kilter percussion create both a pastoral atmosphere as well as a slight discord, framing the powerful violin performance and giving it a setting; a sense of place. “Angel” leans harder into the improvisational side of Tsang’s playing with dissonant violin echoing off of towering synth drones, creating a soundscape so vivid it’s almost visible. The 22-minute album closing title track could stand as an album on its own, incorporating the themes glimpsed on the preceding tracks into one captivating longform piece.

Alinovsky, half of the partnership we just heard, is based in #Brussels, the home of another improvisational artist.

Christina Vantzou, Michael Harrison and John Also Bennett
Christina Vantzou, Michael Harrison and John Also Bennett

Merch for this release:
2 x Vinyl LP

These slow, shifting improvisations are absolutely stunning. Consisting mainly of piano and modular synthesizer, the work here hangs on the feeling imparted by sustained notes. These pieces are explorations of decay and regrowth; the piano’s acoustic notes are held and allowed to fade to the very end, allowing the listener to almost see the slow cessation of the strings’ vibration. As these notes fall, the synth tones rise to meet them, creating currents of sound that rise and fall like the action of the tides; slow, steady, and persistent. Sometimes, as on the wistful “Joanna,” you can almost catch the ghost of a melody fading in and wafting away before you can completely grasp it. This album works both as an ambient piece, one that fades into and becomes a part of its listening environment, but it also works as a piece that reveals more secrets the closer you listen. What seems on the surface like simple drones and improvisation is layered and multi-faceted, revealing more of its beauty on repeated listens.

The #deep listening tag isn’t just a recommendation for how to experience a work, it’s a methodology rooted in the practice of mindfulness. It’s an interesting concept to explore, and it’s one that you can practice on our next featured artist.

Jo Montgomerie
Those Things Beyond & Within

Merch for this release:
Cassette

These tracks are built on repeated phrases—sparse piano lines, passages of ambient noise. As the phrases repeat, elements are added that somehow, through addition, seem to deteriorate the piece as a whole. Take “they all fell so easy” for example: a scratchy click that sounds like the run-out groove of a 78rpm record keeps time as a breathy hum (an industrial air handler?) grows in intensity, weaving within the metronomic click and climaxing in an overpowering distorted mass of sound. It’s a thunderous, bombastic payoff to the track’s masterful slow build. Elsewhere, the propulsive “…think we lost them” uses a short percussion loop to create tension. Thinking about Albert Pyun again, this track wouldn’t feel out of place as the accompaniment to a chase scene in one of his cyborg movies. It’s a difficult thing to counter an artist’s description of their own work, but in the notes for this release, it’s described as “minimalist noise” and I have to take issue with half of that descriptor. Sure, these works are noisy, but anyone coming here expecting the screech and grind of power electronics or harsh noise wall will find some key characteristics missing.

The use of #field recordings is a key component of Jo Montgomerie’s work. What if, though, all of your field recordings are recordings of bats? Why not use them to make a techno record?

Hanna Tuulikki and Tommy Perman
Echo in the Dark

Merch for this release:
7" Vinyl

Bats are an essential part of many of Earth’s ecosystems. They assist in pollination, they help control the mosquito population, and they even help distribute the seeds of some plants. Sometimes, with human assistance, they even create techno music. This two-track interspecies collaboration uses the echolocation sounds of two species of bats as inspiration for (and occasionally the source of) its sound. In practice, it’s low-key dance music, with rounded bass tone and kinetic samples flitting around the melody, kind of like a swarm of bats at twilight. On “Daubenton’s bat,” Hanna Tuulikki’s voice combines with the bat sounds to create an otherworldly result, a sound that cuts through the mix giving focus and drive to these songs. The second track, “Common pipistrelle & Soprano pipistrelle,” is a slightly darker affair, with a more ominous bassline and Tuulikki’s voice taking on a more ghostly character. These are two excellent tracks with a unique concept. There’s a lot more bat species out there, too, which leaves us with hope for a full length release from this project.

Echo in the Dark comes flying out of #Edinburgh. The darkness of Edinburgh enshrouds not only bats, but also our next featured work.

Caustic Phlegm
Putrefying Flesh

Merch for this release:
T-Shirt/Shirt, Cassette

Thick, heavy, and just plain nasty, this EP from Scottish death metal ghouls Caustic Phlegm is a musical elbow to the gut. Even if you haven’t listened to this (or aren’t listening to it right now, which you should be), you can tell by looking what you’re getting into: pure old-school death metal riff worship. It’s timeless. I’m not a “production guy” but I really need to make note of the actual sound of this recording, which is part of its brilliance. It’s just as murky as it needs to be without being so deep in the mire as to obscure the musicianship. Each song begins with VHS/cathode ray style ambience before the riffs begin, and the production remarkably achieves the balance of allowing the riffs to retain their impact while keeping the overall feel good and dismal. The vocals are, simply put, foul. Most death metal bands have a human singer, but all I hear on these songs is a swamp creature gurgling a throat full of mud. The songs themselves are well-crafted, working the mid-paced riffs for all their worth (while never falling into the dreaded “too slow” territory) and kicking into high gear exactly when needed.

You knew from the first note, I’m sure, that #death was going to be in the tags under that Caustic Phlegm album. Although it’s a concept that’s given its name to an entire subgenre of metal, death is also something that can be explored in other ways though less aggressive sounds.

Hiding Place
Lights Were Very Bright

Longyearbyen, Svalbard and Jan Mayen
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Longyearbyen, Svalbard and Jan Mayen
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I’m hesitant to even refer to this as music. Don’t get me wrong, though. I don’t mean that in a pejorative way at all. Whatever it is, it’s great. Hiding Place presents three tracks of sustained sound, ambient chords swelling and growing to a massive size. As the sounds heighten, you become aware of the layers of which they are composed—deep rumbles, soft hisses, bell-like chiming tones, glacial groans and creaks, the folded and woven sheets of extended notes. These tracks are placid and pensive, but that peace belies an intricate interaction of countless components below the surface, an intricacy that begins to unravel and reveal itself on repeated listens. It’s like standing in the sea watching a wave roll in, knowing that you’ll be buoyed by the swell. Not in a harmful way, but a transformative one, being lifted up and carried safely to shore.

Although we broke it up with some rap and death metal, we had a pretty ambient/improv-heavy journey. It wasn’t planned that way, but I’m certainly not mad about it. Maybe when I’m done listening to that Girlfriends and Boyfriends album again, I’ll find some other calming sounds to play. I’ll also be thinking about where we can start our next journey. I’ll see you again soon.

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