All kinds of experimental music can be found on Bandcamp: free jazz, avant-rock, dense noise, outer-limits electronics, deconstructed folk, abstract spoken word, and so much more. If an artist is trying something new with an established form or inventing a new one completely, there’s a good chance they’re doing it on Bandcamp. Each month, Marc Masters picks some of the best releases from across this wide, exploratory spectrum. June’s selection includes pointed minimalism, maximal guitar noise, software-warped drumming, and the culmination of a decades-long drone career.
For anyone enamored of the ‘00s West Coast collective Jewelled Antler, 43 Odes’ debut tape is a major event. It reunites Steven R. Smith and Glenn Donaldson, both integral figures from that time via groups such as Thuja and Skygreen Leopards (and both pretty active musicians since Jewelled Antler dissipated). 43 Odes is not a rehash of past styles, but it does rekindle some of the Jewelled Antler flame by sounding both improvised and thoughtful, both meditative and spontaneous. Smith and Donaldson play a range of stringed and percussive instruments, building ghostly clouds of tone, rhythm, and atmosphere. At times it feels like 43 Odes could literally float into the sun, but their expansive pieces stay grounded with earthen beats and patient playing. One can imagine the pair going at this for hours on end—here’s hoping they actually did, and 43 Odes is the first chapter.
“When I record, I have certain pictures in my head for every mix,” Russian sound artist Natalia Salmina, who records under the name Atariame, has said. It’s easy to imagine her doing that when you listen to her new tape, Voiceless. Each track conjures images, either by telling a story or simply painting in colorful, shapely sounds made solely with a Waldorf Blofeld synthesizer. In the process, the album traverses a rather daunting range of moods, all of which are united by the urgency and disconnection that Salmina felt when making it. Those feelings led her to actually stop speaking and singing, so that unlike her previous works, there is almost no human voice on Voiceless. But that artistic restriction simply demonstrates how resourceful and versatile Salmina is, capable of illuminating your mind’s eye with any kind of sounds.
Compact Disc (CD)
After a pretty prolific stint in the ‘00s, Greg Davis hasn’t released a solo album in nearly a decade. But he’s still been heavily involved in music—including running his own store, Autumn Records, in Vermont—and it shows on his new self-released album, Throughline. Created entirely on a modular synth controlled with a computer, these 10 tracks are filled with pin-prick detail, as Davis builds loops that are vibrantly active. Some pieces have the aura of early electronic experiments by Raymond Scott or Daphne Oram, matching the way their music sounded both cartoonish and futuristic. But as spacey as Throughline can get, it rarely lets you just sit back and enjoy a cosmic ride. Davis’s sounds continually push and prod, refusing to stay in one place for long.
Graham Dunning & Edward Lucas
End of a Cable
The small, sparse sounds that Graham Dunning and Edward Lucas improvise on End of a Cable may qualify as minimal, but they’re never static. The album’s sense of constant motion is most clear in Lucas’s trombone playing, which punctuates so many moments that it feels like he’s conducting with his instrument. But more likely, he’s responding to Dunning’s array of noises—generated with turntable, drums, and various “objects”—which themselves become responses to Lucas. Dunning’s turntable sounds are field recordings which he pressed to acetate records to use as instruments, and there’s a buzzing environmental quality to the pieces here. But the best thing about End of a Cable is its balance of naturalism and control. It’s all organic and loose, but one always feels the presence of Dunning and Lucas, picking sounds at just the right moments.
Spectral Arrows: Auckland
In his ongoing performance project Spectral Arrows, guitarist Marco Fusinato arrives at a venue, starts to play (often at massive volumes) with his back toward attendees, and doesn’t stop until the venue closes. For his installment in 2017, this meant a seven-hour barrage of guitar noise. It would’ve been fascinating to see people’s reactions, and how long any of them survived. But it’s also rewarding just to absorb Spectral Arrows: Auckland, which edits together excerpts from the performances into two side-long pieces. The volume and energy is at a fever pitch throughout, but Fusinato infuses every moment with textural and tonal variety. Some of it sounds like an extended rock-guitar solo; other parts sound like gear being attacked and destroyed. Most importantly, none of it sounds predictable or calm or anything but hyperactively inventive.
The music on Kapteyn B, the first duo album by Ben Kudler and Jayson Gerycz, is simultaneously intriguing and disorienting. On the surface, it sounds like a solo instrumental drum record, but the drumming is often warped, chopped, and just plain fucked with. That’s a result of the pair’s unique process: Gerycz (drummer for Cloud Nothings and owner of the Unifactor tape label) played drums while Kudler captured that playing in his computer, processed the signal (via Super Collider) and then returned it to headphones worn by Gerycz, who in turn played off of Kudler’s manipulations. Think of it as a kind of circular breathing for drums. Side A is filled with deterioration and distortion, as if Kudler is breaking Gerycz’s drum kit as he plays it. Side B feels slightly more conventional, with Gerycz’s drumming more continuous and decipherable, but Kudler still adds tons of accents and repetitions that make Kapteyn B as trippy to listen to as it must’ve been to make.
2 x Vinyl LP
It’s been 24 years since New Zealand’s Andrew Moon released his first recording under the name RST, and in the time since, he’s stuck admirably to his distinctive drone-based sound while continually refining and expanding it. That arc of work makes his new double-album a kind of career-crowning achievement: everything that Moon does well is here, yet he’s not repeating himself. Some moments are subdued, as Moon holds tones in ways that seem to massage the air; other portions are confrontational and sometimes even ecstatic. Most of the titles aptly reflect Moon’s grand goals, using words like “spectrum,” “synthesis,” “vibration,” and “infinity.” But it’s also apt that Moon gave the album a simple eponymous title, because no matter where he takes the project in the future, the 11 songs here will always be great representatives of his singular musical vision.
Nate Scheible’s last solo work was a moving collage made with instruments, field recordings, and a cassette of audio love letters that he found in a thrift store. His newest release, Indices, is just as moving, but this time Scheible created impressionistic sound narratives without the use of any voices or words. In fact, the pieces here don’t even have explanatory titles—they are simply named by the side and order in which they appear. That makes Indices is like a soundtrack for which you can fill in the pictures. Emotive tones, subtle arcs, and concrete environmental sounds dot each piece, but the overall result is beautifully non-specific. It’s not background music, but rather a canvas upon which images form and fade in overlapping cycles.
Andrew Tasselmyer & Patrick Spatz
Other, Compact Disc (CD)
To make Interior Currents, Pennsylvania sound artists Andrew Tasselmyer and Patrick Spatz each recorded sound onto cassette tapes, then swapped them and added effects, overdubs, and other treatments. The four resulting pieces are as dense as you might expect from such a process, but Interior Currents never sounds muddy or vague. There’s always a distinct sense of forward motion and defined direction that make the music more like rotating spheres than billowing clouds. Despite the varied length of tracks—from four minutes to 16 minutes long—there’s never a feeling that the pair’s ideas need specific durations to make their point. It’s all unified and oddly timeless, as if Tasselmeyer and Spatz managed to tap into something that is always flowing.