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. July’s selection includes homemade robots, contemplative solo pieces for viola and cello, one-woman turntable deconstructions, and a magical four-way conversation in Tokyo.
Tinkle Twang ‘n Tootle
The music of French composer Pierre Bastien is made primarily with instruments he invents himself, and the resulting sound feels wholly invented too. Particularly fascinating are his “meccano marionettes,” machines he invented in the mid ‘80s that formed an orchestra called Mecanium. On his new album, the self-descriptively titled Tinkle Twang ‘n Tootle, he unleashes these homemade robots, as well as other unconventional tools, to craft wobbly, joyously unhinged loops. At points he evokes Raymond Scott’s cartoonish electronic experiments racheted into a crazier gear, but Bastien also keeps every track grounded in a stable rhythm, crafting paradoxically head-nodding, skull-drilling tunes.
Headflush is the first solo record by French-born, New York-based cellist Leila Bordreuil, but it’s no rookie debut. She’s been making excellent music in collaboration for years, and the five tracks here bear the authority of someone who has put many hours of thought and practice into creating her own sound. There are so many interesting atmospheres and overtones on Headflush, but somehow Bordreuil makes them all just with amplified cello, a testament to the control and power she has over her instrument. Each piece forms its own mini-universe, especially the cavernous title track and the bright “Sunshine Hypnose,” both of which offer full musical environments to lose yourself in.
Behind the Spiderweb Gate
U.K.-based viola player Alison Cotton is a perfect choice for Longform Editions, a series of single-track works that usually last at least 20 minutes. Her playing is so patient and elemental, it seems to tap into an endless current of energy. The slow, subdued strains that overlap and weave through Behind the Spiderweb Gate are in a sense ambient, but that term still seems incapable of capturing the essential vibration of the piece’s glacial progressions. It’s not so much that Cotton slows time as she controls it, as the tones generated by her Zen-like passing of bow over strings reverberate into infinity.
Haco, Takako Minekawa, Dustin Wong, Tarnovski
Compact Disc (CD), Cassette
This one-time meeting of four thoughtful improvisers happened in Japan two years ago, but it feels timeless, as if the sounds were already floating around in the universe to be grabbed. Though lots of instrumentation is involved—guitar, synth, electronics, voices, and effects—it’s hard to pin any notes on Kannazuki to a specific piece of physical hardware. At times this 18-minute piece does suggest concrete environmental sounds like bird tweets and insect chirps, but what’s so intoxicating about Kannazuki is that it could conjure so many different images and experiences for listeners. Music doesn’t get much more evocative than that.
Agathe Max & Natalia Beylis
The Garden Of Paradise
This collaboration between French-born violinist Agathe Max and Ukraine native Natalia Beylis is as rich and full of ideas as one might expect, given their diverse histories (Max has played with Rhys Chatham and Melt-Banana, among many, while Beylis is currently in Woven Skull and Divil A’ Bit). But while four of the five tracks offer a nice range of textures and moods, it’s the 22-minute title track that has the most potential to blow minds. Opening with patient strains from Max’s strings, the piece gradually builds both in terms of sonic layers—buttressed by Beylis’s use of the Turkish, banjo-like cümbüş—and in momentum. Midway through, a mesh of violin bowing evokes Henry Flynt’s hillbilly avant-garde innovations. Things then slowly settle and get more subdued, as Max and Beylis prove eminently capable of all kinds of sounds and speeds.
The Man Who Bites His Tongue
For nearly a decade now, artist Lee Noble has made music that’s easy to enjoy but hard to describe. It’s not that Noble’s concoctions are particularly complex; he often takes a very simple, elemental approach to his droney, repetitive atmospheres. But the way he is able to mix evocative abstraction with hints of song and melody puts his work in its own space in between genres. He describes his latest, The Man Who Bites His Tongue, as “a gathering of lost, changed, or unreleased tracks—just a document,” but Noble seems inherently incapable of making tossed-off music, and the sonic variety here—from the long tones of “August” to the drum-machine beats of “Live at Issue Project Room”—stands solidly in a discography that deserves more attention.
Rắn Cạp Đuôi
The name of Vietnamese collective Rắn Cạp Đuôi translates to “snake bites tail,” and their music certainly has the cycling feel of an ouroboros, or even a Möbius strip. But on Degradation, the ensemble of Phạm Thế Vũ, Đỗ Tấn Sĩ, and Zach Sch (aided by six other collaborators) do a lot more than just run in circles. Each of the three tracks here is so dense it’s practically three dimensional, with whirrs, noises, and implied rhythms that sound both oddly alien and tangibly present. Equally adept at precise sounds (“Ikkikki”) and layered din (“Ripples”), Rắn Cạp Đuôi make music that feels as deep as a bottomless well.
The first solo turntable album from U.K.-based artist Mariam Rezaei is exhilaratingly disorienting. It begins with a bonkers track filled with blasts of noise, cuts to silence, and nerve-destroying, machine-gun-style rattles. Things don’t get any less unsettling from there—the second song is a prickly melange of choked screams and needle rips—yet somehow Blud in total has an oddly calming aura. That’s because Rezaei blends her confrontational sonics with moments of sublime beauty, such as the near-gospel singing in the reverent “MAD.” But it’s also because Rezaei has such control that Blud feels like a mysterious but forceful master plan. When it ends with a 21-minute piece that sums up everything that came before, it’s pretty clear that Rezaei’s strategy is a smashing success.