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. April’s selection includes thoughtful harsh noise, enigmatic outsider piano, music to nap to, and the sounds of mysterious caves in the British Isles.
Even by the standards of the noise underground, Autoerotichrist is an enigma. We know who is behind it—Texan R. Mason, also of grindcore unit Enemy Soil—but in terms of musical output, things get murkier. Autoerotichrist showed up on a handful of split singles and tapes in the mid-’90s before going dormant for a couple decades. Last year, Mason’s project re-emerged via a split with Prurient, and now, 23 years after Autoerotichrist first appeared, we finally get a full-length release, from a duo version that includes Anjilla Ulfhednar. The wait was worth it: Cabin Fever is a half hour of dense noise that can be, in turn, harsh, calm, distant, and disturbing. Each of the five tracks builds its own world, tracing thematic arcs only to blast through them. Most compelling is the three-minute middle song “If I Take My Meds It Will Stop,” a harrowing cavern of din that feels like someone excavating their own psyche with wire brush and dynamite.
Black Zone Magick Chant
French-born artist Max Primault once made trance-inducing loops as High Wolf, gradually adding a kind of fractured disco-beat sheen. Switching to the moniker Black Zone Myth Chant, he leans heavier on beats, at times revealing a hip-hop influence. Now, on his first release as Black Zone Magick Chant, he plunges into darker territory, with longer pieces that create environments out of unidentifiable sounds. Press notes indicate that Voyage Sacrifice was made in “a few very intense sessions, in altered states of consciousness” with a goal to “delete time, or escape time.” It worked: the three tracks here seem to suspend temporality almost effortlessly.
It’s hard to tell what’s real with Rachel Bonch-Breuvich. Her Bandcamp page claims she’s a “late-Soviet outsider piano-player and composer” whose work—10 tapes and counting—was discovered recently by Nazlo Records (themselves described as “a very obscure publishing house based somewhere in deep underground of Russian suburbs”). Since there seems to be no other information about her on the web, it’s possible that she’s a made-up persona, in the vein of Ursula Bogner and her own discoverer, Jan Jelinek. Over two half-hour-long sides, Bonch-Bruevich veers from austere classical modes to savant-ish abstractions. Her playing can be conventional, but she’s clearly following but her own warped muse wherever it takes her. Little blips of other music in between her playing hint that this material (which supposedly comes from the ‘70s) was “saved” by being dubbed over a pre-recorded tape from a later era. But when the piano is playing, all that matters is the desire to keep listening; the music on 13 trumps any concern about a potential hoax.
Back in 2011, Cleveland musician David Cintron made his first solo album after years playing with vital rock bands including Terminal Lovers and Scarcity of Tanks. No On, originally issued in an edition of 100, dealt not in rock riffs but elongated tones and dense drones created with guitar and electronics. Now reissued digitally, the album still sounds mesmerizingly dense and thoughtful. There’s a lot going on in the two 22-minute tracks, but Cintron never sounds rushed—in fact, the patience of his drones make you want to get your ears closer to the speakers so you can hear all the subtle changes and gradual arcs he weaves. There’s a space-bound feeling to these pieces—reflected in titles “Through the Center” and “Outer Rim”—but it’s not sci-fi music. It’s sound for inward exploring.
To make his first full-length album, Chicago guitarist Matt Clark—a former member of Joan of Arc and Pinebender—spent 10 days recording first takes and sticking with them. The result, Impossible Lows, doesn’t feel like a sketchbook, but rather a thought-out series of instrumental statements with firm moods and self-contained environments. It’s also sonically diverse; Clark is capable of delicate avant-folk, thickened drones, extended riffs, and more. Most compelling is the eight-minute odyssey “Zola Mae,” which opens with gentle, distant tones, and gradually builds into a thatch of noise guitar that sounds like it’s being broadcast through a faulty transistor radio. Such textural variety seems to come naturally to Clark, giving Impossible Lows the kind of durability that rewards repeat plays.
Recent solo releases by Manchester’s Dave Clarkson have offered field recordings grouped by locale and/or type of environment. For his latest, he ventured into six caves, gathering sounds and adding nothing else to them. But these isn’t raw audio; Clarkson “processed, mangled, and untangled” the noises he captured, often chopping them up into loops and rhythms without diluting the organic quality of his sources. On “Blue John,” he transforms water lapping stones into a clanging industrial beat, while on “Church Cove” he turns a place rumored to hold paranormal phenomena into a bubbling soundscape. Often the noticeable presence of an editor can weaken field recordings, but Clarkson knows how to add energy to his discoveries, morphing them into glowing, hyper-real versions of themselves.
On Dura’s Bandcamp page, there’s a simple motto: “Taking naps to make music to take naps to.” Of course the artist behind Dura, D.C.-based Mattson Ogg, is joking, but he’s also not lying. Dura’s music dwells in the subconscious recesses of the brain that light up during daytime sleep, the spaces where lucid dreams intermingle with the input of the surrounding world. Ogg mixes ambient guitar layers with field recordings, often capturing the way a concrete sound can become an enigmatic mystery inside your somnambulant brain. But Ogg’s atmospheres are too dense, evolving, and surprising to match any experiences exactly. Instead, Reverberation Hymns creates new dreams for waking hours, slipping sleep inside of consciousness until the two seem to merge.
wʌndərlænd + 2
The Beijing-based duo of guitarist Zoo and synth player Dingmao have a pretty diverse discography under the name Hualun. But their music generally tends toward dramatic post-rock, cresting careful instrumentals into swelling climaxes. Their new 20-minute wʌndərlænd + 2 EP deviates from that norm; on these three looping tracks, repetition and atmosphere take priority over momentum. On two of the pieces, a cycling guitar figure sustains for the entire duration, ensnaring ears like a swinging clock in front of a hypnotist’s subject. Only on one track, the two-minute “Masumiyet Müzesi,” do things get more impressionistic and drifting, but even then, Hualun is more focused on enduring tones than changing tides.
Locu feels like an album in hiding. The latest work from Italian sound artist Luciano Maggiore is so withdrawn it sometimes retreats into full silence, and even when you can hear it, it’s hard to tell exactly what’s going on. The obscurity is even reflected in the near-blank song titles, which are simply numbered by the sequence in which they appear (track 1 is called “1”, and so on). In the wrong hands this kind of minimalism could sound non-committal, but Maggiore instills tension in even the smallest whirr, grind, or hum. Locu is exactly restrained enough to spark intrigue without drifting into boredom, as hard to commit to memory as it is to resist listening to again.
Sales de Baño
Geometría del vínculo
Ostensibly, Geometría del vínculo is a jazz album, and an accomplished one. But the sound of Argentinian sextet Sales de Baño is wider than one genre description can capture. Across eight tracks and 40 minutes, the group veer into chamber-oriented classical, abstract noise, prog rock, even circus music. Uniting it all is a keen sense of space and clarity, ensuring that Geometria del vinculo (which translates as “Geometry of the Bond”) sounds like the work of one organism rather than a disconnected compilation of disparate artists. The feeling that persists is one of controlled unpredictability. One gets the sense that the group always knows what it’s doing, but the listener is never meant to quite catch up.
Jim Sauter & Kid Millions
Safe & Sane
For their fourth album together, the duo of Borbetomagus saxophone player Jim Sauter and Oneida drummer Kid Millions finally go longform. Previous releases contained mostly shorter pieces, but Safe & Sane opens with a track so long that it continues on the LP’s B-side. On the 32-minute “Chrysanthemum,” Sauter and Millions maintain a conversation through a torrent of high-speed sounds and ideas. Sauter is particularly mind-boggling here, ripping all kinds of near-inhuman noises out of his sax, but Millions holds his own too, sometimes leading the dialogue with a blizzard of snare and cymbal. Safe & Sane’s other track, the 12-minute “Falling Spider,” is perhaps more subdued in comparison, but it generates enough sparks (and detonations) to power a thousand suns.