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. September’s selection includes super-dense drones, brain-busting saxophone, dizzying sample-stitching, and the return of a legendary 60s avant-garde vocalist.
Blacks’ Myths II
Although their self-titled debut from last year kicked up a ton of dust, the D.C.-based duo Blacks’ Myths have upped the ante for their second release, adding more sonic variety and a new level of energy to their already busy mix. Their ideas come in shorter doses this time, with 13 tracks that include multiple pieces under two minutes long. But everything has forward motion and focused purpose on II, aided significantly by the spoken word contributions of poet Thomas Stanley. His words push the dynamic jams of bassist Luke Stewart and drummer Warren Crudup III into the realm of the avant-garde. They also are capable of textured sonic abstraction, soaring post-rock cinematics, and even gloom metal on the dirgey “Free Land.”
It would probably be fair to call Pain a noise album, given how often Cop Funeral, aka Josh Tabbia, uses harsh textures throughout the tape’s dozen tracks. But there’s more going on here, as abrasion mixes with solemnity, hard blasts decay into calm, and drones rise into firestorms. Tabbia even delves into loops and beats—one track uses electronic handclaps—and whatever other moves suit the structures he’s building. What holds it all together is a perpetual cycle of tension and release. Every track seems to be working through something, and evoking a ton of moods and emotions along the way. Pain is even soothing at times, suggesting intensity can be a kind of elixir, a way to confront darkness to reveal the beauty inside.
The title of the second solo work by cellist Clarice Jensen, Drone Studies, is perfectly matter-of-fact. The two pieces on the tape are indeed drone compositions, and clearly works of great study and focus. But Jensen does a lot within very well-defined parameters. The first piece, the 17-minute “The Organ That Made You Bleed,” opens with a dense vocal-like hum, then moves through low, cycling tones, bright passages, and dark, cavernous spaces. “One Bee” follows with a narrower range of sonics that are somehow just as thick and engrossing. As director of the American Contemporary Music Ensemble and frequent collaborator with many musical visionaries, Jensen has seen and heard a lot, and seems to have learned from it all. But Drone Studies shows her vision to be unique, and each step along her musical path feels like a new journey.
Plays The Vitamin B12
For a long time, the U.K.-based The Vitamin B12 was a mysterious entity—until recently, when central figure Alasdair Willis began releasing reams of material on his Bandcamp page. Some of those releases include contributions from Nicholas Langley, who has performed with Willis and re-edited some of his recordings into new pieces. Now Langley has covered The Vitamin B12 on his own album, Plays The Vitamin B12, and the results are as varied and intriguing as Willis’s own music. Some songs feel like updated takes on Reich-ian minimalism; others are rhythmically complex instrumentals that skirt math rock. Langley brings structure and melody to each piece, but he’s just as adept at creating atmospheres, making music that feels both giddy—think the Residents’ most buoyant material—and thoughtful.
Valentina Magaletti & Julian Sartorius
This first collaborative meeting between percussionists Valentina Magaletti, of Italy, and Julian Sartorius, of Switzerland, feels like a roller coaster with no exit. Unlike some drum duo improvisations, the pieces on Sulla Pelle are very clearly structured—you could almost dance to some of the wheeling rhythms here—yet they also teem with the excitement of anything-goes playing. Part of this is due to the clever set up of standard drum kit and Sartorius’s found-object collection, which allows the duo to continually drive the music forward while generating a swirl of textured sounds and surprising accents.
Live in L.A.
Since re-emerging with solo work 10 years ago, former Harry Pussy noisemaker Bill Orcutt has gotten lots of deserved attention for his constantly inventive guitar work. But he’s spent nearly as much time making computer-based music for his own label Fake Estates. His latest such release, Live in L.A., was recorded earlier this year at avant-mecca Zebulon, and features one 32-minute track of escalating sound. Starting with a looping, organ-like figure, Orcutt slowly builds and massages his repetitions into something that sounds both epic and twisted. There are shades of Terry Riley’s all-night flights here, but also a rawness that makes the music on Live in L.A. sound like the world is melting around it.
Fancy New York Artist
I’m not sure that the human brain is equipped to process everything that happens on Chris Pitsiokos’s Fancy New York Artist. Plastering the stereo space with a barrage of sound from his sax, electronics, and voice—plus contributions from violin player Richard Lenz—Pitsiokos sprints through five short but potent tracks, dropping sonic hand grenades everywhere he steps. With its onslaught of shrieking electronics, whirring oscillations, and head-squeezing percussions, the album shoots far beyond any conceivable genre classification. Maybe Pitsiokos is trying to coin something for himself by calling one track “McAvant Garde,” but this is the opposite of musical fast food: low in calories but high in wacked-out musical fiber.
Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD)
On his second album in less than a year, Carl Stone continues to hone his knack for cutting songs into warped soundscapes, as if the floor beneath them is bending and swaying and could collapse at any time. There’s a ton of infectious catchiness in Stone’s bubbling, circus-like concoctions, especially when they include vocals, as in the R&B-inflected mash-up of “Bia Bia” and the bouncing huffs and puffs of “Jame Jam.” At times Stone’s work recalls the frame-accurate surgeries of Plunderphonics pioneer John Oswald (and the pop intersections of Oswald-influenced masher Girl Talk), but the core of glee in Himalaya is Stone’s own sonic signature.
Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD)
Since recording two of the most important avant-garde records of the 1960s—Sings and College Tour, both on pioneering New York label ESP-Disk’—Patty Waters has had an intermittent musical career. She didn’t make another record until the mid-‘90s, but her prowess as a searching and visionary singer has persisted. Live documents an NYC concert from 2018, with Waters accompanied by pianist Burton Greene—a vital contributor to Sings—alongside bassist Mario Pavone and percussionist Barry Altschul. The quartet play Waters tunes and lots of covers, mixing subtlety with cacophony—particularly on a version of Ornette Coleman’s “Lonely Woman” that sees Waters’s stirring voice melt perfectly into her partners’ sonic waves.