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 nighttime radio music, solo drum excursions, and the return of a mysterious Japanese duo after nearly two decades away.
Actual Music Now
Compact Disc (CD)
It’s been 18 years since bassist Tatsu Aoki and drummer Dave Pavkovic last recorded as Actual Music. On Actual Music Now, they don’t sound out of practice at all. The communication and interchange in the nine tracks here suggest there’s telekinesis between the two that no hiatus could weaken. There is lots of sonic variety here, but also a base of simple structures—specifically from Pavkovic, who isn’t afraid to just pound a rock-ish beat—that makes many tracks hypnotic and even catchy. The duo’s kinetic energy is almost dance-inspiring, and even though Actual Music Now was improvised, Aoki and Pavkovic have created real songs in real time, the kind that you can easily recall and quickly become addicted to.
Commissioned to make music for a French radio program, Delphine Dora chose to work with sounds of the night. Capturing field recordings after dark, she modulated them with synths (“a brush that allowed me to underline the properties of natural sound,” as she puts it) and added her voice. The result is a 10-minute piece she calls “Rêver l’imperceptible” (“Dreaming the Imperceptible”), which shades atmospheric sounds so they waft between feeling like reality and a dream. The strongest element is Dora’s singing, a wordless hum that highlights the fact that this is a story, not a documentary. On side two, the 15-minute “Chiaroscuro” explores similar territory, but the field recordings and singing are closer up, creating a bracing encounter that resonates like a howl in the woods.
Distance Between Us
For their third release on Dinzu Artefacts, the Greek trio Eventless Plot (Vasilis Liolios, Aris Giatas, and Yiannis Tsirikoglou) team up with clarinetists Chris Cundy and Margarita Kapagiannidou for two side-long pieces. The additions don’t change Eventless Plot’s patient approach; in fact there’s something even more calm about the supplemental drones provided by the woodwinds. Piano is the center of these two tracks, with slow, sparse notes subtly calibrating the tone and rhythm of the group. That gives melodrama to Distance Between Us, but it’s deceptive: what at first sounds like dripping emotions turns to dark undercurrents, particularly when supported by pointillist percussive sounds. And whatever moods this music steers you toward, chances are that will change with subsequent listens.
As Mezzanine Swimmers, Mike Green makes music for people who like pop melodies stretched, warped, and weirded out. The six tracks on Miserable Miracle are both catchy and disorienting, filled with hooks that are delightfully catchy but also make you feel a little off, like someone messed with your balance and you can’t quite walk straight again. There are echoes of ‘00s hypnagogic pop in Green’s underwater tunes, as well as the broken-machine bop of Black Dice. But Miserable Miracle has so much goofy energy that it feels less referential than timeless, as if these songs have been bubbling along for ages.
Compact Disc (CD)
Brooklyn’s Nick Neuburg can make lots of different sounds with his drums, and seemingly all of them appear on his new solo album Cryptic Exaltations. At times it’s hard to figure how he generates such non-drum sounds: take “Breath Fraction,” a barrage of squeaks, whines, and rumbles somewhere between a free jazz sax solo and a violently energetic violin improvisation. Each track builds its own sonic universe, focusing on a few sounds and pumping them with as much air as they’ll hold. But Cryptic Exaltations is no drum demonstration disc. Neuburg’s pieces have real ebbs and flows, carving out mini-narratives that compel attention.
Nonconnah, the duo of Magpie and Denny Corsa, recorded their new album Unicorn Family at three different studios and solicited contributions from ten other artists, including Jad Fair of Half Japanese, Alex Greene of Reigning Sound, and Angel Marcloid (Fire-Toolz). Together all these bubbling minds create music that drifts from water-damaged campfire folk to space-age synths to Fennesz-worth electronic glitch meditations. Throughout, haunting voices speak in passages that echo both dystopian mind control and profound pastoral verse. But what sticks most with Unicorn Family is all the atmospheres and textures the Corsas conjure, making the whole thing feel like a sonic séance.
The fact that Japanese duo Puzzle Punks have released their first new music in over 16 years is cause for both celebration and head-scratching. PuzzPunn adds to a weird oeuvre that started with a 1995 “compilation” called Pipeline: 24 Smash Hits By 24 Puzzle Punk Bands that featured bandmates Shinro Ohtake and Yamantaka Eye (Boredoms) playing every track under different band names. Since then there have been three albums spaced out by decades or more, all with the kind of hyperenergetic, stereo-destroying sounds you might expect from these two. Supposedly Puzzle Punks play children’s toy instruments exclusively, but good luck figuring out how any of the splurting, dizzying noises on PuzzPunn got made. Better to leave that part of your brain behind and let Puzzle Punks infiltrate your neurons until you can’t tell the difference between their music and the other sounds in your head.