BEST EXPERIMENTAL The Best Experimental Music on Bandcamp: January 2024 By Marc Masters · January 29, 2024

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. January’s selection includes snare drum soundscapes, solo viola journeys, and duos that use sax with synths, sax with cello, and voice with trumpet.


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On the Bandcamp page for Detritus, Bloxham Tapes offers little info about Bensin other than the fact that the artist resides in Australia. The description of the music is similarly mysterious: “…these works emerged through my own investigation of them, ballooning and morphing as I poked around.” All of this is apt, though, as the two side-long tracks here are deliciously hazy, with waves of sound that ebb and flow as if they were created by nature. I wouldn’t actually call any of it murky, though some of it is full of echo and hard-to-identify sound sources. But Bensin isn’t afraid to make everything loud and present, putting it all right up in your face and ears.

Regan Bowering
Solos for _ _ _ _ spaces

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On her first release, percussionist Regan Bowering creates a wide range of tones and mood with a snare drum. She does more than just play the instrument, placing mics and amps around it in ways that generate feedback and create motion-filled soundscapes. During “Grain,” drum rattles morph into a heavy, guitar-like drone. On “Hold,” her drumming slowly recedes into near-silence, then returns as grinding noise. Two of these tracks were recorded live and one in a studio, but the final track is a hybrid in which Bowering reworks the preceding pieces into something new, showing the endless potential contained in her musical approach.

The Electric Nature
Live in Troy

Last fall, Athens, Georgia’s Electric Nature recorded some music and handed it over to band member (and Null Zone label owner) Michael Potter, who took it out on the road with him, by himself. He then invited compatriots at each stop to improvise along with these recordings, and the show in Troy, New York turned out to be particularly fruitful. During two 15-minute tracks, Eric Hardiman and Zoots Houston add their noisy, ambitious guitar work to Potter’s samplers and noise devices, producing a thick, dark stew of cacophony and motion. At times, the music seems to alternately speed up and slow down, as if the sound they’re making is so massive it’s actually warping time.

Violeta Garcia & Anton Ponomarev
Ultimate Tragedy

The duo of Violeta Garcia and Anton Ponomarev charge out of the gate on Ultimate Tragedy. Opener “The Loss” launches with Garcia’s rough cello scrapings and Ponomarev’s short puffs of saxophone, both intensifying until they sound ready to explode. That’s followed by “Attempted Recreation,” a see-saw of racket that reaches cacophony even faster. The rest of Ultimate Tragedy maintains that fever pitch, even as Garcia and Ponomarev shift to the more conventional, ballad-ish title track. They’re at their best when they go all out, though; prepare your ears for the last couple of tracks—their confrontational din rages as hard as the best harsh noise acts.

Three Point Gloyd

Some of the northeastern United States’s most adventurous musicians gathered in the summer of 2022 to play a few shows and record some improvisations at “a Christmas tree farm.” Prolific guitarist Wendy Eisenberg, accomplished vocalist Ruth Garbus, horn player Andy Allen, bassist Donald Shaw, and drummer Neil “Cloaca” Young (the latter two of the great Massachusetts ensemble Fat Worm of Error) make up Gloyd. Three Point Gloyd offers four tracks of unrestricted sonic mayhem, with each player blaring and/or pounding away as if they’re all trying to sink their collective ship (that’s a compliment). Some parts recall the farthest-out forays of Sun City Girls, but Gloyd’s madness has a distinct character, with every voice on such equal footing that the group’s collective energy becomes its own mini-genre.

Joshua Hyde and Ben Carey
Fault Lines

It’s been 16 years since Joshua Hyde and Ben Carey met in Hyde’s current homeland, France, but Fault Lines is their first release together. It’s also their first fully-improvised collaboration, though the pair have worked and conversed with each other long enough that they’ve established a clear musical dialogue. While Hyde plays saxophone and Carey plays synths, the latter was originally trained on saxophone too, so there’s a similar approach from both players that makes these pieces seem to rhyme. Pointillist notes weave in and out of each other, sax bleeps cross synth blips, and horn squawks respond to electronic bursts. Hyde and Carey find something new to say in each piece, making Fault Lines a kind of narrative written in wordless chapters.

Strain Field

The duo of vocalist Mariana Dionísio and trumpet player João Almeida call themselves LUMP, and they describe their new release Strain Field as “a Microcosmos of Micro ideas for angry Micro entities.” Clearly there’s humor going on here, and that’s reflected in the album’s six short pieces, which have an absurdist quality, especially in Dionísio’s colorfully non-verbal vocal utterances. But LUMP aren’t a joke: the staccato sounds these two shoot at each other are as thoughtful as they are playful, partially unpredictable and partially logical. On the most thrilling tracks, like the yelping closer “You must have quite a little big problem,” LUMP’s bubbling mix is serious fun.

Ailbhe Nic Oireachtaigh
live at Sonic Acts

Viola sounds don’t get much more raw and gritty than the ones produced by Ireland’s Ailbhe Nic Oireachtaigh. That’s especially true when she performs in concert, at least judging by live at Sonic Acts, a four-track brain-melter of aggressive, intoxicating string sawing. What makes Oireachtaigh’s work so deep is that she doles out her fiery sounds with patience and forethought, so that even the most all-out noises, like the heavily distorted notes in “This One is For You,” are balanced with moments of reflection and pause. You could even call “Arcus” a quiet piece, though once the sparse chords grow into a denser web, it’s just as heated as anything else on live at Sonic Acts.


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Compact Disc (CD)

Spanish trio Phicus specializes in improvisation, which makes Ni a fascinating turn: it’s the first time they’ve worked with a composition, written for this session by bassist Àlex Reviriego. Across 36 minutes plus a separate 3 minute coda, Phicus create a heavy, reverberant atmosphere where individual sounds from Revirigeo’s bass, Ferran Fages’s guitar, and Vasco Trilla’s drums all complement each other while venturing wherever the composition takes them. It’s tempting to call this music “ambient,” but Phicus’s knack for making each moment sound new means labels are kind of irrelevant. This is Phicus music, and it’s getting bigger with every release.

Various Artists
JMY 100

After eight years of putting out some great experimental music, Brent Gutzeit’s JMY label calls it quits with a 100th release. JMY 100 is a fitting farewell, featuring 50 tracks from many kinds of musicians and sound artists. Typically excellent work is delivered by some more familiar names: take J. Soliday’s heavy drone, Drekka’s dreamy echoes, Mike Shiflet’s aggressive static, and Gutzeit and Kevin Drumm’s sharp noise (recorded live over 20 years ago.) But I’m also enthralled by stuff I had never heard of, like He Can Jog’s warped clanking, JoJo Lasalle’s pop deconstructions, and Flexible Products’s repetitive robot beats. Hopefully JMY 100 will inspire uninitiated listeners to search back through the label’s catalog, but it also stands as a righteous statement on its own.

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