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. November’s selection includes zoned-out loops, Bollywood-inspired abstractions, noise as stand-up comedy, and a reissue of recordings taken from the installation of an eight-foot-tall book.
San Francisco-based oboist Kyle Bruckmann has forged a formidable discography over the past few decades, but the two-part album titled Mesmerics/Hindsight is his first solo effort made just with electronics. It feels like a new beginning, as his giddy explorations across two discs feel a bit like a kid let loose in a candy store. The first half features longer tracks, filled with hyperactive tones that dive, splash, and shriek.
The shorter pieces on part two are even more exciting, as Bruckmann unleashes a barrage of clicks and whirrs that evoke the knocks and pings of a busy car repair shop. Mesmerics/Hindsight isn’t just about speed and volume; Bruckmann adds moments of reflection throughout his bubbling mixes. But the main thrill comes from riding it like a sonic roller coaster.
The Plumb Sutra
Greek sound artist Daphne X’s latest tape The Plumb Sutra mines the power of cycles and loops for nearly unlimited rewards. In each track, she finds some figure to repeat—a drum beat, a piano chord, an echoing synth tone—then douses it in echoes, textures, and other sonic accents. The result is music you can zone out to—just close your eyes while “Irimia’s Bones Crackle” casts ghostly rumbles—but that’s also as urgent and energizing as a treadmill workout. The Plumb Sutra’s peak is the nine-minute “Halo Dragon,” a stomping beat adorned with whines, whispers, and the hypnotic massage of Daphne X’s own voice.
Sounds from the Book of Bean
Originally released on cassette in 1982, Sounds from the Book of Bean is an offshoot of Alison Knowles’ sculpture/installation The Book of Bean, an eight-foot-tall book she built that was actually big enough to walk into. Knowles recorded the actual sounds of constructing the book and mixed them with her readings of the text inside, creating a 20-minute collage of voice and field recording that is utterly entrancing. Knowles’ voice is both reassuring and chilling. Recital Program’s vinyl reissue adds four more tracks featuring Knowles’s speech too, as well as beans that she uses to make sound with glass and wood. Altogether, Sounds from the Book of Bean is a bit like avant-garde ASMR, soothing via Knowles’ patient sounds, but exciting in the way she continually probes the possibilities of speech as art.
Cecilia Lopez / Joe Moffett
Caprichos is the first duo release from two excellent New York-based improvisers, synth player Cecilia Lopez and trumpeter Joe Moffett, but you can tell the pair have been working together for a while. Their combination of whirring electronics and staccato horns is so well-synced they often seem to rhyme with each other. During each of these nine tracks, Lopez and Moffett also surprise the listener and each other with abrupt sounds, quick momentum shifts, and moods that turn from languid to frantic on a dime. The best example is perhaps the shortest, the two-minute “Nervous Membranes,” a splattery, pulse-raising collage of trumpet runs and synthesizer detonation.
Andrew Pekler & Giuseppe Ielasi
Continuing a decade-long collaboration, Berlin’s Andrew Pekler and Milan’s Giuseppe Ielasi met in 2015 in Ielasi’s hometown to improvise together. Since then, the pair have sent the results back and forth; adding, subtracting, and multiplying their sounds into literal “palimpsests” (modified material that still resembles its original form). Across nine tracks named for various cities, Pekler and Ielasi build loops and rhythms into a kind of synthetic replica of a metropolis’s aural landscape. Some pieces, like the slow, dramatic “Trebizond,” are like lost film scores; others, like the dripping “Piombino” and the echoing “Maratea,” evoke imagined field recordings, animating mental landscapes as real as any town.
Earlier this year, Mark Trecka released the intriguing Acknowledgement, using voice, tape loops, and improvisations on prepared piano. Now he’s returned to the raw recording of that piano session to craft four new pieces for Implication. Honing in on the textures and resonances of his instrument, Trecka reshapes them into pieces that feel both composed and unrestricted. The result has a memory-drenched aura, as if Trecka made new dreams out of the reality he created on Acknowledgement. Most mesmerizing is “Solemnity,” a cycling piece that combines shifting backgrounds with metronomic notes that divide themselves, creating a constellation of sound from a single musical star.
Abstractions in Meera
In the music of P.M. Tummala, history gets absorbed, entangled, and reawakened. Using numerous tools—including synths, vibraphone, and tape loops—the Chicago-based producer concocts hazy worlds that alternately focus and blur. In the process, he nods toward some of his inspirations, particularly the Bollywood music he heard as a child. Nothing on Abstractions in Meera plays like a direct quote or nostalgic sentiment, though. Everything passes through the clouds of Tummala’s memory, emerging as a kaleidoscope in which chords, beats, and voices swirl together like colored liquids combining in a glass.
Compact Disc (CD), Vinyl LP
A longtime Chicago experimental musician now based in Michigan, Daniel Wyche has collaborated with numerous like-minded artists. Earthwork shows he’s just as imaginative and thoughtful solo, though only one of its three tracks was made by him alone. Recorded live in 2015, side-long opener “This is Home” includes four other musicians and even contributions from the audience, as Wyche guides them all on an 18-minute journey from sky-seeking chimes into murky reverberation. On the flipside, two shorter pieces are more minimal and intimate, including the stirring title track, wherein Wyche’s small string strikes create the tension of a horror film, as if a huge guitar chord is always around the corner, ready to pounce.
Ranting and raving over dissonant sounds, Yol is a kind of noise comedian. On viral dogs and cats, his bits are consistently hilarious, from his complaint about getting the wrong flavor of ice cream on “chunks of tongue” to his assertion that sitcoms are dead on “glue comedy.” The random noises that accompany these routines are also pretty funny, but what makes this brisk, 22-minute album really click is Yol’s perfectly bizarre delivery. He makes his points by shouting and groaning words repetitively until they congeal into full statements, only to get broken apart by more strained screaming. If viral dogs and cats doesn’t get you laughing out loud, that’s OK: Yol just wants you to hear him out, over and over again.