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 heavy drones; overwhelming atmospheres; music made with the wind and water of South Korea; and music made with robots and cardboard boxes.
Compact Disc (CD)
The two tracks on Amby Downs‘s new album Ngunmal exist as both standalone sound pieces and as soundtracks to audio visual installations, and both have a three-dimensional quality thanks to Downs—a pseudonym for Australia-based artist Tahlia Palmer—injecting depth into every moment. On the title track, activity and motion come from repetitive clicks and clacks enveloped in blustery drones, forging a narrative that treks through sonic changes like a time-lapse of evolving weather. Even more transfixing is “I Am Holding My Breath,” a cavernous stretch of bass-heavy tremblings that seems to encompass an entire universe in its dark, bottomless echoes.
Felipe & Forté
The first collaboration between Dino Felipe and Nick Forté in 15 years sees the pair communicating at as high a level as ever. Their bubbling, ultra-busy sound is a bit clearer than before, but that doesn’t mean their way of constructing pieces is any less complex. Whirrs, whistles, static, and crashes crisscross in dizzying patterns, drifting from snippets of defined rhythm into fogs of noise. Each track sets up a sonic template with repeated aural events, then mines them for an infinite variety of textures. I’m partial to the craziest tracks, like the pin-pricking “Vertigloop” and the crashing “Gamma Land,” but the ambient-pop-in-a-blender style of “Cubico” is just as hypnotic, as Felipe and Forté find something worthwhile in every sound.
Travel and motion are major themes on Consistency, the latest album by Seoul-based artist Heejin Jang. Notes insist that her “focus lies in the flow of water and wind in field recordings collected in the Yeongdeung Gut and Hado-ri areas of Jeju, layering the speed and direction of energy.” The result is 15 thoughtful pieces that are often harsh and confrontational, but never gratuitously so. The bulk of Consistency could be called noise as Jang deftly arranges all kinds of clanging, chopping, ear-stabbing sounds into walls of dissonance. But she also conjures moments of reflection as on the pulsing “Lying Grass,” or with the near-melodic ambience of “Drama Shatterers.” Consistency gives your ears a well-earned workout, but what lasts is the way Jang crafts it all into a compelling journey.
I Am Here To Win One Million Dollars
Baltimore-based artist Lexie Mountain has made a lot of great music and art, but I Am Here To Win One Million Dollars feels like a milestone. It consists of reams of gathered source material—live tapes, field recordings, voice experiments—all mixed together over the course of several years. That lengthy labor produces pieces that possess true gravity, with Mountain’s voice swimming in a deep sea of circling noises and looped cacophony. A lot of I Am Here has a meditative feel, as if these are rituals by which Mountain can reach an abstract plane. But there’s also a ton of concrete action coursing through the album, some of it as funny as it is profound—take “Old Handwriting (I’m Dude),” wherein Mountain sings that parenthetical as passionately as Dolly Parton.
I’m not sure what C.R. Odette—the recording pseudonym of Samantha Flowers—uses for instrumentation, though I suspect there are tape loops and synths behind Millett Sway. The cool thing is that, even if I knew exactly where every sound came from, both 10-minute pieces here would still be full of mystery. Flowers’s use of droning notes, oscillating in irregular patterns, evokes the all-night flights of Terry Riley, and her heavy chords make me imagine Charlemagne Palestine slowed to a crawl.
Compact Disc (CD)
New Zealand musician Steven Clover has always been pretty straightforward about what he does. One of his first releases over 20 years ago was simply called Dronemusic, and his latest could also use that title. But Clover has mined drone for a rich range of moods, and Another (Looped) Sunday finds him carving out new sonic territory. On each of the five tracks Clover couches his held or rippling tones in a kind of beckoning aural blur, in the process provoking emotion despite—or maybe because—his music is almost purely abstract. Just listen to the aching strains of “Everyready 509” or the weary vibrations of “Too Far From Home” and see how quickly your own mood gets altered, for the better.
bot box boxes
Compact Disc (CD)
Japanese artist Taku Unami worked for a few years on a solo release for Erstwhile, but kept finding himself unhappy with his process. In August he had a burst of creativity, recording three long pieces in just 16 hours, then submitting them to the label immediately. The result, available just a few months later, is bot box boxes, a 3-CD set that presents exactly what Unami made that day, without edits or overdubs. The title is literal: one piece was made with robots, another with a box, and the final with multiple boxes. Each has a documentary feel, replicating Unami’s constant, energetic play with his chosen objects. Eventually all three—particularly the last one, “boxes”—become surrealist soundscapes; your brain’s insistence on associating aural events with identifiable visual ones slowly melts, and you can actually hear bot box boxes as the pure, joyous sound that it is.