Bandcamp has long been a home for DIY punk and hardcore from around the world, touching all of the myriad subgenre styles and helping to translate the simple effectiveness of cut-and-paste to the digital age. For May’s edition of the best punk releases on Bandcamp, Kerry Cardoza features the unfettered rage of Panama’s Hez, the mid-tempo dirges of London’s Keno, the raucous righteousness of Italy’s Las Palmas, and much more!
Initially put together in 2021 but reconceived during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, this third release from Kyiv solo project Morwan is somber and reflective in tone. With poetic abstractions and recurring references to nature and loss, Svitaye, Palaye is an earnest encapsulation of the realities of modern warfare. There is a monastic feel to Alex Ashtaui’s vocals; they are deep and resonant, as if delivered in a cavernous church. Over repetitive, evocative synths and polished, tight drum beats, Ashtaui bears witness to the changes around him, small and large. The sharp opening track, “Журба,” which gently quickens its pace while maintaining a steady synth beat, is sorrowful and meditative. The elegiac closing track is also striking, starting with quiet spoken word and building in intensity with long-held synth notes and a driving beat.
This auspicious debut from the Verona-based trio Las Palmas starts off in an ecstatic frenzy. Recorded live and without a lot of fuss, the band members yelp and whoop before launching into the song proper; it’s difficult to parse lead singer Emi’s lyrics from their off-the-cuff improvisations. The band is full of vitality and pure disgust for subservience to Western neoliberal imperialism, with Emi boasting of their passion for life and freedom over simple song structures. The level of aggression seems to increase as this three-song demo proceeds, with Emi’s poetic lines, delivered in Spanish, painting abstract portraits of protest; they shout on the cutting “Compañera,” “You have forgotten to live, you have forgotten that whoever laughs wins.” A fitting summation of Las Palmas’s raucous righteousness.
The Vacant Lot
The Vacant Lot could have just been a forgotten blip in punk history, having recorded a handful of tracks in 1981 before disbanding shortly thereafter. But the Canberra, Australia act, originally a five-piece, reunited in 2014, in a slightly altered line up—and not as a sad reunion act; they released new music in 2018. And now Iron Lung has resurrected (and remastered) their original enigmatic EP. The opener is classic proto-hardcore, with antagonistic vocals and a wily, driving melody. But then the band veers into grooving post-punk, with psych-leaning keys (“Milk the Land of its Honey”) and funky rhythms and flatulent feedback (“She’s Really Dead”). The closing track manages to bridge these two directions, with upbeat energy and key flourishes—an irresistible glimpse of the boundless potentials of punk’s early days.
This demo from new French two-piece Allusion drips with belligerence. The vocals are delivered in pained, emphatic howls with a hint of echo; the guitar is loud and thick with distortion. “Vision” is particularly hard, with crunchy guitar that explodes into delirium at the end, while the more methodical “Blasé” cuts out and the sounds of devastation cut in: bombs exploding, alarms going off. Each track here is offered in two versions, one mixed with a drum machine—the difference isn’t that pronounced, lending just a hint of industrial tone to the B side.
Scared to Update
To borrow a phrase from No Age, this debut studio release from London’s Keno is full of weirdo rippers. The trio goes all in on mid-tempo dirges. Resisting the hardcore tendency of playing ultra-fast and loud, Keno instead keeps the pace slow and the sound dissonant—it often seems as if every voice and instrument is out of tune—or maybe that’s the haunting organ lines in the background. Their low-energy approach feeling strangely embodied in their video for “Wiggle Time,” which shows the bandmates laying on a sidewalk and lumbering down a city street. The tracks have a tendency to increase in speed as they go, though, as on “Planet 9,” or to get even more bizarre, as on the rattling closing track.
The Panamanian punks of Hez are talking a lot of shit on this LP, an uncompromising follow-up to 2021’s Guerra Interior. Here, they’re badmouthing dirty cops, weekend punks, corny bad boys, and the concept of work. In fact, the caustic “No Quiero Trabajar” (which opens with a retch) might be a fitting anthem for 2023, where workers are continuing to rise up around the world to fight unjust conditions and to question the necessity of work itself. As is Hez’s style, the vocals here are rage-filled and echoing, the guitar feeding back wildly, adding long psychedelic beeps. The four-piece is adept at conveying unfettered anger, as on the forceful closing track, a declaration of antisociality and subversiveness that the straight world is incapable of understanding.
Hailing from Valencia, Spain, this quartet plays lush, earnest post-punk; the richness of the sound is an instant hook on the melancholic opening track. The vocals are sparkling and heartfelt; the guitar leads with bright emo melodies. (Their sound brings to mind other melodic Spanish punk contemporaries, like Rata Negra and Primer Infant.) “Lo último que ves” is moody and slow, opening with overlapping bass and guitar notes. Standout track “Nos vemos de noche” is particularly resonant, with its poppy new wave beat and catchy chorus, while closer “1000 veces” is more energetic, wrapping up this LP on a high note.