We pick out some of the most crucial reissues and retrospectives dropped recently on Bandcamp, and look at the historic tales behind them. Whether it’s West African highlife, German post-punk, golden age hip-hop, or California neo-psychedelia, we’re here to lay out the best new oldies.
Has a band ever done so much with so little? Autoclave’s self-titled anthology sits in its own special corner of the already glorified 1990s alt-rock canon. This compilation is all you need to understand why, compiling pretty much the entirety of the band’s recording output: two EPs, a song from the Simple Machines Records Lever release, and a playful live cover of “Paper Boy,” the theme song from the 1985 Atari video game of the same name.
Originally released on CD in 1997, Dischord has remastered and reissued the compilation, tweaking the tracklist from a straight chronological arrangement to something they ostensibly believe flows more like an album. So, replacing the lean, mean “Go Far” as the opening track is the pop-leaning “Dr Seuss”—a far more traditional curtain raiser. Regardless of configuration, this album remains a key indie text, as quintessentially 1990s as the cast of Scream. Tracks like “I’ll Take You Down” match slightly off-kilter math-rock drum patterns with singer/bassist Christina Billotte’s vocals, which are half-alt-operatic in the Corin Tucker vein, and half conversational. “Hot Spurr” is a gloriously jaunty, while the garage rock edition of “Paper Boy” is something I wish more bands would do with old video game music.
Autoclave’s members went on to do many fantastic things after the band’s dissolution, but with this reissue, more than ever, we see their legacy would have been cemented if they’d never brushed off another instrument again.
Brazil’s Azymuth have give us a near-five decade long story. Demos (1973-75) Volumes 1&2 is the genesis, offering the earliest showcase of the group’s cool musicality. This is funk-informed jazz music that’s never tough to swallow. Their band’s gentle touch, heard on songs such as “Manha,” a seven-minute jam featuring gentle keys and a thick bassline, occasionally interrupted by early synth experiments that add another angle. Rough and off-the cuff as these demos are, the collection’s unified enough to provide a starting point for anyone seeking to investigate the band’s deep body of work—not to mention an essential for completionists.
Let’s Chase the Sun
Desmond Coke built his rep backing up the likes of Alton Ellis, Barrington Levy, Don Cherry, and Shara Nelson. His one and only solo album offers a distinct lo-fi, soft-filtered synth-soul fusion. The cover depicts a serene beach and for sure these are six jams for laying out on the sand. “Automatically, You and Me” is a quintessential 1980s pop song, boasting rubbery production values—the drums strike with a really satisfying slap—and vocals often reminiscent of the era’s R&B singers such as Stevie B. Perhaps best of all is closer “Mesmerise A Friend,” which sees Coke passionately croon over sensual guitar licks and a squelchy synth riffs that are a pure joy on the ear.
Peace and Harmony
In the deep, deep sea of funk, soul, and afrobeat bands to rock 1970s Nigeria, The Funkees were one of the greatest. And within the band, guitarist Harry Mosco always seemed to be the one. It was Mosco and man-behind-the-music Marcel Ihekweme who initially wanted to put together a project that would appeal to the star’s youthful fan base that first brought The Funkees together. And following the band’s break-up nearly a decade later in 1978, it was the flamboyant Mosco who quickly enjoyed a solo career.
Released in 1979, Peace & Harmony is less in the vein of the band’s raw, Igbo-influenced early recordings and more akin to their later, slickly produced, more Westernized London work. “Sexy Dancer” is a Technicolor glamourama of guitar licks, a huge bassline, peppy brass, anonymous female vocal lines, and plenty of lights and lasers. “She’s Gone” is a soulful little R&B potboiler; “Peaceful Dub” seemingly pulls influences from London’s historic affinity for reggae. Best of all might be the masterfully arranged “Do It Together,” a groovy little spellbinder that combines midnight-blue keys and axe work with punctuating horns.
Some will be upset that the influence of the Aba music scene, of which The Funkees were key players, is minimized on Peace & Harmony, but what’s undeniable is that Mosco was still funky to his core.
Be What You Want To Be
The early 1980s saw Ernest Ranglin journey to Miami to hook up with fellow Jamaican music legend-turned-Florida impresario Noel Williams aka King Sporty. With Ranglin out front and Sporty serving as producer, the result was an album that doused the city’s happening music scene in glorious Caribbean vibrations. So you get the classic rocksteady of “Why Not” sitting next to classic Miami disco grooves of the title track. A highlight comes in the languid grooves of “In The Rain,” which, despite the title, sounds like a midday snooze in the Jamaican sun.
Ronie & Central do Brasil
Ronie & Central do Brasil
This 1970s Brazilian soul-pop suite is heavily reminiscent of the popular sounds of Sérgio Mendes. Using electric pianos, flutes, tenor saxophone and bass guitars (among other instruments), Ronie, aka Ronaldo Mesquita—also noted for being the Bossa Três Combo band—produced a 10-track suite of tight arrangements, soft grooves, and prominent bossa nova male/female vocal harmonies. With most of the songs failing to reach the three-minute mark, this is a zippy, infectious slice of a distinctly Brazilian sound.
For five brilliant years, Portland punks Team Dresch were queercore pioneers before going on hiatus in 1998. The band have sporadically played live shows since 2004 and, now, their whole discography—Personal Best (1994) and Captain My Captain (1995), plus Choices, Chances, Changes, a compilation of singles and rarities—is being reissued, sealing their indomitable legacy.
Hit play on Personal Best’s opener and a Team Dresch signature track, “Fagetarian and Dyke,” and it’s clear the band has lost none of their power: the band’s undiluted punk instrumentation bristles with energy while the lyrics ring with a heavy sense of burden. Many of their concerns address the hopes and concerns of gay women: the sweet “Hand Grenade” is simply about longing for love. Then there’s “Uncle Phranc,” a song that addresses parental acceptance (“My mom says she loves me/ But I don’t think it’s love/ Cause she only loves me/ When I act just like she does”). And so the reissues are a reminder Team Dresch went deeper that just something for Walkmans. They offered a sense of community when large sections of their queer fanbase needed it most.
Mostly made up of artists who never made their name beyond Ireland, Buntús Rince (which means ”basic rhythms” in Gaelic) collects 16 mostly-forgotten recordings from the island’s various music scenes. Spanning 1969 to 1981—when the country was an economically repressed, heavily conservative nation under the watch of the powerful Catholic Church—this collection uncovers Irish ingenuity in genre’s that were thriving to the nation’s right, in the UK, and to its left, across the Atlantic, in North America. Jazz, fusion and folk might be listed in the retrospective’s subtitle as its focus but just as tangible are British beat, prog rock, and American blues. Take “Lonely Man” by Mellow Candle, a progressive folk rock band led by young trio Clodagh Simonds, Alison Bools, and Maria White; their Neil Young-esque number boasts energetic twin guitar and piano lines. It’s not all unknowns here: the Rory Gallagher-led Taste are present with their brilliant slow-hand blues workout “On The Boards.” Anyone up for a second volume?