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.
Wewantsounds continues their journey through the archives of Bob Shad’s Mainstream Records with Alice Clark’s 1972 self-titled album, a rum punch of gut-busting, uptempo soul that encapsulates the new grooves that rippled through the genre at the time. Loaded with drum rolls, organ solos, and prominent brass work, its an orchestrally visceral suite. Front and center, though, is the dynamic Clark, whose vocals fill out the sound. “Never Did I Stop Loving You” mirrors the classic work Marvin Gaye was doing for at Motown at the time. And when Clarke laments, “It’s really bad when Friday comes, because I know the weekend lies ahead,” on her version of “It Takes Too Long To Learn To Live Alone,” it cuts deep; nothing compares to her bygone lover.
Break the Chains
On first inspection, Break the Chains seems like the kind of music you could throw on in a restaurant—pleasant on the ear, mannered enough to not make a fuss. (Hell, there might even be some pan flutes in there.) But with close listening, Jake Hottell’s debut album reveals itself to be a cosmic wonder. Creatively stirred by his anger towards the Reagan government, it took three years for Hottell to record Chains, which finally received a release in 1985. The result is a set that’s equally sci-fi and earthy, the gentle drum machine rhythms holding hands with dreamy synths as the arrangements slink along. In the middle comes “Horizon,” which features a spoken word vocal from Hottell’s fellow El Paso native Darald McCabe. That McCabe’s homemade purified water is said to have helped Hottell recover from serious illness gives you some idea of the deeply personal nature of Break The Chains.
Compact Disc (CD), Cassette, Vinyl LP, T-Shirt/Apparel
Collecting the group’s non-album singles, B-sides, and other rarities dating back to 2009 (including long out-of-print, pre-Sub Pop recordings), Automat is a showcase for Metz’s vicious noise-punk sound. The Canadian trio—Alex Edkins, Hayden Menzies, and Chris Slorach—shred their way through a disorienting, shattering set that pitches camp on the sonic map somewhere south of Mclusky. The demo of “Wet Blanket” is a pummeling wig-out that encapsulates Metz’s ferocity. The band are still active (their last album, Strange Peace, was recorded with Steve Albini) but their legacy feels even more secure with this collection.
Ondigui And Bota Tabansi International
Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD)
A prime example of “highlife-soukous,” a hybrid of East Nigerian Igbo culture and Congolese rumba popular in West Africa in the late 1970s and early ‘80s, Ondigui And Bota Tabansi International’s Ewondo Rythm is an up-tempo masterclass in highlife guitar licks and propulsive percussion. None of the five songs fall below six minutes, giving plenty of time to lengthy axe work, hot brass, and weathered vocals lines backed up by playful harmonies. Right in the middle of the record is “Meveg,” its slinking rhythm offering a counterpoint to the rest of the album’s pep.
You Remind Me (The Classic Elektra Recordings 1978-1984)
Compact Disc (CD), Vinyl
Remembering the most commercially successful period of Patrice Rushen’s career, You Remind Me (The Classic Elektra Recordings 1978-1984) showcases a post-disco queen who fused catchy beats with gentle R&B vocals. Hits like “Feels So Real” and “Forget Me Nots”—famously sampled wholesale on Will Smith’s “Men in Black,” as well as George Michael’s “Fastlove”—are here in their 12” versions, but You Remind Me (The Classic Elektra Recordings 1978-1984) goes deeper into Rushen’s legacy. “Settle for My Love” is a ballad that evokes memories of Minnie Riperton. And on “To Each His Own”—also notably sampled, this time by Knxledge and Anderson .Paak (as NxWorries) on their song “Droogs”—Rushen’s soft, soulful voice slinks over popping bassline with supreme sophistication.
Brought to Light
We need more labels like FatCat Records. Since its establishment in 1997, the Brighton-based company has helped foster an era of indie rock by introducing a wider audience to bands like Animal Collective, The Twilight Sad, We Were Promised Jetpacks, and No Age. But the first installment of Brought To Light is not about its big successes. Instead, it’s a collection of demos that were submitted over the last few years from bands that FatCat deemed worthy of amplifying. Mostly focusing on indie (future editions of the series will feature other genres), this is a set of catchy DIY tunes. Highlights are everywhere: the trashy production values of Younolovebunny’s “7” can’t bury a pleasing little melody; Lightning Bug’s “Bobby” is propelled by a muscular electro-bass rhythm section and an angelic vocal line. It’s a worthy portal into bands that deserve more attention.
The Young Ones Of Guyana
On Tour / Reunion
2 x Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD)
BBE Music treated us to a double dose of The Young Ones Of Guyana this summer: The label has fused two albums from these cool purveyors of rocksteady and reggae. On On Tour, recorded in London in 1970, the band play with styles that were also hugely popular with British mods and skinheads back in the day, building their classic Caribbean arrangements with gentle guitar lines, rhythmic percussion, and prominent organs. The band recorded Reunion three years later when several members coincidentally found themselves in Toronto—the album was released only in Guyana and the Caribbean, but it still tinkers with various Western styles. The band’s cover of Bread’s “Guitar Man” preserves its soft rock sentiment. There are two Bill Withers covers. The band even tackle “Love Theme From The Godfather,” the familiar melody perfectly purred out Hammond organs and Fender guitars.