Tag Archives: Fire-Toolz

The Best Albums of 2018: #80 – 61

best of 2018 80-61Let’s be honest for a second: No one clicks on these lists for the introduction. I don’t blame them! This is usually just the place where some routine throat-clearing goes, before we get to the main event. It’s also the place where I confess to the amount of anxiety involved with putting together a list like this—last year, I said, “Right now, there’s probably someone in their bedroom in Buenos Aires, making a record on their computer that is going to end up on next year’s list. So as comprehensive as we’ve tried to make this list, we realize that, even at 100 albums, we’re only scratching the surface of what’s available.” Guess what? That’s still true in 2018. That said, the albums that made the cut, to us, represent the breadth and scope of the many worlds available to discover on Bandcamp, and feel like the best musical summation of the last 12 months. When we make this list, we’re not only trying to assess the year’s best music, we’re also trying to tell the story of 2018, album by album, song by song. As always, being a part of Bandcamp Daily in 2018 was a true joy; we took a look at Extratone, the world’s fastest musical genre, got familiar with the New Face of Death Metal, and spent time with artists like Yugen Blakrok, Suzanne Ciani, and Kamaal Williams. Once again, the world of music is bigger than any one list can possibly contain, so consider this a starting point on the neverending journey to discovering new sounds, new scenes, and new voices. Alright, that’s enough throat-clearing. Let’s get to the list.

—J. Edward Keyes, Editorial Director

Best of 2018 Schedule:
December 10: #100 – 81
December 11: #80 – 61
December 12: #60 – 41
December 13: #40 – 21
December 14: #20 – 1

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The Multi-Hued, Fractured Sound Art of Fire-Toolz

Fire Toolz

Photo by Matt Mateiescu


Scrolling through Angel Marcloid’s many
musicrelated web pages is like walking through the gates of heaven, only to find out that you’ll be spending the afterlife in a ‘90s chat room. On her Tumblr, brightly rendered AIM icons bubble up against jagged, disintegrating text characters and rainbow-toned 3D environments. It all might seem nauseating if it didn’t also feel so strangely close to home.

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Biggest Ups: Over 40 Artists Share Their Favorite Albums of 2017

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Bandcamp artists pick their favorite albums of the year.

One of the features on Bandcamp Daily that generates the greatest amount of enthusiasm is Big Ups. The concept is simple: we ask artists who used Bandcamp to recommend their favorite Bandcamp discoveries. So, in honor of our Best of 2017 coverage, we decided to take Big Ups and super-size it. Here, more than 40 artists to tell us their favorite albums of the year.

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The Best Albums of 2017: #80 – 61

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We’ll be revealing the full list, 20 albums at a time, this whole week.

Last year, the Bandcamp Daily staff put together our first “Best Albums of the Year List,” 100 albums we felt defined 2016 for us. At the time I remember thinking, “This is tough, but it will probably get easier as the years go on.” Now, one year later, I’m realizing that I was wrong. The truth is, the world of Bandcamp is enormous, and it contains artists from all over the world, in every conceivable genre (including a few who exist in genres of their own invention), and at every stage of their career. The fact of the matter is, any list like this is going to fall short because, on Bandcamp, there is always more to discover. Right now, there’s probably someone in their bedroom in Buenos Aires, making a record on their computer that is going to end up on next year’s list. So as comprehensive as we’ve tried to make this list, we realize that, even at 100 albums, we’re only scratching the surface of what’s available. The albums that made this list, though, were the ones that stayed with us long after they were released—the ones we returned to again and again and found their pleasures undimmed, and their songs still rewarding.

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Album of the Day: Fire-Toolz, “Drip Mental”

As the human experience grows increasingly entangled with technology, the idea of “sensory saturation” has gone from a minor annoyance to an everyday fact of life. Music—particularly sample-based music—reflects this; with the advent of mashups and memes, all media has become fair game for recycling and re-use, a process that, at its worst, flattens all of its source sounds, images, and ideas into an endless barrage of kitsch.

On the surface, it would be easy to mistake Chicago-based electronic producer/multi-instrumentalist Angel Marcloid for just another mashup artist. On Drip Mental, her second album under the pseudonym Fire-Toolz, Marcloid combines blood-curdling black metal howls with the kind of bubblegum synth-pop that used to soundtrack VHS workout videos in the ’80s. Yes, Marcloid plays up the contrast between those two elements for maximum absurdity, but Drip Mental is more than just an orgy of stimulation.

Campy and disturbing at the same time, the album illuminates, challenges, and ultimately makes art out of our relationship with media. The samples on Drip Mental bob and weave in the music like loose space junk—a reverb-drenched smooth-jazz saxophone figure, courtesy of Richard Elliott, pings against an iconic riff by math metal outfit The Dillinger Escape Plan; a punchline delivered by cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants brushes shoulders with a spooky voice whispering “Look behind you,” a sample from a Halloween item she saw at a big box store.

Drip Mental creates an almost dementia-like effect by wrenching its various samples free from any context. Marcloid has been releasing music for years under a host of monikers, including ambient titles like last year’s Blatherskite Empath Analysis of Omen Puzzle ’92. And while she draws from a harsher, denser palette on Drip Mental, her affinity for wide-open soundscapes shines through all the abrasiveness, binding together the music’s disparate sounds. On opening track “Subconscious Pilsen Relics Pt 2 [CODENAME_AIRPLANE MODE],” Elliott’s saxophone decays into a vaporous swirl that, for a few seconds at least, aspires to the majesty of, say, Vangelis’ Blade Runner score.

The album is just as effective when it gets ugly. Marcloid’s muffled screams of the words “I dreamt that every man who didn’t fight for me was shot” at the end of “All Deth is U [CODENAME_FINAL TOUCH LOCATION]” cut through the darkness, evoking a violent kind of anguish. It is in moments like these, or when Marcloid sings that “Guns don’t kill people unless the guns are me/ In a sea of semen a slug can still be free,” that Drip Mental is at its most disturbingly provocative and, paradoxically, its most human.

Throughout, Marcloid references early-’90s artifacts of internet and computer culture—a sound evoking the familiar ping that once announced a new e-mail message, the fonts and the tower-style PC that grace the album cover—but she operates in a universe wholly separate from smiley-faced chiptune artists who romanticize dated media formats.

As well she should. In the age of Gamergate and cyberbullying, we are too well-acquainted with the internet’s menacing underbelly to focus solely on tickling ourselves with its surface joys. Though Drip Mental‘s lens is aimed at the past, it’s hardly nostalgic. Instead, it offers stark insights into contemporary online existence. For years, sci-fi and cyberpunk have warned of soon-coming future dystopias. On Drip Mental, that dystopia is now, and it’s an internal condition. Angel Marcloid explores that treacherous terrain with sharp insight and skill.

—Saby Reyes-Kulkarni