January 21, 2013 Mostly Noise – the best of 2012 (“this one time, on Bandcamp…”)
It’s January and, by now, you’ve probably read enough year-end lists to last you until, well, the end of this year. So here’s another one. The only difference is that all of these 2012 releases are available on Bandcamp, and some of them are even free. And if there’s one thing I can’t refuse, it’s free music (even bad free music; you don’t want to know how many Lil B mixtapes I downloaded in 2012).
If you’ve heard the name Greydon Square before, chances are it was an article about him being ‘the atheist rapper’, who counts Pen Jillette and Richard Dawkins among his fans. Now, I don’t know about you, but Richard Dawkins usually isn’t my go-to guy when it comes to hip-hop recommendations. Nevertheless, Type II is a fine album, and in terms of song-writing and production it’s probably Greydon Square’s best to date. There’s more to his songs than just the science and religion aspect, though, as he also deals with his own upbringing in Compton. After getting involved in gangs and spending time in detention centres, and with employment options limited, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, went to Iraq, then used the money he earned to fund a physics degree. It’s a similar story to the one told in Kendrick Lamar’s ‘good kid, m.A.A.d city’, except without the finding-God-and-redemption ending, obviously.
Metal fans are quite well-catered for on Bandcamp, with labels like Candlelight Records and Profound Lore Records releasing a large proportion of their catalogues through the site. New York black metal band Krallice were signed to the latter, but after being informed that Profound Lore didn’t want to release their new album so soon after the last one, they decided to release it themselves. The result is one of their most intense and focused records to date. The album title and cryptic song titles apparently refer to the collapse and rebirth of the universe. If you want to know what kind of noise the Big Crunch makes, guitarist Colin Marston explains the secret of their sound, ‘We doubled all the guitar parts…[then] added some extra guitars.’ Can’t argue with that.
This time four years ago I was standing on the deck of a research ship in the Southern Ocean, watching the waves and icebergs drift past, while listening to Fennesz’s ‘Black Sea’. Yeah, go me. Future Shackletons might want to consider this album by Berlin-based musician Peter Prautzsch as the soundtrack to their expeditions. In concept and execution it bears comparison with works by Jóhann Jóhannsson and Richard Skelton; a mixture of orchestral and ambient music interspersed with various samples and field recordings, paying tribute to Arctic and Antarctic explorers. You might not contract scurvy while listening to it, but it might be wise to keep some vitamin C tablets handy, just in case.
Bandcamp isn’t just a home for up-and-coming or underground bands to flog their new releases, though, as you can also find reissues of long out-of-print records by cult artists. I first read about The Green Pajamas in this 1999 Guardian article by Tom Cox. Like some kind of loser, I was determined to track down all the albums mentioned (although I never did find a copy of that Lotion record). Since then, the GP’s 1998 release, All Clues Lead To Meagan’s Bed, is probably one of my most-listened-to albums to this day. Their Paisley Underground-esque brand of psychedelic pop dates back to the mid 1980s, and their Bandcamp page includes reissues of their cassette-only early albums, up to their most recent – their 30th – album, last year’s Death By Misadventure.
To round things off, here are a couple of acts that you might be hearing more of in 2013. Roadkill Ghost Choir have a Fleet Foxes-esque folk/rock sound that will undoubtedly make Uncut reviewers very excited indeed, while Lily & Madeleine are teenage folk singer sisters from Indianapolis who are currently at #1 in the Bandcamp sales chart.