Maral & Lara Sarkissian, Sofie Birch, All Is Well, Alene Marie, Nux Vomica, han, Dean Hurley, John Reppion and Peter Baker, Head High, Amulet of Tears, Ultraflex and akari
First of all, I should probably let you know that today is not a Bandcamp Friday. In two weeks, Bandcamp will be running a fundraiser where its own revenue share will go to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, to mark Juneteenth, and then the next BCF will be on September 2.
It’s June. Brace yourself for mid-year list season. I’m still digesting stuff from earlier in the year, while revisiting music from 20+ years ago alongside much-appreciated promo material. Who has time for lists?!
Maral and Lara Sarkissian are two artists whose new work I always check, so a collaboration was most exciting. Two California-based artists who explore the sounds of their ancestral heritage (Iran and Armenia, respectively) in a context that’s both respectful and forward-thinking. Their pairing doesn’t disappoint, offering the sludge and scuzz Maral is known for as well as Sarkissian’s club-leaning stomp. The melodies are fascinating and the layers of sound are somehow both intricate and murky.
Whatever I said about lists up above, this is one of my favourite releases of 2022 so far. It was listening to it this week while washing up that it really spoke to me, even as much as I had enjoyed it prior to that occasion. Delicate electronics peppered with saxophone that shifts between subtle and sultry to downright cacophonous, the album is a hazy glow of delight. One track, ‘Humidity’, is almost literally radiant, while ‘Tide Rose’, the album’s longest track, features a low hum that could be the sound of a vibrating phone, as well as a persistent ring, almost as if the listener is suspended in some kind of trance with only echoey remnants of their quotidian existence.
Described by the label as “updated modern Deep House but not too modern”, this is deep and vibey. Yeah, vibey. The vibes, they are good. Deep and good. Three versions of the organ-led title track, as well as the mournful tones of ‘Sarassota’. Good. Vibes.
I’ve been awed by the few available tracks on this release prior to the release date, electronic jewels that shine whichever way you approach them. Now the full album is here and I’m like the proverbial kid in a candy shop. ‘River Meets the Sea (Old Friends)’ is as heart-wrenching and elegiac as you might imagine, while ‘Luminous Gulch’, in collaboration with Fanciulla Gentile and Nihar, is almost quaint in its frivolity, rather than the dank suggestion of its title.
This release has an incredible title and incredible artwork. It comes from Japanese folklore, and relates to a spirit that takes the form of a kind of “raccoon dog”. The kettle/dog changes shape at will and ends up performing in a circus. The music isn’t nearly as frivolous as that tale might suggest, instead feeling like scorched drone, perhaps soundtracking the grief of the spirit’s friend upon its return to the netherworld.
“This tape explores what the audio output of a fictional Institute of Ecoterrorism would sound like.” Titles like ‘Sober Vegeterian Luddite’ and ‘Ascetic Weirdo’ perhaps refer to the members of this institute, or maybe they are autobiographical epithets. The music is distinctly uncategorisable, unplaceable. Melodies appear in the closer ‘Tang Ping’, while bizarre fuzz and stomp accompany strange vocal exhortations in ‘Community Monkey Wrench Initiative’. “We’re smashing some wing mirrors — bring your kids!” Inspirational.
This grabbed my attention because it’s Dean Hurley (of Twin Peaks/Boomkat Editions/Ecstatic fame) but it’s a richer and grander piece of work than that alone. It’s the latest edition of the Tales from the Library of the Occult series, in which artists soundtrack stories written by John Reppion. Previous editions have featured music from Blood and Dust and Dream Division (who I believe runs the label), with readings performed by Katherine Peach and Matthew Holness (aka Garth Marenghi). This edition is narrated by Peter Baker, and the music is from Mr Hurley. The first track is a 17-minute unit, featuring the story and its accompaniment, and this is followed by the instrumentals, broken up into eight parts. The story tells of a murderer given a new lease of life by medication, exploring new avenues to satisfy his bloodlust. I listened to the music a few times before giving the story a go, and the timbre of the narrator’s voice along with the digital processing that’s been applied are really quite something. Going back to the music alone, it almost feels naked.
I mentioned Shed last week, and was close to featuring this release but couldn’t find room. It’s a 15-track compilation that features his work under the names Head High, Zig Gonzalezz and WK7, as well as collaborations with Cassy and Virginia. Not unlike Flower above, the opening track seems to be a mix of everything within, with the next 14 tracks being the constituent parts in their unmixed formats. Big chonky bangers.
Amulet of Tears is a great label but more importantly, the music they release is really gut-wrenching. Ten tracks, inspired by Invisible Cities, a novel by writer Italo Calvino. Each track tackles this concept in its own way, through searing drone or richly sonorous electronic processes.
On a completely different tip, here’s a slightly bonkers summer jam. It’s “an ode to Northern European tourists partying in the South of Europe”. This duo, made up of Farao from Norway and Special-K from Iceland, have previously been released by DJ Sotofett & Telephones, a glowing stamp of approval if needed. This jam colourful and exciting, glitzy with up-tempo holiday vibes and even a hint of airhorn.
More summery jams, this time from Brooklyn producer akari. Four sun-drenched house jams, with g-funk-esque chords and sultry vibes throughout.