Sophie Coletta's Unsigned & Self-Released Music For November
, November 8th, 2013 08:38
In this month's column gathering self-released and unsigned music and demos, Sophie Coletta takes another Bandcamp deep dive to unearth some hidden gems
As Quietus new music editor Rory Gibb pointed out on Twitter last month: "There is too much music". During my time writing this column, that statement has felt increasingly valid. Not only is there a vast ocean of established artists releasing material at an ever-increasing and frustratingly uncatchable rate; but there are also thousands upon thousands of artists below the surface, hopelessly scratching away at the layer above.
One way of emerging from beneath this seemingly impenetrable tide is to self-release. The role of Bandcamp in particular has become pivotal in encouraging the DIY ethic; unknown, (and indeed known) artists are able to market their music to a worldwide audience through a simple streaming interface, allowing listeners to then download or buy physical copies of their music at a price chosen either by themselves or by the listener, all without the need of label backing. As Adam Harper points out in his excellent essay on the outer reaches of the site, one of the most integral aspects of the Bandcamp ethos, which seems to have been neglected by other streaming services, is that "Bandcamp currently has an enticingly independent and underground feel – you won't find bland major artists topping the site's popularity charts or depressing you in banners on the homepage."
Aside from the deluge of demos that land in my inbox each month, Bandcamp has been an essential tool in collating material for this column, an interface in which the hordes of music let loose into the world each day (hour, even) are presented as little squares of artwork to momentarily dip in to, to order by date or genre or popularity (the latter of which, in the case of this project in hand, is well avoided.) Here are four recently released albums that have caught my attention this month.
Imre Kiss – Midnight Wave
DIY Budapest label Farbwechsel is still in its relative infancy. Conceived last year, its focus initially centered around a blog to promote the music of its peers, before later becoming a platform to release work produced by co-founders Martin Mikolai (Silf/S Olbricht) and Balazs Semsei (Norwell), as well as their Hungarian associates Imre Kiss, Route 8, 12z, and AIWA. Among Farbwechsel's capsule discography sits a notable album by Mikolai, who, under the guise of fictional character S Olbricht, released a shadowy, techno concept album entitled The Last Act Of Dorothy Stratten on cassette last year, inspired by the real life murder of playmate Dorothy Stratten, who was killed by her estranged husband Paul Snider in the early 80s. It's definitely worth a listen (you can check it out here) and notably made the top of Opal Tapes' Stephen Bishop's Boomkat album chart last year.
Farbwechsel's latest release comes from Imre Kiss, a producer currently living in London and working as a graphic designer. His full-length album Midnight Wave showcases a murky tour through Hungary's underground electronic music scene; tangible melancholy churned meticulously through muffled percussion and the occasional down-pitched vocal sample. There is something of a familiarity to these tracks – not enough to render them tedious or repetitive, but which pervades each and every moment to the point where you are tricked into thinking you can predict tonal changes before they even occur. On 'Gray's Legend' the frantic ticking of percussion that leads from the outset provides much needed meditative backing to the throbbed-out notes which follow this familiar trajectory, later becoming interspersed with occasional whirring, car alarm-esque synth chords and a carefully planned moment of silence close to its finish. Martin Mikolai fills it out entirely in a later remix, slowly swelling out its body of percussion and synth like balloons filled with water. The result is something entirely bleaker, which rises slowly in intensity and volume until it bursts suddenly, becoming completely sunken below the surface.
Winkie – One Day We Pretended To Be Ghosts
Brooklyn's Peter Santiago and Gina Spiteri self-released their debut album One Day We Pretended To Be Ghosts at the beginning of this month ,after an earlier release of album track 'My Eyes Are Closed When The Sun Comes Up' in June. The duo's long, drawn-out, distorted guitar chords and whirring synths find parallels in music by The Soft Moon, or perhaps even Blank Dogs – it's a dark, intense excursion, fraught with shoegaze-y brooding and subtle sexiness.
Of course, as with many self-produced records, there are some problematic aspects to the album, namely the fact that at times the many layers of sound reach the roof of your aural tolerance, and on occasion become a little too intense to bear; Spiteri's vocals lurking too far away to relieve the tiers of noise filling up the space between your ears. On 'Illuminated', however, which coincidentally sounds like it should be soundtracking a Harmony Korine-directed, strobing club meltdown, it works well, its fuzzy, ravaged guitar lines weaving in and out of vocal that seem to be coming from underwater. Elongation seems to be an integral part of Winkie's compositional approach - on 'The Line Up' in particular, Spiteri's vocals compete with her own synth chords, building upon the towering layers of sound that become increasingly sullen with every stroke. Aside from the transitory moments that make you feel a bit like you're simultaneously experiencing a catastrophic hangover while lying in a pool of that stuff you roll on your forehead to relieve headaches, it's a promising effort.
Hanz – A Brief Guide
24 year-old North Carolina-based producer Brandon Juhans has been releasing music under his Hanz alias for a little over a year now. Having previously worked with underground rappers such as Speak, Mach Five and Chris Villa, as well as producing a selection of his own hip hop instrumentals; A Brief Guide is his third EP, although in length and cohesive nature it perhaps feels more appropriate to label it as a full-length album.
If done badly, hip hop instrumentals can be difficult to listen to, filled full of blank background sequences or resorting to repetitiveness or clichés. A Brief Guide however, casts asides these aspersions instantly, building up an intriguing collage of avant-garde meanderings. Juhans' sampling is particularly of interest here – he draws a variety of genres of music, and by the sounds of it, a whole host of film and alternative pop culture soundbites. These threads are knitted together, creating mixed results; the recurrent sample of a woman barking on 'Outchea' for example, is simultaneously disconcerting, amusing and downright annoying, whilst the whispering on 'Checkmate' paired with sweeping cosmic chords and intermittent bleeps is much more favourable.
At times it feels like you're listening to the results of someone messing around on an Akai MPC in their bedroom – which is most likely the case – but for the most part it doesn't sound as slovenly or erratic as you might immediately assume. Juhans' moments of subtlety are where the album works most effectively, the delicate changes in 'Ghetto Spirit Zeus' all follow a pattern of illegible murmurings that themselves dip in and out of sequence and, over the course of almost twenty minutes, slowly evolve into something entirely different.
Toony TuneS – KingTuneS
Toony TuneS, who presumably goes by a variety of other names judging by his self-imposed 'more names than fans' epithet, is 23 and currently resides within the peripheries of LA. Pair these facts with his deep, gravelly tones, and it doesn't take much to come to lazy (and sadly already instated) Tyler the Creator comparisons. In actual fact, TuneS' discography falls more in line with the experimental work of MF Doom and the critically underrated Camo Tao. His most notable work, Conducted Sounds of Drama, was released in 2011; a collaboration with enigmatic producer Mr. Mockwell, who, according to Internet forum legend, was only thirteen years old at time of recording. The album, which can be found here, boasts a selection of eclectic, Madlib-inspired beats, TuneS defiant on each and every one, taking audible gulps of air before verses as Mockwell jostles from track to track, switching from jazzy instrumentals and stripped-down percussion samples to heavy, air raid siren basslines and Malcolm X speeches ripped from YouTube.
TuneS has since trailed a prolific path of releases through his Bandcamp and Soundcloud profiles; an entire stack of free mixtapes and a track every Tuesday throughout last year, a campaign he called Toonsday. Having worked with up and coming producers such as Kaytradamus, Michael Uzowuru and Theolonius Martin, his latest release, KingTuneS, released through Bandcamp this month, sees him team up with 21-year old fellow Californian Levi King. The pair met through a mutual friend over the internet, and the album was made in little under a year, with the duo crashing at each other's houses whilst working together. KingTuneS is somewhat of a coming-of-age tale; Toony, with a rasping slurred intonation, recounts anecdotes of fear, lust, realisation, and ultimately, loss, masquerading in the social rise and fall of a fictional regal figure. His lyricism is arguably at its best on 'KingDumb', where he forgoes a hook for sluggish rhymes that slot immaculately over King's chopped up and stitched back together production, giving way to an impressive rhyme-littered conclusion.
I Am Demo Suzuki returns next month. If you are a new artist, in whatever genre, and would like to be included in a forthcoming Demo Suzuki please email firstname.lastname@example.org with links - not MP3 attachments - and Sophie will give you the attention of her ears.