Lockdown dungeon synth, Chicago-influenced house and Australian "doof deep" make up this week's Bandcamp highlights.
Bandcamp has emerged as one of the most ethical platforms for buying music, with a favourable fee structure that means most money spent on Bandcamp goes directly to the artist or label. In an effort to support the music we love, we've started a weekly Bandcamp roundup highlighting our favourite new releases available on the platform, as selected by our staff.
Ntu - Perfect Blue
Self-described "R&B princess" Ntu makes a skeletal but sexy form of the genre that feels au courant—swooning but muted synths, organic drum sounds and hip-hop hi-hats—but it's written in a distinct, unusual style. On the title track, his voice unfurls elongated hooks around slow, languorous drum patterns, before going double-time in the verse. It's a hip-hop vocal dexterity in an electronic torch song context, and it's just one highlight on a strong EP full of them.
OK EG - Anther
Despite having only averaged one release per year since its launch in 2015, Melbourne label Steeplejack has built the foundations of an important outlet for local artists taking a tougher twist on club sounds. Now with the launch of its digital arm, Steeplenet, output is set to ramp up considerably, with six upcoming releases due to dip into drum & bass, trance, IDM and electro, all with an Australian flavour. The first release, Anther, by Melbourne's OK EG, is what the label calls "doof deep," and it's an immersive, broken techno trip that the duo says "incorporates a sound library we built from recordings of found materials like sand, shells, grass, glass and plastic."
Ash Glacier - Cave Of Echoes
Beijing's Ash Glacier mentions dungeon synth, "modern trance revival" and RPG video game music as reference points for Cave Of Echoes. Colour us interested. This EP was made during the beginning of the national lockdown in China, "a journey into a deep dungeon without any idea of what's to come at the end," Glacier says. The recordings feel claustrophobic and dense, but the melodies are often hopeful and uplifting, one for fans of Emeralds and other modern synth practitioners.
Don Equivel - La Estancia
Muy Muy, the label from Los Angeles DJs Perfect Lovers and Victor Rodriguez, launched with an excellent release from Tennessee's Nikki Nair earlier this year, and their second release continues the streak. Mexican producer Don Esquivel's La Estencia EP features three tracks of vintage, feel-good house, like the old Chicago stuff with modern production values. The slippery "Special," with its addictive vocal sample and vamping synth melody, is the pick of the litter. Even better, 50 percent of proceeds go towards Divas Nos Queremos, an NGO that provides microloans to trans people in Mexico during the pandemic.
Chester Anand Raj - Strawberry
The producer otherwise known as Lord Raja gets introspective for the Quiet Time Tapes label, who are releasing this one on vinyl instead of the usual cassette. No wonder—this one is special, featuring gorgeous synth vignettes with simple but poignant melodies and immersive atmospheres. He recorded it during a trip to Japan, where he went into synth shops and secretly recorded himself playing on them, later editing those soundbites into full compositions and adding field recordings, too. Okay, going to Japan and throwing in field recordings of the subways and the streets might be a little clichéd now, but you can't argue with these results.
Hugh B & Setwun - Yeah Definitely
OTIS Records head Hugh B thrives on collaboration, and his latest joint project with fellow Sydneysider and jazz lover Setwun is another example of the enthusiasm that a new studio partnership inspires. Yeah Definitely feels like the end product of a long session of excitedly sharing deep cuts from each other's record collections—it's a delightful mini-album of dubby, sample-driven grooves perfect for an unhurried afternoon in the sun.
Powell - aƒ7 ➜ midi - flex 222_mini_lp
Diagonal boss Powell released a flurry of material this month, and this 23-minute track might be the most intriguing of them all. Recorded over what must have been a pretty heady week in April during lockdown, it consists of squiggles, random cascades of notes and deep, heavy drones. Rashad Becker comes to mind, but a more accurate comparison might be Florian Hecker's classic Acid In The Style Of David Tudor, with which Powell's composition shares an approach: computer-controlled modular synth. If that ticks any boxes for you, then check this one out.
Roche - Modern Intensity
San Francisco's Roche is one of the most reliable and consistent producers when it comes to synth-heavy dance music: just listen to that delicious and delirious bleeping on "Sensitive Track," a tune full of wonderful synth sounds underpinned by a jogging rhythm and beautiful sustain chords. This is dance music that puts melody first, and this five-track mini-LP is a great showcase of what Roche can do, from heavenly broken beat ("All Things Before And All Things After") and deeper-than-deep techno ("Sunrise With The Homies.")
Masaki Uchida - Amatelucas
Masaki Uchida debuts on Sigha's recently revived Our Circula Sound label with a worthy follow-up to last year's IDM-tinged releases. Uchida makes glitchy, stuttery techno loaded with emotion and melodrama and, more importantly, detail. For anyone who's into the PAN school of techno, or global experimental club music, this one's a worthy contender—and check out the last few Our Circula Sound releases while you're at it.