10 Albums to Buy on Bandcamp: Bandcamp Waives Revenue Share
by John Diliberto 3/19/2020
As musicians are being hard hit with cancelled concerts across the world, Bandcamp has picked a special day, Friday, March 20th, on which they will waive their revenue share and give all sales receipts to the artists. You can read about it here. Bandcamp is a rabbit hole of great releases so I have 10 great albums that are on the website for you pick. Some of them have been featured heavily on Echoes as CD of the Month picks, interviews or live performances. Others, while heavily played, may have gotten lost in the blissful sauce of the Echoes soundscape. But they get highlighted here. The Bandcamp waiver runs from midnight to midnight Pacific time.
1. YPPAH Sunset in the Deep End
YPPAH is a band that has blown me away this year. It’s the brainchild of Joe Corrales Jr. who started out as a DJ and computer jock, but with YPPAH he’s moved into more of a post-rock terrain of mostly instrumental music. You can hear echoes of Tycho in his sound with its insistent electronic grooves and ping-pong melodies, but their debut albums were released the same year, 2006. In 2020, YPPAH has its own sound which besides Corrales staccato guitar riffs also includes vocals that are rhythmically manipulated and a few relatively straight vocal tracks with Ali Coyle. Sunset in the Deep End is an album to turn up and drive into the sun with the windows down. YPPAH will be on Echoes live on Monday, March 23.
2. Steve Roach The Sky Opens
In this new Steve Roach album, and if you blinked he probably has another one out already, he documents a live 2019 performance from First United Methodist Church of Pasadena, California, in a concert series called The Ambient Church. There is certainly a sacred sensibility to this music which moves seamlessly through works drawn throughout Roach’s career beginning with a slightly more energized Structures from Silence, moving through his sequencer period with driving tracks like “The Sky Opens” and “Merge Infinite”, and stalking through the dark of his techno-tribal Dreamtime Returns era. If you’re daunted by the task of taking a deep dive into Roach’s some 140-plus releases, The Sky Opens is a great place to start.
3. Poliça When We Stay Alive
Poliça is the electronic alt rock band from Minneapolis fronted by singer Channy Leaneagh who has been heard recently on Lane 8 albums including Brightest Lights. Songs like “Feel Life” directly relate to her accident in 2018 when she fell off a roof and smashed her L1 vertebrae and bruised her spine. She tells the story of immobility and near death in a chillingly beautiful downtempo groove, her voice plaintively crying out her pain and loss and fear. Other songs deal with failed relationships and men who “lost their light to pills and blow”. Chattering percussion and a gut-throbbing bass line propel her into self-affirmation. When We Stay Alive is an album for the hard times of us all.
4. David Helpling Rune
January seems like so long ago these days, but less than 2 months back this was our CD of the Month. Oceanic landscapes and ancient runes provide the inspiration for a deep sonic dive by David Helpling. He’s from the audio processing generation, influenced initially by shape-shifting sound wizards like U2’s The Edge and later the ambient guitarist Jeff Pearce. Listening to Rune, I get different impressions than the imagery might suggest. Sometimes it’s the celestial skies or alternately, I hear the twang of Ambient Americana. “The Black Rock” is like a midnight walk through Westworld (Seasons 1 & 2) with The Man in Black lurking malevolently around the corner. Feedback clouds glisten in the sky, backlit by heat lightning auras. Similarly, “Isle in Half Light” hit me as vast western plains of sound, with a melody evoking Alan Ladd’s Shane as Joey cries, “Come back Shane” or Clint Eastwood’s The Stranger riding alone into the sunset after the last gunfight of A Fistful of Dollars. When I wrote most of this back on January 1 for my CD of the Month review. I ended with, “I can’t think of a better way to start 2020.” Who knew it was all downhill from there. But not the music which rises high above. Hear Helpling talk about Rune in the Echoes Podcast.
5. Darshan Ambient A Day Like Any Other
This is a bittersweet recommendation as Michael Allison, who is Darshan Ambient, left the planet on January 9th this year. Originally a disciple of Patrick O’Hearn, Darshan Ambient evolved immeasurably from his early mp3.com days of releases. He’s a former bassist with people like Nona Hendryx and Richard Hell, but you won’t hear that influence in his music. Instead, Allison crafted beautiful, imagistic tone poems that were full of life and deep ambient spaces where melody hung at the edge of perception. A Day Like Any Other, his final release, is a mostly exuberant work with driving tracks like “Ah! Sunflower” and “City of Seven Hymns” the later with tribal drums and slide guitar. You could hear echoes of the German group Cluster on “Wishful Thinking” and minimalism on “Lightfighter.” A Day Like Any Other is decidedly not an album like any other. Hear Darshan Ambient in the Echoes Podcast.
6. Naneum Life Cycle
Naneum is one of those artists who is so subtle that he falls way under the radar. He’s a keyboardist with a classical sensibility and ambient moods as he mixes creaky piano motifs amongst smoky Mellotron flutes, pedal steel guitar and synthesizer textures. It’s all rendered in sparse landscapes that breathe. There’s a broken music box sensibility to Naneum that you heard in 70’s groups like Cluster, even when he brings out the trap drums on “Rebirth.” The album is centered by a choir he recorded in a Brooklyn church singing hymns. He sliced and diced these hymns in ethereal choirs on tracks like “Perennial.” Life Cycle segues nicely out of artists like Agnes Obel, Voxfire and Nils Frahm. Naneum will be on Echoes live on April 13.
7. Dreaming of Ghosts Dreaming of Ghosts
This is a haunting through the glass darkly album put together by electronic artist Robot Koch and singer Fiora. Koch, who began in Germany and lives in Los Angeles now, has been making beautiful downtempo electronic music since the beginning of this century. Teaming up with Fiora, a singer in the ethereal girl electronica mold, he crafts dark, brooding tracks. The electronics are spare and organic and they perfectly complement Fiora’s lyrics, exploring illusion, and on the sultry “Let Me Know You”, sexual attraction.
8. Stephanie Sante Dark Matter Evolution
Stephane Sante is a fascinating musician who has fusion guitar chops but has recently been focusing on electronic music. She’s got a 21st century sound with echoes of Euro-Space music. She’s as fond of rubber band sequencer runs as she is of percussive minimalist cycles. Using Quantum Theory as a metaphorical starting point, her music has menacing moods like “Super Massive” and joyful major key romps like “Ripples in Time” and “Quarks Dance.” Dark Matter Evolution will dissolve the walls in these shelter-in-place days.
9. Hollan Holmes Milestones
Hollan Holmes is an American electronic artist steeped in the sounds of European space music from the 70s and 80s, notably Tangerine Dream and Jean-Michel Jarre. You can hear those influences on his latest album, Milestones. Songs like “Transmitter” churn with overlapping and Doppler sequencer patterns that start at a high clip and build in a lattice of complexity, but always driving forward. It is a high bar for retro-space artists to clear on Echoes and Hollan Holme’s Milestones does it.
10. Kevin Braheny Fortune Dreamwalker Meditation Music Volume 1
This album had my New Age Shit Radar in overdrive when I saw the title. I have piles of “Meditation Music” albums waiting to be trashed. But Kevin Braheny Fortune, who we all knew and loved as just Kevin Braheny and classic albums like The Way Home and Lullaby for the Hearts of Space in the 70s and 80s, defied my expectations with a nuanced and deeply contemplative recording. This is an album of artfully shaded electronic textures with melodies played on alto saxophone, flutes, and Fortune’s signature instrument the EWI, or Electronic Wind Instrument. He has a distinctive tone on this device, somewhere between a violin and a saxophone. Despite New Age jargon about spirit guides and chakras, Dreamwalker Meditation Music Vol.1 one transcends its packaging and imagery as a beautiful, ambient chamber work that hovers at the borders of dreams.