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Mark Rowland in 'Bandcamp Explorer' goes on a continent-by-continent trip around the world.
We’ve done quite a few of these now, and while I haven’t come close to running out of the many categories and tags on the Bandcamp website, does it always have to be a genre? Technically, artists can tag their works with whatever words and phrases they want. One of the more popular non-musical tags is a country or city tag, so you know where the artist is from.
So this month, we’re going on a bit of a world tour; I’ve got a recommendation from every continent on Earth (apart from Antarctica. Penguins tend not to form many bands). Because there aren’t continent tags, I’ve picked a country from each continent and focused in on at least one release from that area. Admittedly, this is a considerably reductive way to represent the world’s musical art, but creating a more representative list would take forever, and I have stuff to do. I do promise that I will do future columns on other areas of the world to make up for it.
First up, Europe. For this, I’ve popped over the continent to France, which has a rich and distinct history of pop music that I personally love. Honourable mentions go to the almighty Perturbator and his latest synth-heavy cyberpunk epic, ‘Lustful Sacraments’, and this album of 31 ukelele rock and pop covers by Les Excellents. My ‘winner’, however, is ‘Le Dernier Album’ by Mendelson, which fuses Godspeed-style post-rock and 20th-century chanson. It’s only five tracks, two of which go for more than 10 minutes, but it’s really cool in a distinctly gallic way.
A hop over the Atlantic now to Canada, representing North America. There’s some promising modern classical compositions on Jessica Moss’s ‘Phosphenes’, and Kodan Armada’s self-titled album delivers some great avant-punk with some serious hints of Sonic Youth and Slint. But the lovely, quirky guitar pop of Andy Shauf’s ‘Wilds’ is my main pick. Shauf’s songs have a decidedly 60s feel to them, delivered in a moderately lo-fi, laid back shuffle. It’s great.
Now, we head south to Argentina. Not so many new release albums from this region, but some very compelling tracks. For example, Amarú x MAJA ‘Fe en La Mantis’, which combines pounding electronic drums with distinctly latin rhythms. Un dia soleado delivers two-and-a-half minutes of jangly joy with their song ‘Skate 3’. But my vote goes to the eight tracks of ultra-heavy spack rock on Black Sky Giant’s ‘Falling Mothership’. If you like your guitars low and fuzzy, your riffs big, your drums pounding, and your random whoosh noises vaguely psychedelic, you can’t go wrong with this.
Let’s pop back across the Atlantic to South Africa. Lots of promising releases in the pipeline here, such as Malcolm Jiyane Tree-O’s ‘UMDALI’, five tracks of only-slightly-avant-jazz. Or Angel Ho’s experimental hip hop tribute to the trans community, ‘Queen of Queens’. Or a split single from Lesley Bee & Suup Zulu and X14, ‘Sdwadlo / iNtsila’, issued by black-led community organisation Create Define Release, also offering experimental hip hop. Best of the bunch however is Thandi Draai’s two songs from the forthcoming ‘Africa Gets Physical Vol 4’ compilation. These are two catchy Afrohouse tracks produced in collaboration with DJ Beekay and Candy Man respectively. The latter in particular is great.
Off we head to Asia, Japan specifically. There was a head and shoulders clear highlight here, and that’s the reissue of Aunt Sally’s seminal, self-titled post-punk album. For those that have never heard Aunt Sally, they certainly sat at the more dissonant and weird end of the post-punk spectrum, flitting between brittle, noisy guitars and plinky keyboard waltzes. ‘Subete Urimono’ is a real highlight, with its catchy bassline and singer Phew’s catchy yelps. Elsewhere, we have the lovely folk/classical sounds of Machinone’s ‘Wind Letter’, and the ambient jazz of Hiroshi Minami and Eiko Ishibashi’s ‘Gasping_Sighing_Sobbing’.
Finally, we’ve made it to Oceania, New Zealand to be precise. CRUSH’s single ‘Fuck the Noise/Fantasy Fiction’ stood out with its woozy dream pop, and French for Rabbits’ upcoming ‘The Overflow’ gave me something I didn’t know I wanted – a sort of ethereal version of Fleetwood Mac (the Buckingham/Nicks era). But my winner, because I’m a sucker for wonky indie folk, is ‘Dog II’ by Mudgoose. This album is true lo-fi, complete with tape warping, bringing to mind anti-folkers like Jeff Lewis and Moldy Peaches, but also early Tyrannosaurus Rex. Excellent stuff.