From serpentwithfeet’s transcendent R&B to Doon Kanda’s biomorphic sound
The second quarter of 2018 has borne witness to a tsunami of high profile rap, R&B, electronica, and indie releases, but for every killer A-list release like Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy, there’s been pure filler like Kanye West’s ye. As always, below the tidal waves, new talents are bubbling up, even if they’re making a smaller impact. In our ongoing celebration of the musicians, artists, and producers with real visions and important statements to make, we pulled out ten essential second-quarter 2018 releases from Bandcamp. From serpentwithfeet’s avant-R&B hymns of queer love to Niña Dioz’ scene-stealing Spanish language rap songs, independent culture remains vital.
DOON KANDA, LUNA
WHO: The musical alias of an acclaimed multimedia artist who, as well as creating beautifully nightmarish biomorphic visuals, knows how to turn a beat inside out.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: Jesse Kanda is best known for the visuals he’s created for Arca, FKA twigs, Björk, and fashion label Hood By Air, but he’s also a talented beatmaker and producer in his own right. Kode9’s Hyperdub record label was quick to recognise this and has released two mercurial and psychedelic EPs from Kanda under his Doon Kanda alias. The Luna EP is less abstract than last year’s Heart, marrying extraterrestrial melodies with earthly rhythms. The result is familiar yet alien, recalling the frosty eskibeat sound of instrumental grime, the dayglo synth swirls of Los Angeles’s storied beat scene, and Bristol’s forgotten ‘purple’ era. It’s a hypnotic reminder of the limits of language, and the possibilities for expression beyond logical thought.
FOR FANS OF: Hyperdub, Actress, Autechre
KADHJA BONET, CHILDQUEEN
WHO: A Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist with an ear for the future and the past.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: Kadhja Bonet’s genre-crossing psychedelic soul music has been assuredly finding sympathetic ears and hearts around the world. Her 2016 debut album The Visitor arrived on the back of a magical realist myth-story about an artist who was born in 1784 in the backseat of a sea-foam green space pinto, and served as a compelling statement on what the YouTube generation could do given the space to recast their influences into something new. 2018’s Childqueen follows step with The Visitor, but this time around, the songs – a vivid blend of pastoral folk, 70s hi-fi funk, vintage soul, and helium-filled psychedelica – are a Hero’s Quest of sorts, as Bonet challenges herself and us to create like the unfettered child, or childqueen, you once were.
FOR FANS OF: Erykah Badu, Vashti Bunyan, Alice Coltrane
WHO: An unhurried electronic musician from south London with an open-eared palette and a willingness to try things out.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: Klein has a fearlessness and a willingness to explore, engage, mystify, and infuriate listeners with her music. Over the past two years she’s produced her version of a ‘Disney Musical’ at the ICA, toured Asia and Australia, opened for Kelela, Björk, and serpentwithfeet, and now released her remarkable CC EP. Across CC’s seven songs, Klein coalesces inner-city field recordings, glossy 90s Metalheadz-era synths, pitch-bent spoken word poetry, abrasive noise bursts, VGM bleeps and bloops, pulsing, twitching rhythms, and various chopped and screwed samples into complex sound art loaded with conflicting emotions. One for the clubs and the galleries.
FOR FANS OF: Dean Blunt, Mhysa, Elysia Crampton
KODY NIELSON, BIRTHDAY SUITE
WHO: The younger brother of Unknown Mortal Orchestra frontman Ruban Nielson, and a singular talent in his own right.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: Before making music with Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Ruban Nielson was in the New Zealand art-rock band The Mint Chicks with his younger brother Kody. As UMO’s star began to rise, the younger Nielson rolled out his own projects too: the breezy indie-psychedelica of Opossum, the oddball synth-pop of Silicon, and a series of cinematic experiments under his own name. His most recent release as Kody Nielson, Birthday Suite, is a collection of songs released online in celebration of the birthdays of those close to him, including his wife Bic Runga (one of New Zealand’s most acclaimed pop-rock artists), Ruban, and their father Chris. Across Birthday Suite, the sounds of classic jazz-funk and 90s British electronica fuse together in a mode that sits nicely alongside the recent UK jazz renaissance.
FOR FANS OF: Unknown Mortal Orchestra, George Duke, Kamaal Williams
LA LUZ, FLOATING FEATURES
WHO: A Seattle by way of Los Angeles four-piece who drag the sounds of 60s girl bands and classic surf rock into a sun-kissed Californian present.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: Exuding effortless cool, La Luz take the lazy, endless summer mood of Los Angeles at sunset, and essay on it through driving rhythms, honeycombed vocal harmonies, and breezy surf and garage rock guitar figures straight out of the Takeshi Terauchi playbook. On Floating Features, the four-piece write rich, vivid, and impressionistic studies of life viewed through the surreal, hallucinogenic haze of the city of angels, earning their spot in the Californian sun.
FOR FANS OF: Mild High Club, The Shangri-Las, Dum Dum Girls
LUCRECIA DALT, ANTICLINES
WHO: A geotechnical engineer from Colombia turned Berlin-based exploratory composer and spoken word artist.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: Anticlines, Lucrecia Dalt’s sixth album since 2005, sees the Berlin-based composer, producer, and spoken word artist reflecting on the time she spent working as a geotechnical engineer at home in Colombia. Ambient and exploratory, the album sees her reframe traditional South American rhythms and surreal spoken word pieces inside minimal, microtonal compositions, which ripple with the subtle weight of its creator’s personal history and the philosophical ideas and speculations she’s mulled over in recent years. Physical editions of Anticlines come with a lyric book documenting Dalt’s collaborative work with artists Regina de Miguel and Henry Andersen, and a portion of the sales from Anticlines go directly to Tierra Digna, an organization dedicated to the defense of Colombian communities affected by economic policies that violate human rights and devastate the environment. Dalt isn’t just thinking about the natural environment, but taking steps to contribute to its preservation.
FOR FANS OF: Laurie Anderson, Julia Holter, Lena Platonos
NIÑA DIOZ, REYNA
WHO: A barrier-busting Mexican rapper with a DIY-or-die attitude that has taken her around the world on her own terms.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: Reyna, the new album from longstanding Mexican rapper Niña Dioz (given name: Carla Reyna) is the sort of record that makes listeners feel ten feet tall, indestructible, and impossibly fresh. “Coming out as the first openly gay rapper in Mexico, in such a machista society, is something that makes me proud,” she told Billboard in May. With Reyna, she takes a moment to tighten her focus, aiming to represent every woman in the world who, like her, has had things taken away from her only to one day wake up and decide to empower herself. Reyna walks her talk and does so over unapologetically hedonistic beats produced by Shigeto, Scoop Deville, Captain Planet, Futura, and Bruno OG. Blending Latin rhythms with explosive 808 heavy homages to the pimp strut of YG and DJ Mustard’s Bay Area-referencing ratchet music, she’s a voice we can’t ignore.
FOR FANS OF: Lido Pimienta, Maluca, Princess Nokia
oOoOO & ISLAMIQ GRRRLS, FAMINE MYSTIQUE
WHO: Two outsiders who found common ground in Berlin, and craft after-midnight pop records from history’s detritus.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: Discussing the genesis of Famine Mystique, their collaborative album with oOoOO, Islamiq Grrrls told us, “We never spoke to each other saying what we want or what it should sound like – we just know. Sometimes saying things out loud makes them more real and kills the idea of it…” Throughout both of their engagements with music-making, be it oOoOO’s trajectory from American to Europe, along the way working with Disaro and Tri-Angle Records, before co-founding the Nihjgt Feelings label, or Islamiq Grrrls Soundcloud journey, they’ve grasped at, and sometimes caught onto feelings easily felt, but hard to explain. Constructed out of haunted voice, 80s hair metal solos, discarded pop drum breaks, radio-ready top 40 production, and other intangibles, Famine Mystique speaks to clear, cold and empty winter nights, the faded opulence of rundown luxury hotel lobbies, and the question of whether we’re in a cultural endtime.
FOR FANS OF: Angelo Badalamenti, late-2000s witch house, Hype Williams
SAY ME SUE, IT’S JUST A SHORT WALK!
WHO: Wistful indie rockers from Busan, South Korea who capture the loneliness you can only find in a crowded room.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: After releasing their gorgeous second album Where We Were Together in April, four-piece Say Me Sue decided to record and release It’s Just A Short Walk! It’s a small, but perfectly formed EP of covers from legendary American rhythm & blues, new wave, punk, and rock acts like The Velvet Underground, Blondie, The Ramones, and Bobby Freeman. Their lush shoegaze and indie rock-inflected versions speak to both their knowledge and respect for 20th-century American music and the coolly detached, eye-of-the-storm calm with which they present their greyscale reflections on urban life in South Korea’s sprawling cities. Flip back over to Where We Were Together, however, and you’ll discover fast-paced, joyful dream-pop in the same tradition as Asobi Seksu’s dreamy reflections.
FOR FANS OF: Pavement, The Clean, Carsick Cars
WHO: A former childhood choirboy from Baltimore who upped the ante on R&B as transcendent experimental pop.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: On soil, Josiah Wise – the avant-garde vocalist and performance artist better known as serpentwithfeet – shows that there isn’t anyone else like him on the planet right now. “The more you understand the world around you, maybe the less isolated you feel,” Wise told us at that start of June in a wide-ranging conversation with English poet Yrsa Daley-Ward. Throughout soil’s Olympian-sized integrations of R&B, gospel, choral music, and fuzzy electronica, you get the sense of an artist who has explored the world and used that to explore himself. With production from mmph, Katie Gately, Clams Casino, and Paul Epworth, it’s an expansive and compelling debut that sets the stage for his aching journeys into the ephemeral and the everlasting, the sacred and the profane, and the black queer experience.
FOR FANS OF: Tri Angle Records, Ty Dolla $ign, Anohni