Pin It
Tirzah - Devotion artwork
Tirzah’s Devotion artwork

10 under-the-radar releases you may have missed from the last three months

From Tirzah’s sleep-dusted, world-weary songwriting to Miss Red’s cyberpunk ragga

The third quarter of 2018 has borne witness to a glut of hugely anticipated releases in rap (Travis Scott, Nicki Minaj), pop (Troye Sivan), and indie (Mitski), as well as numerous old-guard pop titans making a return (Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, even Cher).

As always, though, in the underground, new talents are finding a way. In our ongoing celebration of the musicians, artists, and producers with real visions and important statements to make, we pulled out 10 essential third-quarter releases from Bandcamp. From DJ Khalab’s border-crossing black noise to Tirzah’s lo-fi British soul, independent culture remains vital.


WHO: A low-profile Italian Afrofuturist who builds sonic pyramids out of the bricks of future bass, jazz, and historical field recordings.

WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: As DJ Khalab, longstanding Italian broadcaster Raffaele Costantino is part of a wave of empathetic producer/DJ hybrids who combine the bass pressure of club culture with traditional regional folk music and field recordings. In July, three years after his debut Khalab & Baba (a collaboration with Malian talking drum master Baba Sissoko), he returned with the remarkable Black Noise 2084. Built around original field recordings from the Royal Museum for Central Africa of Bruxelles, and created in collaboration with a cast of talents including current British jazz scene luminaries Shabaka Hutchings and Moses Boyd, it’s a joyful and harrowing exploration of what Black Noise might be.      

FOR FANS OF: Francis Bebey, Sons of Kemet, Romare


WHO: The Hamburg-raised producer and DJ who put the spotlight back on hard-edged electro.  

WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: Explosive, raw, and fuzzy, Qualm is electro as it should be in 2018 – one ear focused on the genre’s gritty 80s/90s Detroit roots, another listening out for a way forward into its future. Qualm’s architect is Helena Hauff, a German DJ and producer with impeccable and refined taste (and an equally refined wardrobe), and an academic background in fine art, physics, and systematic music science. Building on the structures of her 2015 album Discreet Desires, Hauff ups the intensity, pushing the limitations of her live hardware-based productions until the beats distort, smoke, and fume – which is, fittingly, one English translation of the German word ‘qualm’.  

FOR FANS OF: Drexciya, Autechre, Marie Davidson


WHO: A mercurial, euphoric, and apocalyptic club DJ and producer from Houston who found their power in Berlin.

WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: Lotic went through a lot while they were making Power: temporary homelessness, the end of a relationship, watching American political turmoil intensify from the distance of Europe, and refining their thoughts on their identity. Throughout Power’s eleven songs – an intoxicating and shape-shifting swirl of experimental pop, holographic synths, corroded club sounds, and marching band music – Lotic draws strength from their experiences, transforming them into the power that comes with survival, and revealing new, previously unheard facets of their musical character. The big reveal is Lotic’s vocals, a mixture of celestial crooning and whispered club raps. Coupled with Lotic’s striking ability to render melodies and rhythms like a melting surrealist painting, it makes for an alluring taste of who Lotic might be as an artist now they’re living in their power.  

FOR FANS OF: Doon Kanda, Arca


WHO: A Berlin-based Moroccan-Polish-Israeli dancehall ragga MC operating in the interzone between hardwired cyberpunk futurism and vintage Jamaican sound system singjay vibes.

WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: Ferocious and sweet in equal measure, with K.O, Miss Red takes the apocalyptic 21st-century dancehall style Kevin Martin (aka The Bug), and his collaborators Warrior Queen and Flowdan have explored over the last decade and turns it into a roadmap for something new. Kevin Martin produced K.O for Miss Red, and as such his hazy ambiance, speaker-rumbling bass lines and titanium rhythms underscore her syncopated ragga chat, honey-soaked melodies, and ghostly harmonies. K.O thumps with the politics of protest and resistance in the new millennium, and it packs a knock-out punch.

FOR FANS OF: The Bug, Sister Nancy, GAIKA


WHO: The long-distance UK/South African electronic pop duo who steal headphone moments in hotel rooms, airport lounges, and plane flights, and alchemise them into sleek future-forward dreamscapes.

WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: After producing and DJing genre-crossing dance music in London with his friends Simon and Will as LV for Kode9’s Hyperdub, Cape Town-born, London based musician Gervase Gordon, aka Okzharp, met fashion stylist and dancer Manthe Ribane in Johannesburg in 2015 on the set of Ghost Diamond, a film Okzharp created with director Chris Saunders, and Manthe starred in. After Okzharp heard Ribane humming a tune, he asked her to write music with him, and they quickly released an EP through Hyperdub. Several years on, they’ve found a shared musical language through the borderless, genre agnostic sound of Closer Apart. A mix of old and new, it’s a testament to how distance can bring us together.

FOR FANS OF: Burial, Palmistry, Yaeji


WHO: A tech-breaking computer musician, programmer, and teacher from West Texas who lives in Tokyo, Japan, and turns live coding into atomised sound.

WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: Renick Bell is one of these people you worry might be able to control the internet, and his new album Turning Points, a digital sea of intricately detailed electronic music generated through live coding, improvisation, and algorithmic composition using open source software doesn’t do much to dispel any paranoia or fears. He could just be Neo in The Matrix. In a similar vein to fellow textural abstractionists Fis and Tlaotlon, Turning Points take cues from the extreme end of experimental electronica (Autechre, Dalglish, etc). Teeming with android approximations of life, it’s rhythms ripple like a swarm of unexpected pop-up windows on a laptop screen.

FOR FANS OF: Lee Gamble, Quantum Natives, Fis


WHO: A longstanding experimental guitar hero from New Zealand who took a chance and asked some of his favourite vocalists to record with him.

WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: Within experimental guitar music circles, in particular, those enamoured with New Zealand’s Flying Nun sound, Roy Montgomery’s name has rung out for decades. Created following his epic multi-album R M H Q release in 2016, Suffuse sees Montgomery pairing up his composition and writing skills with the angelic voices of Circuit des Yeux’s Haley Fohr, She Keeps Bees’ Jessica Larrabee, Katie Von Schleicher, Julianna Barwick, Purple Pilgrims, and Liz Harris, better known as Grouper. Suffuse is premium grade imagination music, and arguably the most accessible offering yet from a talent who, 36 years into his recording career, is still creating vital work.

FOR FANS OF: Grouper, Slowdive, 80s-era 4AD


WHO: One of the kings of Chicago’s footwork scene, a remarkable DJ and producer, and one of the more joyful people on social media.

WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: RP Boo got his start with Chicago’s legendary House-O-Matics crew 30 odd years ago. Dancing and DJing led to production, and with an effortless touch displayed on self-released singles and mixtapes, he became a central figure in the evolution of footwork. Since Planet Mu released his debut compilation Legacy in 2013, Boo has become a linchpin of the global underground. His first album of contemporary material, I’ll Tell You What, sees Boo upping the compositional drama and sampling ingenuity in his tracks, in the process positioning footwork as both an avant-garde artform and a heaving dancefloor experience for 2018. I’ll Tell You What is sonic architecture you can admire or dance about. 

FOR FANS OF: DJ Taye, Jlin, the Teklife crew


WHO: A restless and forward-thinking London-based producer, DJ, and sometimes broadcaster who’s always ahead of the pack. 

WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: Whether you’re talking about his poised DJ skills, effortless and hilarious stints as a radio host, or his adventurous and joyful production chops, Scratcha DVA is a London institution. He’s not a fan of repeating himself either, so in a roundabout way, it makes sense that after two albums of slanted rhythm’n’grime, funky house, low-slung beats and big internet concepts released as DVA and DVA [Hi:Emotions], he’d drop a whole album of interludes. Scratcha can fit a lot into 30-90 seconds of audio and tells whole stories with dayglo synths, syncopated rhythms, and UK pop culture references.

FOR FANS OF: Dean Blunt & Inga Copeland, Klein, Fatima Al Qadiri


WHO: The soulful and idiosyncratic R&B heroine primed to take London’s experimental pop sound into new spaces.

WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: With her debut album Devotion, London singer-songwriter Tirzah and her close collaborator Mica Levi (Micachu & the Shapes), perfect the sleep-dusted, world-weary, electronic R&B sound they’ve been mapping out since they started working together in the early 2010s. Emotionally, Devotion is sadness rendered as catharsis, and in mood and tone, plugs Tirzah into a continuum which leads directly back to Tricky and Martina Topley-Bird’s red-eyed collaborations on 90s trip-hop classic Maxinquaye, with a dusting of Dean Blunt & Inga Copeland’s Hype Williams daydreams drifting in and out of view. There is something very compelling and rewarding about Devotion.  

FOR FANS OF: Arthur Russell, FKA twigs, Tricky