From Marie Davidson’s electro workouts to Puce Mary’s howling noise music
The fourth quarter of 2018 saw Lana Del Rey going country, Earl Sweatshirt rapping his heart out over unvarnished jazz beats, Ariana Grande singing anthems with incredible dignity and grace, and Robyn reminding us why she’s still the modern pop blueprint – and that’s not even touching on what Rosalía did with El Mal Querer, or how Mariah Carey let them know she’s still got it with Caution.
As always, though, in the world of underground music, new and under-discussed talents are finding a way. Throughout 2018, we’ve been acknowledging this every three months with our series celebrating lower profile musicians, artists, and producers with real visions and important statements to make (see the previous editions here, here, and here). For our final entry of the series this year, we pulled out ten essential third-quarter releases from Bandcamp. From the imagined memory music of Eiko Ishibashi to the sampledelics of The Samps, independent culture remains vital.
EIKO ISHIBASHI, THE DREAM MY BONES DREAM
WHO: One of Tokyo’s great modern musicians and a journeywoman of experimental song.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: Over the last 12 years, Japanese singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Eiko Ishibashi has played her way through the ranks of avant-pop, modern classical, prog, improvised jazz, and noise. Either solo, or in collaboration with a litany of elite musicians including Jim O’Rourke, her piano and voice-led performances and compositions have consistently added new hues to the global underground. Swathed in the fog of a forgotten family history rediscovered, The Dream My Bones Dream ranks among her best releases – as its military rhythms and jazzy noise coalesce together around her hushed vocals, it transports you to a place where the unknown is both beautiful and eerily familiar.
FOR FANS OF: Julia Holter, Stereolab, Scott Walker
FANAU SPA, FANAU SPA
WHO: A New Zealand-based family rap ensemble made up of nine quietly remarkable artists from around the world.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: If the backbone of Fanau Spa’s self-titled mixtape is the vivid, future-forward beatscapes – equal parts trap, grime, and avant-club – that Melbourne-based producer Yumgod and friends brought to their Auckland studio for a mammoth 24/7 four day recording session, its heart comes from the fearless, progressive, and fun raps of the ensemble. This is music made in, and as, an LGBTQ+ and PoC space, and Fanau Spa’s vocalists – Queen Kapussi, Brown Boy Magik, Coco Solid, Joe Kori, Hamishi, Big Fat Raro, Manu, and TH1R§T3EN – deploy a kaleidoscopic array of vocal styles, sharing stories which, while rooted in a South Pacific experience, resonate globally. 2018 music, for 2018 people.
FOR FANS OF: Coco Solid, Le1f, Young Thug
WHO: An underground producer and DJ from Japan who creates with the touch and flair of a master painter.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: Since 2012, Japanese producer and DJ Foodman has put out a dizzying number of releases, all personal takes on electronica and experimental music, on an equally profuse array of record labels. While his recent releases have traced a line around the footwork genre, his Moriyama EP (named after the district he lives in) recalls the transcendental proto-techno and percussion music of the his labelmate and minimalist legend Midori Takada’s Mkwaju Ensemble, and the plasticised ‘fourth world’ machinations of Visible Cloaks. Buoyant, bubbly, and playful, the five songs on Moriyama make listening feel like floating on the clouds themselves.
FOR FANS OF: Oneohtrix Point Never, Shinichi Atobe, Tropical Drums of Deutschland
GABI, EMPTY ME
WHO: The New York-based experimental singer and composer bringing bedsit intimacy back into pop.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: With her 2015 debut album, Sympathy, Gabrielle Herbst, better known as GABI, wove a cycle of ethereal, vocal-led pieces indebted to both avant-garde composition and classic harmonic pop. Three years on, Empty Me sees her honing in on the potential for intimacy and vulnerability hinted at on her debut, her pop impulses writ large throughout the records 13 songs. Supported by string, woodwind, and wind instruments, as well as guitar, synthesisers, and production from Eric Littmann, Herbst’s rich-yet-fragile voice and expressive piano playing leads through memories of moments past, essaying on the mysteries of connection, communication, and creativity – all on her own terms.
FOR FANS OF: Julianna Barwick, Björk, serpentwithfeet
MARIE DAVIDSON, WORKING CLASS WOMAN
WHO: One of Montreal’s best electronic musicians, with the driest sense of humor in clubland.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: On its simplest level, the sound system-rupturing electro beats Marie Davidson deploys across Working Class Woman are just physically rewarding to listen to – this is music you really feel. On another level, though, Davidson uses the album’s ten-song running time to make some hilariously cutting and starkly relatable lyrical commentary on contemporary club music culture and the madness that can come with it. Viewed in sequence with 2016’s Adieux au dancefloor, the heights Davidson hits on Working Class Woman aren’t surprising. That said, her mecha-sized beats and claustrophobic vocals are still terrifyingly rewarding.
FOR FANS OF: Laurel Halo, Egyptian Lover, Helena Hauff
MISTER WALLACE, COOL MOM
WHO: The Chicago-raised rapper, DJ, and actor behind queer underground collective FUTUREHOOD.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: With the Cool Mom project, Mister Wallace retools the playful freedom and druggy experimentation of late 2000s blog rap (think: The Cool Kids, or Lil Wayne’s “I Feel Like Dying”) and uses its spacey, stargazed aesthetics as the backbone to their gruffly voiced celebrations of queer culture and history. For those unfamiliar with Wallace’s Futurehood collective and record label, an extended family-style organisation that releases open-eared rap by queer and trans people of colour, then Cool Mom is as good an entry point as any. If you enjoy Cool Mom, you’ll want to check out Wallace’s earlier releases, as well as FUTUREHOOD projects from Chae Buttuh and TAYLOR ALXNDR.
FOR FANS OF: Mick Jenkins, Cakes Da Killa, Blu Bone
WHO: A Belgian electronic producer and DJ of Angolan descent creating a remarkable take on kuduro.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: In 2012, Nazar’s Hyperdub labelmate Fatima Al Qadiri released Desert Strike, a concept EP about her experiences as a child in Kuwait during the Gulf War and a Sega video game based on that war. Enclave has a bit in common with that EP. On one level, it’s an artistic response to the stories his father told him about the vicious, decades-long Angolan civil war, which lasted from 1975 to 2002. On another level, his haunting take on kuduro music – which he has dubbed ‘rough kuduro’ – ripples with a similar techno-apocalyptic feel. The result is one of the most unique and invigorating releases of the year.
FOR FANS OF: Babyfather, DJ Lag, Príncipe
OBJEKT, COCOON CRUSH
WHO: Your favourite techno DJ’s favourite DJ, and well on his way to being in that conversation as a producer.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: With his first album in four years, TJ Hertz, the Berlin-based English DJ and producer better known as Objekt, updates the restless, exploratory impulses of the 90s IDM scene, dragging them into 2018. Having well and truly proven his chops on the dancefloor as a DJ’s DJ, for Hertz, Cocoon Crush is about really showcasing what he is capable of when he chooses to operate beyond the rules and regulations of the dancefloor. As digital melodies unfurl like the bloom of time-lapsed flowers, atomised insectoid rhythms crawl across synth-drones that stretch out like the rings of Saturn. Like his DJ sets, this is journey music, but instead of marching to the beat, it chooses the grooves less travelled.
FOR FANS OF: Autechre, Dopplereffekt, Monolake
PUCE MARY, THE DROUGHT
WHO: The Danish experimental/noise artist turning ears out worldwide with her power electronics.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: Building on a run of remarkable albums and live performances, The Drought is simultaneously Frederikke Hoffmeier’s high watermark moment under her Puce Mary alias, and a stargate entry point into her immense potential. Ostensibly noise music – and howling noise, at that – the songs on The Drought exemplify cinematic dystopia, a journey through ruptured, scorched earth soundworlds with moments of harrowingly dead-eyed spoken word from Hoffmeier as our guide. The tension and atmosphere in these pieces is remarkable, and if you want to dig into it, there is a treasure chest of literary and artistic references to unpack and marvel at as well. This drought keeps in giving.
FOR FANS OF: Pharmakon, Mica Levi, Ben Frost
THE SAMPS, BREAKFAST
WHO: A trio of sampledelic Californian eccentrics who throw the whole kitchen sink at their music.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: Taking the densely collaged, late 90s sample beat experiments of UK record label Mo’ Wax and their peers as a starting point, Breakfast sees The Samps adding washed-out chillwave atmospherics, French house, dayglo boogie, yacht rock keyboards, and huge breakbeats into their intricate musical origami. It’s hard not to be thrilled by how good some of these songs feel. When you bring together a crucial record/tape digger and blogger (J. Darrah, aka 12manrambo), the drummer from metal bands Wild Hunt and Dispirit (Harland Burkhart), and producer Cole M.G.N. (Beck, Christine and the Queens) for a passion project, you’re going to get results.
FOR FANS OF: The Avalanches, Daft Punk, Ford & Lopatin