From Eartheater‘s sprawling soundscapes and Isola’s dubby house tracks to euphoric club bangers courtesy of Teno Afrika
We’re in the fourth quarter of 2020, the year can’t end soon enough, and we’ve all had enough. In a challenging year for music, we’ve been lucky enough to hear major new projects from Megan Thee Stallion, Fiona Apple, Oneohtrix Point Never, Headie One, Dua Lipa, A.G Cook, Shygirl, Róisín Murphy, and other stars, and movements like Bandcamp Fridays have been a reminder of the power of community.
Despite the difficulty setting right now – the economic damage of the pandemic has hugely affected the arts, with those already struggling financially being hit the hardest – new and under-discussed talents in the world of underground music are still finding a way. For the final edition of our quarterly roundup for 2020, we’re continuing to acknowledge the lower-profile musicians, artists, and producers with strong communities, real visions, and important statements to make. Here are 10 essential Q4 releases, all available on Bandcamp.
EARTHEATER, PHOENIX: FLAMES ARE DEW UPON MY SKIN
WHO: A shapeshifting New York songwriter accessing new zones between folk, drone, and club music.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: Since 2009, Alexandra Drewchin aka Eartheater has - over four solo albums, a mixtape, and a collaborative release with the duo LEYA - mapped out a sprawling soundworld equal parts psychedelic folk, experimental noise, cloud rap, and techno. In the process, she has secured her spot as one of the most compelling new musical figures to explode out of New York’s underground. Across Phoenix: Flames Are Dew Upon My Skin, Eartheater’s delicate acoustic guitar work and voice soar above unstable musical landscapes, born again from the flames.
FOR FANS OF: Beverly Glenn-Copeland, Björk, Lafawndah
TENO AFRIKA, AMAPIANO SELECTIONS
WHO: The rising star of Amapiano, South Africa’s most exciting new musical movement.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: Raised between different townships on the outskirts of Johannesburg and Pretoria, 21-year-old DJ and producer Lutendo Raduvha aka Teno Afrika creates euphoric club tracks that summarise the story of Amapiano music. A style of local house music that draws from kwaito, diBacardi music, South African jazz, Amapiano places a heavy emphasis on electric piano and a mid-tempo bounce. Released through Awesome Tapes From Africa, Amapiano Selections is Teno Afrika’s first significant step towards projecting his considered approach on the style to audiences beyond South Africa.
FOR FANS OF: DJ Mojava, Shinichi Atobe, DJ Sumbody
WHO: A Las Vegas desert dwelling musician crafting windswept emotional house.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: EP1 by Ivana Carrescia aka Isola is a suite of elegant dubby house tracks detailed by crystalline vocals, field recordings and digital synthesis. In a past life, Carrescia crafted folk and lounge music under her Ivana XL and Eddi Front aliases, before taking a sharp turn into dreamy electronic pop as Gioia. Written and produced in collaboration with Nick Sylvester of Godmode, the outfit who launched Channel Tres and LoveLeo, EP1’s experimental impulses are balanced by subtle pop hooks and melodies you can drift away on.
FOR FANS OF: Sasu Ripatti, Rhythm & Sound, Jayda G
BROWN BOY MAGIK, TRANS PACIFIC TIME
WHO: The Niuean-Samoan producer and DJ creating South Pacific dance pop on Trans Pacific Time.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: Based in Auckland, New Zealand, Nikolai Talamahina aka Brown Boy Magik is best known for organising the Fully Explicit club night and BODY HAUS, a queer strip night. With the release of his debut album, Trans Pacific Time, that all changes. Initially conceived as a personal diary of Talamahina’s gender transition, it expanded into a document of his artistic development and a refutation of Western standards of music and time. Operating along an RnB, footwork, future garage and soulful house axis, his album draws from the US/UK underground and puts them on Trans Pacific Time.
FOR FANS OF: Noah Slee, Bearcat, Yaeji
TYGAPAW, GET FREE
WHO: The Jamaica raised, New York-based multidisciplinary artist exploring techno and breakbeats as self-love.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: With Get Free, Dion McKenzie aka TYGAPAW draws from the lessons she’s learned over 18 years of New York nightlife. McKenzie honed her chops playing guitar with My M.O and rapping with Kowabunga Tyga, before teaching herself DJing and production. Since 2014, she’s run two queer focused club nights, Fake Accent and Shottas, the later combining combining dancehall and reggaeton with ballroom music. McKenzie has an astute understanding of the freedom found on safe, late night dancefloors. When we can return to them, Get Free will be waiting.
FOR FANS OF: Kush Jones, Loraine James, LSDXOXO
VARIOUS ARTISTS, CHALO
WHO: An open-eared compilation of modern music recorded by artists from across South Asia
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: Before the pandemic set in, New York-based musician and DJ jitwam frequently toured through South Asia. Realising he was witnessing the rise of a new musical scene, jitwam teamed up with writer Dhruva Balram. With jitwam’s label, TheJazzDiaries, they launched Chalo HQ, a creative organisation focused on South Asia and its diaspora. Chalo HQ’s first project is a compilation of indie, beats, electronica, rap, and spoken word songs from artists with heritage in Pakistan, India and Kashmir. It’s a vital window into their worlds.
FOR FANS OF: Nabihah Iqbal, Riz Ahmed, Aroop Roy
WHO: A Los Angeles-based Iranian-American producer and vocalist who combines fragments of her childhood and history with power electronics for the future.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: Maral came onto my radar through Mahur Club, a collage mixtape where she paired Iranian pop music, folk and classical with dem bow and reggaeton rhythms. On her debut album, Push, she dials up the intensity. Still rooted in sampledelic manipulations of the music of Iran’s past, Push sees her squeezing their yearning sounds into dub, noise and post-punk indebted shapes. Also featuring guest appearances from dub legend Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and Penny Rimbaud, co-founder of Anarcho-Punk band Crass, Push is a compelling statement from a major new talent.
FOR FANS OF: Moor Mother, The Bug, Debit
LAWRENCE LEK, AIDOL 爱道 (OST)
WHO: The London-based simulation artist using CGI animation, video game engines and computer music to create virtual worlds.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: The OST accompaniment to Lawrence Lek’s feature film of the same name, AIDOL 爱道 charts the story of Diva, a future pop superstar in her twilight years. While preparing for a comeback performance at the 2065 eSports Olympics, she enlists help from Geo, an AI who wants to be a songwriter, and an intricate story emerges. Throughout the AIDOL 爱道 soundtrack, Lek and composer Seth Scott utilise gentle synthetic textures, day-glo melodies and virtual vocals generated by the Vocaloid voice synthesiser. Otherworldly but deeply human.
FOR FANS OF: Fatima Al Qadiri, Visible Cloaks, Macintosh Plus
VARIOUS ARTISTS, 3AFAK: LOVE TO NYC
WHO: A window into the club/experimental music scene that has coalesced together around New York’s 3afak collective.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: As the pandemic set in Bergsonist and DJ Sanna started thinking about the friends, family and community they’d made and found since moving to New York. 3afak: Love to NYC documents a range of recent club-tempo and experimental musical from that community – Bookworms, DJ Plead, Colour Plus, Kush Jones, Bergsonist herself, and ten others. 3afak: Love to NYC ripples with vibrant memories of New York before the time of COVID-19. 50 per cent of sales go to the artists, the other 50 per cent to The Okra Project, who support Black Trans people by providing them with home-cooked meals.
FOR FANS OF: DJ Swisha, Air Max 97, Animistic Beliefs
OCTOBER & THE EYES, DOGS AND GODS
WHO: A London-based post-punk musician and model from New Zealand.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING: Growing up in rural New Zealand, October, of October and the Eyes developed a fascination with post-punk, goth-rock and classic British pop. In that sleepy town, songwriting and DIY home recording was a way to pass the days. A decade later, she moved to East London, and befriended Yves Tumor, who introduced her to KRO Records. Styling her work as “collage-rock”, October draws from the music of her childhood and modern electronica, crafting snarling songs led by her grainy vocals and sharp guitar figures. Outside of music, October has modelled for Balenciaga and Charlotte Knowles, bringing her attitude to their shows.
FOR FANS OF: PJ Harvey, Yves Tumor, Suicide