Friday, 24 March 2023

Belated Bandcamps: March

Here I am, near enough a month later with my last `Bandcamp report - I normally like to do these as close as possible but I've let the last couple slip by me. I was planning to catch up with February's first, but that one looks like it'll be a little bit longer so I'm hanging fire for now. Still, I actually can't complain, the extra time has given me time to really think about what I'm going to say - let's get stuck in right after the art!

This month's selection saw me go all in on the Drum & Bass front, the artwork of which being this lovely mix of monochrome and colourful you see above. We have a fair bit to get into today so let's get down to it, starting with the top left. I've held off on getting my hands on the Hospital Records album they released to accompany their in-game radio station for Forza Horizon 4, mainly because the summer it came out I played it pretty much non-stop. Some of the tracks are still seared into my mind thanks to them being included on the loading screens, but there's plenty of them to go at. One thing I do appreciate is (at least at the time) these tracks were exclusive to the game and this release, though I would have liked it if they included the whole track list of the in-game station.

But onto the tracks themselves for now - the opening track does a fantastic job of setting the atmosphere and more to the point, encapsulating the sound I think of when think of Hospital Record's current era. Keeno's While The World Sleeps opens with some delicate tones, but it's not long before that gets twinned with some breakbeats and a subtle shelf wobbler of a bassline - very much Hospital's MO as I mentioned above. It's funny actually, tracks like this have much more depth to them when they aren't fighting with engine revs and tire squeals on the audio front, I certainly appreciate them more in this form.

Moving on to another choice cut - Metrik's Dawnbreaker is one of those burned-into-memory tracks from the loading screens for me, but I've spent enough time away from it now that I can listen to it again. Another textbook example of Hospital's current sound, it's downright euphoric in parts, and wastes no time in introducing those thunderous drums, a perfect compliment to the Summer season both IRL and in the game. I do quite like it, but it's definitely the kind of thing you have to have in moderation - it's a little like sugar in audio form, a little every now and then is fine but it's easy to have a little too much and get sick.

We're sticking with Hospital for now, but turning back the clock to the year 2000 - here Hospital still has that Drum & Bass slant, but as you can see on the artwork, this compilation has a touch of Jazzy Breaks (as was the style at the time) and a little bit of Soul in there as well. This type of compilation is great to get a big dollop of variety and new artists in your mix, I recognised a couple and you might as well. My first choice from the comp is distinctly not Drum & Bass, despite Marcus Intalex & ST Files being behind some of my favourite tunes of the genre. Taking Over Me is very much in that turn-of-the-millennium house style, the kind with that coffee shop groove to it, you know? Best sampled through headphones to get the most of that bassline!

My second choice is Music Makes Me Feel This Way, here we are very much back in the world of Drum & Bass. It's kind of funny looking back like this, listening to tracks like this you can really see (or hear, I suppose) the framework for that contemporary Hospital sound being laid down here. It's kind of hovering between the liquid funk that would come and the Jazzy breaks mentioned on the cover, in parts it reminds me a lot of the kind of sound on the E-Z Rollers' Weekend World. It's a little long at just shy of 8 minutes long, but it's kept fairly fresh throughout, and it ain't particularly dated despite it turning 23 this year!

Sticking around a similar time for the next one as we re-visit some vintage Makoto. One of those artists that always seemed to crop up in my recommended lists and would show up from time to time on various comps I'd pick up (case in point, he has a track on the Forza Hospital album I talked about up top!) I figured it was high time I checked him out in full, and seeing as I was on a bit of a D&B kick anyway, what better time than now? I picked a great time to do it as Makoto is currently in the process of re-issuing a bunch of tracks from the archives in this Yearbook series.

I'd already had a sneak peek at the remaster of Joy and posted it some time back now, the good news is the rest of the tracks here are very much in the same vein. Inside Your Love is originally from 2002's Musical Message EP - it wasn't a Hospital release but you can definitely hear the shared DNA between it and the track above. Lush and Jazzy breaks are the order of the day here and Makoto does a fantastic job with the style, the first 4 tracks of this compilation are all deliciously groovy.

And a little bit of Metalheadz to round us out, another label that has done an amazing job of making most of their backcatalogue available digitally. We're back with Commix this time around, their debut album Call To Mind is one of my favourites of the genre. Dusted as the artwork says, is a compilation of tracks the then-duo made between 2003 and 2008, so roundabout the same era as the album - I remember it coming out and thinking I should pick it up soon, and in true CVF fashion, I didn't actually until near enough 11 years later. We're straying a little from the Liquid Funk and Jazzy side displayed above, Commix's work is often a little more 'classic' drum & bass as it were (and even then, that depends on how 'classic' you go!). Opener Time Has Come A little darker in atmpsphere than the tracks posted so far, there's a heavier focus on the breaks. It's a great jumping in point if you're unfamillair with their work, all the tracks here are solid and there's plenty to get your teeth into.

And I think that'll about do it for this time around, it got a little longer than I originally planned despite me picking up less records this time around, chalk that up to the delay giving me more time to think! Next one might have to be a two parter at this rate. I've got a couple other ideas to write up in the meantime so I've got time to mull it over. Been a while since I took a deep dive into the world of D&B like this and even then we've only really dipped our toes into the world of the genre! Hope you've found something to enjoy here, I can recommend checking out the whole Out Patients compilation series to get a load of the variety on show there, annoyingly Out Patients 2 isn't available on their bandcamp but 3 is. Until next time, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


Wednesday, 15 March 2023

Playing Catch Up

I've been falling majorly behind as of late. Nothing major, just the usual tale of life getting in the way meaning I haven't had much time to sit and write something out for a little while. Not to say I'm short of ideas though, I have plenty of stuff in the pipeline and I've been getting new stuff very regularly as per usual, it's just putting pen to paper that's the issue! But with two month of bandamp fridays to catch up on, I've pencilled in some time this week to hopefully get some down. Today's gonna be a litlle short on just as a stopgap, tracks and more after the pic.
I've been trying to put more variety in my mobile selections as of late, I've had pretty much the same rotation for what feels like forever and I felt like it was in need of a shakeup - so I grabbed a bunch of files and threw them all into the mix: a kind of MP3 stew if you will. Enter Sidewalks And Skeletons, an artist that I've not had in my mixes for a long time. I do remember meaning to talk about Forbidden Files way back when but I don't think I ever did. It's a slightly eclectic mix of remixes, some official, some bootlegs - a few of which are totally mangled in that distinct S&S way.

It feels much more like something you'd get from a random Mediafire link or something similar rather than a full Bandcamp release, like Flying Lotus' demo tapes of old, especially with how cryptic some of the titles get. My first pick of the day is a pretty clear cut one, Crystal Castles' Violent Dreams gets the Skeletons treatment. One of the least surprising ones on this list, both CC and S&S have both have a similar aesthetic if the album art didn't tip you off already. This remix takes things in a very electro direction, very bright sounding and almost synthwave-y in parts. It's proven pretty popular, to the point where a quick search will often bring you the remix before the original. If you've never come across any Sidewalks & Skeletons before, this track does a fantastic job of outlining the MO you can expect.

Some of them are a little plain but it's hard to complain too much when the release is pay-what-you-want. The remix of Ic3peak's I'll Be Found gives plenty of room to flex that Witch House sensibility. Truth be told I'm not too familiar with the genre beyond Sidewalk's works so I don't feel like I can comment too heavily on it (and shamefully I haven't really heard too much of the original until right now). Not quite in the same style as the electro-infused Violent Dreams but still sticks quite close to the structure of the original - there's plenty of peaks and valleys throughout, it does feel like it cover a lot of ground in its relatively short runtime, clocking in around half the length of the original.

That's not the only thing I've been spinning from my collection though, there's also three Volumes of EP to get stuck into as well - also pay-what-you-want. It's a bit of a minefield when it comes to the track list as there's a whole heap of Unicode characters and symbols in there to complicate things. I've got a solitary selection from Volume 1 for now - it's perhaps not the best representation of his current work as it's just turned 10 years old as of 2022, but if you've liked what you've heard so far you'll still find a lot to like here.

And that'll be all for today, as I mentioned up top I'm going to try and get some down and scheduled out so the gap *shouldn't* be as long in future, but with the couple of weeks I've had who knows. But enough of IRL stuff, like I also mentioned up top there's tons of stuff to look forward to, I'm going to try and catch up with the Belated Bandcamps ASAP but there's also some other cool stuff in the pipeline too. Until next time, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


Tuesday, 28 February 2023

The Power Of Memes

A shorter one this time around, a little later than I anticipated because I had a hell of a week last week, but I also made a point to not bring my IRL stuff onto the blog so much this year so I'll put a pin in it there. A real fun one this time for a post theme - I've made multiple comments over the years that it doesn't matter so much *where* you discover some music and in fact sometimes the most random sources can be the greatest treasure trove of that kind of thing. So we come to talking about the internet meme, I have tons of songs in my collection that have been memed or featured in memes over the years, so I thought I'd shine the spotlight on a few.

This is a topic I can see myself revisiting, but today's entry is going to focus on two main examples. Electronic Music and memes go waaaaay back, we're talking back to the YTMND days, from Coburn's We Interrupt This Program soundtracking the NEDM meme, to Max Coveri's Running In The 90's being many a non-Initial D fan's intro to Eurobeat on 'lol internet' to the entire Caramelldansen phenomenon, it's been a phenomenon for a long, long time - and for a lot of folks (like me), it was often the first time hearing these tracks.

So colour me surpised when around 2015 I began to see a massive uptick in memes of a song I already knew - Bag Raiders' Shooting Stars. I'd already become quite familiar with Bag Raiders through all the electro I was consuming around the time it came out, but there were just so many questions about the whole thing. Why that specific track? Why so long after it's initial 08/09 release? That's a whole other discussion that could be a post on its own, though there was a bump in popularity in their native Australia around 2013 or so. To put all that aside, Shooting Stars was already one of my favourites from the album so I was ore than happy to see 'em get more exposure. I can highly recommend the album as a whole if you like what you hear here, the whole thing has this very fun almost pop-like feel to it that really sets it apart from all the other Electro House that was making waves around the time. Think more Chromeo than Justice.

The other one comes from Vine (cor, remember Vine?) Back in the heydey of syntheave was a clip of a woman and her cat set to HOME's Resonance. I didn't really give it much thought at the time, years later I'd run into some HOME tracks through another source and think that I recognised the style - sure enough with a little reasearch I was proved right. Between that and We're Finally Landing being used as the opening theme for SummoningSalt's deep dives into Speedrunning history, there's a good chance that you may have heard HOME before without realising. Another case of me heartily recommending the album this is from if you like the sound of this one, HOME's brand of synthwave has this lovely lo-fi streak running throughout that gives it a real comfy feeling that makes it stand out in my collection.

And it's tracks like this that remind us all of the importance of including the source with anything you make because remember: your next shitpost could be the first step on someone's musical journey. Joking aside, I do my best to credit tracks wherever possible, and it seems like on the whole people are getting better at it too (and there are song identifying bots to fill in the gaps too). It's incredible the reach that a silly viral vdeo trend can give a track, I'm willing to bet more than a handful of people had Bag Raiders become one of their favourite artists off the heels of the meme - and I'm more than happy to welcome them to the world of electronic music. There's plenty of room in this tent for all of us, and a massive list of genres to peruse and find something that suits you! And of course, until next time - stay safe and enjoy the music.


Friday, 17 February 2023

Digital Ephemera

Having gone through the archives of this blog, I've been no stranger to dead links, deleted SoundClouds and artists that seem to have just disappeared - that's just the way things go in this age really, some things are lucky to be archived but there's bound to be tons of stuff that's pretty much lost forever. That's why I'm always vocally in support of artists and labels doing their best to make sure their work is as available as it can be. Today we're looking back at Ford & Lopatin (formerly known as Games) and the curious case of their SoundCloud.

I was (and am, I suppose) a big fan of all things that Ford & Lopatin put out, from their spiritual successor to the pioneering vaporwave Eccojams tape with the Heaven Can Wait mixtapes, to the love letter to the 80's that was their album Channel Pressure, there's not a dud release to be had.

They were pretty popular at the time too, the That We Can Play EP made waves at the time, which makes their eventual drop off all the more unusual - they had a mad flurry of releases in 2011 under the new 'Ford & Lopatin' name and then... nothing.

There's something a little sad about seeing the last upload date reading '11 years ago' (but at least they *are* available I suppose). It's a bit like walking through a dead mall - fitting, given the vaporwave underpinnings of the duo. And speaking of 'Vapor', as in something that's announced but is never actually released, their final upload is a tune that I'm pretty sure doesn't appear anywhere else in their discography. Which is a shame because it's a lovely addition - a crash course in Games/Ford & Lopatin's style with some divine sample work.

I thought while I was there I'd talk about some of their other work - MIDI Drift is one of those tracks that comes up once in a blue moon and just blindsides me. The explosion of sound that signals the beginning is just lovely - some synth power chords and that ripped from the 80's bassline set you up for the experience ahead. It may sound a little cliché now, but at the time these two were at the cutting edge of that sound. To quote a release page for the EP: "That We Can Play is a six track EP to soundtrack a midnight ride in the Delorean, stereo aflame, racing down moonlit avenues; all strobing synth-bass jams, gated drum pads and starkissed, monophonic melodies."

Playing us out is Strawberry Skies, one of my all time favourites since its release, a standout on the tracklist as it's the only one with vocal accompaniment. Laurel Halo's voice does wonders for the atmosphere here, between the lyrical content and her delivery, she really completes that hazy, dreamy feel - especially on that distant sounding intro, which you could be forgiven for thinking is a sample from a movie. I imagine it also lets the production side flex a little bit more as well, between this and Kavinsky's Nightcall released the same year, I was all ready for a full on retro synthpop revival at the time.

It's still a fantastic EP and definitely worth going back to, or checking out in full if it passed you by the first time. The label the early Games releases were on - Hippos In Tanks - is sadly defunct, but their backc atalogue is readily available digitally from what I could tell. I would recommend Bleep personally, but other distributors are available. As much as I'd love to hear a new Ford & Lopatin record, I think the two stopped at the right time, just before the synthwave and general 'chillwave' overexposure explosion. For what it's worth, I love a lot of what Lopatin has been putting out under his main Oneohtrix Point Never alias, and Joel Ford has plenty of synthpop stuff to check out with Young Ejecta. So in a way, the two of them never really left my collection.

And that'll about do it for this post, got a little bit more poetic in parts there, but I have been meaning to stretch my legs into that territory again. Hope you've found something to enjoy here, I'll be back soon enough with more, but until then - as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.