Bandcamp lets fans buy, stream, and download music from their favorite artists while directly supporting them. Some artists will let you pay what you want for an album or song, which leads some fans to pay extra to further support artists. Users can follow artists, message them, or leave comments on releases. Anyone can sign up as an artist and share or sell their music through Bandcamp. It’s a pretty straightforward process one that benefits artists greatly. You might just find some musicians on Bandcamp that you might not find anywhere else or you might turn out to be one of them.
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Bandcamp is one of the best ways to support your favorite artists' music. On Bandcamp, you're mostly buying music directly from artists, so they receive more money. You can download music in multiple formats and buy merchandise too.
In March 2018, Greensboro rapper Marley Pitch was exhausted and ready to give up making music. He outlined his frustration in an email, saying that despite his efforts, no one was paying attention. Greensboro is “not exactly a hub for the arts,” he wrote, before declaring, “I don’t have many options at this point. I don’t wanna die here… that’s a real fear for someone with big dreams and no connections who lives in a town like this.” Pitch isn’t alone; his desperation only highlights what many artists in towns like Greensboro feel when they gaze out from the internet.
Back in January, Pitch released his debut EP, Asphalt, a collection of razor-sharp rhymes about friendship, fragility, Frank Ocean, and figuring out how to express his queer identity. Similar to artists like Childish Gambino and fellow North Carolinian rapper J. Cole, Pitch gets personal, tackling topics affecting young people across America without bragging about the details. “Twilight,” the stand-out track off Asphalt, opens with the line, “I want to live in the moment / I want to live in the MoMA,” before Pitch rolls through a series of pointed rhymes: “Fuck, my dad would kill me the same way Marvin Gaye’s dad did / If I ever came out the same way Frank did / He told me that the same day Channel Orange came out.” Pitch is an avowed Ocean fan—his recent single, “Plush”, adopts the approach Ocean took on “Nikes,” a mixture of spoken word poetry and sung verse.
In fact, when I called Pitch on a recent Monday morning, he was listening to Frank Ocean. He laughed about his fandom (“I feel like a lot of Channel Orange is great shower music”), before speaking about the state of things in Greensboro. “It is very sparse and spread out and there aren’t many resources,” he says with palpable frustration. “There are a lot of different kinds of artists and creatives coming up, but we just can’t come together. It gets down to politics, because when you’re in a place like this, everybody’s trying to get their own.”
But despite the fact that Greensboro consists of, as Marley puts it, “a bunch of neighborhoods, all sectioned off,” there is still life in the local music scene, however much its artists struggle to be heard. Here are a few who are worthy of your attention.
In the seven years that Kendall Daniels has been making music as Kid Advay, he’s explored so many genres that he’s ended up creating his own. He calls it “lakewater rock”—which he says describes his music’s “muggy tones” that derive from “writing most of my songs by a lake.” Early in his career, Advay stuck primarily to rap (he’s recently been working with Marley Pitch), but recently the 20-year-old has pivoted to making bright, melodic indie rock. In March, he released LonersRadio, an album of guitar music with a distinct coastal vibe that recalls other bright and breezy artists like Beach Fossils, Washed Out, and Mac DeMarco.
Jabril Kenan is a rapper with serious chops who has worked with Kaytranada and Denzel Curry. He’s part of a Greensboro collective called FANG (Fuck A Name Gang), which includes the rapper Premeir Jones. Beginning in 2014, he released a run of mixtapes before dropping the Almost Angelic trilogy, which he says, “was created to fuel the fire to your sex drive, but also embrace the real emotions that come along with love.” They provide the perfect introduction to J.K.’s rapid-fire rhymes, which are dense with admiration for the opposite sex. On standout track “GIRL,” featuring fellow FANG member 007Kane, he raps, “I grab me a ladder and climb for you / Afraid of heights but I’ll die for you.” On the self-reflective “Chloe Sevigny,” off Almost Angelic, he samples Larry Clark’s 1995 movie Kids to show how the adolescent male ego often conflicts with female desire.
Inspired by Kanye West, T.I., and Lil Wayne, Jon Delta began rapping as a fifth grader while living in Kansas City. Several years later, he moved to North Carolina, where he learned the importance of being a producer. He now threads both artforms together, and his work is defined by the eclectic range of sounds that he fits into every little pocket. His most recent release, a four-track EP named SHIFTS, dips into the honey pot of old-school hip-hop, soul, and electronica. On the surface, his raps are reminiscent of Schoolboy Q’s sugary flow, while his production goes from sounding buttery smooth to driving down Interstate 85 with the top down.
As a member of the FANG collective, Premeir Jones contributed a verse to J.K. The Reaper’s Almost Angelic 2. But it’s his own Roses EP, featuring contributions from Clint Norway, Bankroll Bird, and Tange Lomax, that’s the crown jewel of his catalog. The young Greensboro MC creates cathartic rap that brings together themes of escapism, ownership, and self-empowerment. Much like J.K., Jones’s path to rap came from being inspired by those around him. In Jones’s case it was seeing his brother putting down rhymes in a sketchbook.
Only barely out of his teens, Seamus Malliagh, aka Iglooghost, calls his style “messed-up ADHD-addled environments with hella drums and sound design,” which is kind of accurate but doesn’t even begin to do justice to his sonic ambition. His dual-EP release Clear Tamei/Steel Mogu are full of the kind of fidgety micro-edit finesse and grandiose mind-pummeling you might be familiar with from electronica big shots like Amon Tobin, Squarepusher, or Eprom—but there’s also a particular kind of mischievous humor, weaving memories of J-pop, dancehall, trap, and ultra-cheesy happy hardcore rave in and out of the crazed structures at a molecular level.
The title track of Clear Tamei sets out the stall: alien voices rap in a made-up language and romantic string refrains cut without warning into Aphex Twin rave mania. (In the official music video for “Clear Tamei,” Malliagh appears to get beaten up by a DMT elf.) Elsewhere, there are opera singers getting stretched like chewing gum (“Black Light Ultra”), what sounds like a Prince guitar solo turned into some sort of Starfighter aircraft engaging in a laser battle with yet more elves (“Namā”), and a dubstep rave as imagined by an AI (“Niteracer”). And on it goes. No sound exists for more than a microsecond before dissipating into thousands more or mutating into something freakish or foolish. It’s harrowingly brilliant.
Photos by Prashin Jagger
The “Listening Room”—a series of shows put on all across India by Rana Ghose’s Reproduce agency—are characterized by a sense of unpredictability. For one thing, the venues in which they are held are, almost always, not traditional music venues. Instead, they’re makeshift locations that—on the day of the show—provide a temporary home to local musicians and their audience. It could be an abandoned bakery, like the St. Jude Bakery in Bandra West, Mumbai, or it could be a film studio in the basement of a busy market in Delhi.
One Listening Room was hosted at the office of an architecture firm. Another was at a building that looked abandoned—perhaps even haunted. Someone’s living room once served as a Listening Room venue—a last-minute replacement after the cops showed up at the first spot.
The music performed at Listening Room events is rarely straightforward. It’s all obscure and bizarre sonic experiments—harsh noise, alternative electronica, kitschy post-punk, film scores played in full, ambient soundscapes on loop, found or improvised sounds. Artists set up in different parts of the room, positioning their gear in ways that make sense only to them. Occasionally, they’ll dress up their designated space with candles, posters, or other props. One artist, A Maze, had a little A4 sheet of paper stuck to his synth during a performance that read “You’re all motherfuckers” in Hindi.
Admission is Rs. 300 at the door (a little over $4), and there’s no guest list. Audience members simply find a spot in the room where they’re comfortable, and plop themselves down on the floor. No one claps between songs; the transition between sets is seamless—there’s applause at the end of one full set, and then the next artist starts off from a different corner of the room.
Listening Room, at its core, is about freedom. There are no rules. (Well, there’s one rule: no DJ sets.) Artists are free to do whatever they please. The result, after two-and-a-half years and some 200 shows, is a young and niche movement of anything-goes experimental music that is spreading, surprisingly, all over India.
At the heart of this movement is Reproduce, an events, bookings, and management agency run by Ghose, who was once an economist, and who did his Ph.D. on the regulation of genetically modified organisms. Over the years, he’s also been a writer, videographer, filmmaker, and artist manager. He had wanted to make a film on the late Charanjit Singh, a trailblazer in the synth world who got only his due much later in life, and ended up managing and booking Singh for gigs worldwide.
Reproduce began Listening Room in early 2016, as a response to the gig scene in India. “I was not inspired by the venues here. I didn’t feel any connection to them,” Ghose says. (He has been in Canada, his home, for the past year or so, after breaking his heel while trying and failing to scale a wall in India; he’s planning to return soon.)
While acknowledging how difficult it is to sustain a business through live music, Ghose wasn’t too keen on adding to the clutter of pub gigs with conventional stages and a bar where everyone’s just getting drunk, ignoring the artist. So he began programming gigs at offbeat locations, picking obscure artists that didn’t fit into the club music scene. He recalls how Listening Room started as a way to showcase Kolkata’s harsh noise duo JESSOP&CO., before eventually morphing into something else. “They drove the entire audience out of the room immediately!” he says. “It was all very awkward. These guys were so loud and abrasive.”
Over the past two years, Listening Room has spread its wings. It now provides a stage for countless bedroom producers, performers, and composers, and audiences get to experience music in irregular, unfamiliar, and unusual settings. In addition to Listening Room, Reproduce organizes a number of other live music series. There’s Listening Venue, which is designed for more traditional gig spaces, and Drones, which is more concise in its programming, and features fewer artists on each bill. They’ve expanded from hosting gigs in the cultural centers of Delhi, Mumbai, and Bengaluru to booking shows across the country, in cities one wouldn’t normally associate with radical experimentation. They’ve even hosted gigs internationally, in New York and London.
It’s not all perfect, of course. Despite the fact that Listening Room has featured female artists, the scene is distressingly male-dominated, something Ghose is hoping to change. As of now, there’s very little money coming in—though Ghose points out that they’re not losing money, either—but there are plans in place to create a more sustainable model. Ghose is open to the occasional sponsorship, but only as long as the Listening Room’s core aesthetic remains in place: No overt branding, no compromise on the integrity or vision of the project.
That remains key to Ghose: the aesthetic that Reproduce has crafted is a mix of careful thought, Ghose’s obsessive hunt for new music in the country (he has an encyclopedic knowledge of unheard-of internet producers based in India), and his instincts for what will work. But it’s not all him, he clarifies. There’s a sense of ownership that a lot of people involved in this scene feel for Reproduce, to the extent that they’ve been planning and organizing up to five or six gigs a month while Ghose has been away in Canada.
Here’s a brief look at some of the artists who are part of this movement.
Nishant Gill, aka A Maze, can be spotted at Listening Room gigs lugging around the kind of huge, retro-looking briefcase that wouldn’t be out of place in a ’70s Bollywood movie. Inside is the Lunetta, an analog synthesizer Gill has made from scratch. Why? Because he wanted to mess around with synths but he didn’t have the money to buy one, so he thought he’d just make one himself. The Lunetta has random sequencing, which means Gill can’t play the same piece twice, and each of his gigs is an exercise in improvisation. It makes quite a racket.
In fact, Gill has built four drone synthesizers and two noise boxes. They’re basic in their circuitry, he tells me. “The Lunetta is a very random synth. It does weird, unpredictable things.” Gill was exploring noise until last year, when he had an epiphany. He was playing a gig when one of the speakers blew out because of how loud it was. “I don’t know how that happened. It was an eye-opener. I don’t wanna blow the speakers, man!” he laughs.
He felt a little disillusioned with the influx of artists playing loud, noise-based music, where it became something of a badge of honor to drive away the audience. So now, he’s working on mellower sounds that are more drone-based, and more structured.
Bengaluru’s Shoumik Biswas is currently living through every musician’s worst nightmare: he has tinnitus. Because of this, he’s had to ration his time composing electronic music. Instead, Biswas has been learning guitar and trying to write conventional “songs,” which is in stark contrast to his glitchy, lo-fi, mid-tempo work as Disco Puppet.
Biswas is part of the Consolidate collective/label, which is arguably responsible for some of the most exciting alternative electronica coming out of India. He’s been around a few years and has performed at plenty of Listening Room gigs. “It helps to have the shows rundown spaces,” he says. “You walk in knowing this isn’t going to sound, like, full HD. People stop thinking about that shit, and start focusing on what is in this music. It’s a strange, experiential thing. Once the initial amusement of being in these spaces goes away, it becomes a weird comfort zone for people. It’s this support system. This thing is a rebellion against the whole system. We’re all rebelling against the fact that nobody is really going to ‘make it.’ It’s like watching a really depressing film, and you’re like, ‘Amazing!’”
Funny story: Jwala actually formed at a Listening Room gig. Last year, six producers performed one after another at Mumbai Assembly, a performance space in Mumbai. They then started a collective called Jwala, or “flame” in English. They’d been talking about doing this for some time beforehand, but this gig was the first time they all got together, says Apurv Agarwal, aka Cowboy and Sailor Man. Since then, they’ve been performing together, collaborating, engaging online (through memes, among other things) with other young producers. And they’ve been releasing compilation albums consistently.
Jwala consists of Cowboy and Sailor Man, Sparkle & Fade, Moebius, Karan Kanchan, chrms, Three Oscillators, and zzz (the last two are Brij Dalvi’s projects). Each has their own identity, of course, but they’re all working within the realm of electronic music. Agarwal, though, tells me how he’s trying to move toward a more live, band-driven sound.
He also points out how Listening Room was crucial at a time when many venues in Mumbai shut down last year because of fire safety violations after a fire broke out in a pub. The DIY model thrived away from the limelight, providing artists the chance to perform. It’s a point Disco Puppet echoes, given that Bengaluru is currently facing a complicated live music ban of its own.
Spontaneity and improvisation are at the heart of Ikagar Saini’s guitar experiments as Infinite Jar Space. He’ll often land up at a gig with not even a faint idea of what he plans to do. He’ll hunt around for little objects lying around, with which he can manipulate his instrument. Saini plays prepared guitar, using discordant motifs and unfamiliar sounds and techniques. Even most of his recorded work is performed in one take, on the fly, where he’ll start off with an idea and run off in multiple directions with it.
Delhi-based SISTER began life as Ruhail Kaizer’s occult noise project, where he’d disarrange dirty passages of sound with movie samples or little rushes of classical piano to create an unsettling experience, with the theme of death running through his music (for added chills). His vocals were distorted growls, and he pounded on a tom drum, all while bizarre films projected onto a screen behind him. SISTER has since expanded into a duo, with Aradhana Elisabeth added to the mix. They’re writing more song-based structures, and there’s a strong martial element to their new music: horns, marching drums, some folk music, and Eastern European choir singing.
This noise duo from Kolkata revels in obfuscation. There’s a weird aesthetic at play, and they tend to answer questions with incomprehensible responses. For example, they describe the music as: “Bending time and space. Bending the physical and the spectral together into something that satisfies all our noided needs. [sic.] Sculpting form out of the formless. Coaxing sounds into a state of unauthorized hyperventilation.” Though their cassette-released project is brash, abrasive, and loud, there’s something about the music that is also quite stunning.
It’s admittedly difficult to grasp, often heading off into grueling, exacting harsh-noise terrains. But underneath it all—the humming and hissing and erratic surges of surreal melodies, the kitschy local references, the sample-heavy digressions, and the decrepit sonic collages that so often drive out audiences—lies a sense of great care. Their work is dynamic, dense, and challenging, but it’s just as rewarding and powerful.
Jamblu is the solo project of hyperproductive multi-instrumentalist Kartik Pillai, of Peter Cat Recording Co. and Begum. “I think a lot of Jamblu is just found music, just being able to work with soundscapes and stuff.” He plays with a bunch of instruments and production techniques to create a swirl of sound that often juggles sprawling melodies and abrasive departures.
He got interested in noise as much for musical reasons as philosophical. “I started feeling like it’s more ‘global’ than any other kind of music. Like, there’s machine noise, all kinds of noise… in just about every country. That way, when you hear it, you can’t really guess where it’s really from,” he explains. He was one of the first bunch of musicians to tour internationally through Reproduce (in addition to Lifafa, Hashback Hashish, and Teddy Boy Kill), playing gigs in China.
Photo by Finlay Shakespeare
David Burraston (who also goes by Dave Noyze) may well be the only scientist and synthesist who lives five miles away from the nearest paved road. “We live on the farm where [my wife’s parents] were when they retired,” he explains. “We run a farm as well as the Wired Lab here. We’re in the middle of nowhere, and we’re not served by any amenities except electricity. We have to capture our own water, we have our own sewage and septic tank, we have to take our own rubbish to the tip. We don’t even get mail.” This is somewhat surprising for a man who obtained a Ph.D. for researching cellular automata and generative music, and famously conducted and independently released Syrobonkers!, the most technically comprehensive interview Aphex Twin ever gave.
53-year-old Burraston has lived in the countryside for nearly half his life; his first 28 years were spent in Nottingham, U.K., where he could go to clubs and shows, trade mixtapes, and play in bands as a teenager. His journey into synthesis and computer science was almost preordained. “My dad was one of the first commercial computer programmers in the U.K.,” Burraston says. “He worked at the East Midlands Electricity Board, and started programming in the ‘50s with an analog computer. I knew what a modem was when I was five years old.”
Burraston was already something of an electronics and music whiz at a young age. He started playing piano at six, but was drawn to the strange sounds he heard on science fiction programs. “I was always totally captivated by sound effects and noises on TV,” he says, “and immediately wanted to know how they were made… I was interested in melody, harmony, rhythm, as well as pure sound itself. When I found out what synthesizers were, I had to figure out how they were built.” At age 11, Burraston built his first radio, a two-transistor with a crystal earpiece, and since then, he’s made his own pieces of gear, cheerfully soldering electronic bits into playable modules, patch cables, and more.
He bought his first synthesizer, a Roland Jupiter-4, in 1981 at age 16, which was also the year he left school to work at British Telecom. Prior to this, he had worked paper rounds, using his earnings to pick up records; once he began working for British Telecom, Burraston turned his eye towards gear. When it came time to purchase his first synth, he was torn between the Roland Jupiter-4, a fixed polyphonic synth, and the Roland 100m, a semi-modular synth. Ultimately, he went with the Jupiter-4 because it could play chords, which was suitable for the band he was in at the time, as well as the ability to use a hold switch for textures, drones, and arpeggios and the ability for users to create presets.
Eventually, the Roland 100m also made its way into Burraston’s hands, and he still owns it to this day, which is saying something—Burraston is restless when it comes to equipment. “I’ve sold a staggering amount of synths and gear over the years,” he says, detailing his pursuit of new sounds and ideas. “Then I want another piece of gear and have no money, so why not just sell something?”
Burraston name-drops about every synth manufacturer during our conversation. He used Serge’s Paperface on the 3.5-hour release PPLZ SYNF, and the Hinton Music Lab modules on many others (the VC filter was used on “Hintone” from error routine). The Hinton Music Lab is special, though—Burraston bought the original prototype modular system in 1995 from Graham Hinton so the manufacturer could fund a new series of modules.
Burraston is prolific; he released NTE GDN in July 2018 and RLD GLD ET AL in May, and mentioned a handful of upcoming albums, including a vinyl release for Important Records, who put out his T.H. Cycle cassette in 2015 on their Cassauna imprint. The upcoming LP for Important is especially notable—it was recorded at Mills College’s Center for Contemporary Music on the first-ever Buchla machine from the San Francisco Tape Music Center. “There’s a module there that only exists in that system!” he says. It’s hard to believe that someone like Burraston, who’s been on the forefront of synthesis theory and technology for such a long time, can continue to excavate with such excitement, and yet, that’s exactly the case.
For many obsessive fans who grew up in the pre-Internet era, their passion for music was sparked in the dingy basements and dark booths of college radio stations. Despite sound boards that are decades out of date and tastes that are rapidly changing, that tradition has endured. The best college stations remain dedicated to delivering music that falls outside the purview of Billboard-charting mainstream radio.
If anything, the shifting climate has caused student station managers and music directors to work harder at keeping their stations relevant. And with good reason: at the radio station, they find comrades with whom they can trade mixtapes and stay up late into the night, raving about life-changing B-sides. We speak from personal experience: even if our first shows were at 4am on Tuesday nights, they were the best two hours of our entire week.
In this column called Better Know a College Radio Station, we spotlight the programmers, music directors, and general managers who make sure the “On Air” light never burns out.
This month we chat with the DJs and programmers of Georgia Tech’s WREK 91.1FM. We’ve got general manager Noah Roberts (DJ VERT), program director Dylan Thomson (DJ DSI), former general manager Sheena Ganju (DJ SHEEN), and former webmaster Raoul Rego (DJ PIE).
Tell us about the history of your station. When did you start broadcasting? How has the station evolved over the years?
Raoul Rego: Our station call sign is WREK and we broadcast at 91.1FM in the metro Atlanta area (as well as on HD Radio). Our website, wrek.org, is our online public presence where we host our stream (check us out!), show information, schedule, and the log of music we’ve played. Several of our shows have their own sites, like Friction, which features experimental music, and The Longboards Show, which is surf rock. Plenty of shows have their own Facebook pages as well. We also have our own Facebook page, Instagram, and Twitter!
Sheena Ganju: We got our official license to broadcast on March 25, 1968, which means we’re celebrating 50 years in 2018! We evolved with tech. Our engineering team worked hard to break through technological barriers, launching our first website in 1993, and becoming the first radio station to broadcast on the Internet in August 1994. Now, our airwaves reach all of metro Atlanta and beyond, and we broadcast at 100,000 watts ERP, the maximum power level allowed by the FCC.
We’ve kept several traditions alive during that time, including a weekly Live At WREK show, where we’ve had artists like Minutemen, Sun Ra, Man or Astro-man?, and many more play on our airwaves over the years. We’ve also held yearly WREKtacular shows as a community celebration of WREK and local music.
Describe the culture of your station.
Noah Roberts: We’re a completely open student org! Any Georgia Tech student can sign up for training and eventually become a DJ. We also have plenty of community hosts (mostly GT alumni), who run specialty shows—one- to four-hour weekly programs curated to represent a specific genre. We’re completely student-run, and many members will passionately contribute to music selection, engineering, operations, and all the other duties that keep the station running!
What’s playing on the air Tuesday at 4:30am?
Ganju: We have a segment called Overnight Alternatives, which is a mix of noise, experimental, and the occasional freeform jazz piece. As an example, this past week, a piece by John Bischoff was on air.
What are some local bands in heavy rotation at the moment?
An artful indie rock/post-punk outfit from Atlanta! They’ve found success with their sophomore album, which is actually in WREK’s library.
Over the past couple of years, Omni has released two highly-praised albums. Listening to their lo-fi post-punk tunes has is like “[cruising] a steady though lavish wave of disenchantment like it’s 1979.”
From noisy post-punk to a lighter jangly sound, these guys put it all together on their latest record.
Chew describe themselves as “psychedelic spacewave,” carefully blending a wide assortment of genres.
WREK has been programming Warning Light’s releases since 2010. Field recordings, synths, and noise dominate this album.
What will you miss most about working at the radio station after you graduate?
Ganju: I’ll miss the people. Everyone on staff has such diverse musical tastes and other interests, and I’ve learned so much about everything—from the subgenres of metal to plant biology to anime just by hanging around the station. Georgia Tech is full of diverse and interesting people, and WREK is an epitome of them bringing their interests together to make something great.
Rego: Our station is unique for being fully student-run. While we do often consult with our large network of alumni for assistance, our engineering and executive teams are in charge of keeping the station running. I’ll miss being able to have a significant impact on this station’s operations and being able to share music that I love on a show I help host, Psych Out.
What are five bands that you’re really excited about right now? WHY?
Ganju: The Swedish post-punk band Makthaverskan has a sound I love, and they just released a new album.
Dylan Thomson: The Little Axe label was brought to my attention by one of our music directors, Elijah. They dig up and release music from every corner of the globe. Some of my favorites include La Bolognesina by Esther Suarez (Peruvian Huayno singer) and What Are They Doing in Heaven Today? by Washington Phillips (1920s American gospel). I’m also intoTal National, an Afrofunk group out of Niger. The wonderfully combine soukous guitars with energetic vocals and hold an influence of desert blues traditional to the area. White Poppy are super pleasant dream pop from Canada.
Rego: Odd Nosdam is one of my favorite producers. Probably best known for being the producer in Clouddead, he’s doing some of the best atmospheric electronic music and hip-hop. I particularly recommend Burner and Sisters. Celestaphone is an up-and-coming producer from California, and has put out some of the most ambitious instrumental hip-hop I’ve seen. His tracks are packed with ideas and cartoonish energy. He draws just as much from Madlib as he does from Zappa (his vocal sampling is particularly reminiscent of Lumpy Gravy). Minappi’s Last Wondrous Escapade and his last album, To Cite Fright, are definitely worth checking out.
Do you ever interact with stations at other schools? What’s that like?
Ganju: Absolutely! All of the Atlanta area stations interact. We see each other at shows, and even walk the Little 5 Points Halloween Parade every year with WRAS (Georgia State), WMRE (Emory), and SCAD Atlanta radio, and we know some people at WUOG (UGA) in Athens. All great kids who love and support Atlanta music.
How do novice DJs get trained at your station? Any sage wisdom you offer first-timers?
Roberts: The very first step is for an interested student to just walk in the station and sign up for training. The trainee will then join an experienced DJ for an hour a week, where they’ll learn the basics of running a shift, as well as some station history. Sooner or later, they’ll run an hour shift by themselves as a test run, and then take a quick oral exam with our Operations Manager to make sure they’re up to speed. The best piece of advice I can offer to someone who wants to get involved with WREK (or any college radio station, for that manner) is just to come in with a positive attitude and to be relentlessly curious!
The backstory to Bloom is that Somni labored over its sound, drafting three years worth of revisions and reinventions. Maybe that’s why the music feels exact, purposeful, and studious. The San Francisco-based producer was originally born in the U.K., but moved to the U.S. at age eight. In a sense the production carries that same dual citizenship. One can hear as much Four Tet or Boards of Canada as Baths and Teebs. Somni’s Bloom pulls from all these different sounds without relying too heavily on one; his aim is to illuminate every last detail within his electronic beat-driven music.
The song titles could suggest arcadian escape or simply the front stoop, like on “Girl,” in which he pairs dutiful whistling with twinkling porch chimes and soft wind. And while the outset of “Spaces” feels tauntingly familiar, Somni transitions to a deeper state of calm, using layered vocal arrangements with strong psychedelic effects. On this song and others, Somni always brings the listener back safely, navigating the unknown until he comes back to his starting point. To that end, Bloom achieves peace of mind without pushing the listener too much into full-on, blissed-out exotic escapism. As the album teaches us, we can achieve nirvana by simply closing our eyes.
Photos by Ebru Yildiz
“I find a lot of unity in some odd places,” Marc Ribot said in a 2013 interview with Premier Guitar. It’s a good summation of an unsummarizable career.
Ribot is generally classified as a jazz guitarist; he rose to prominence in the 1980s New York Knitting Factory scene loosely centered around composer and alto saxophonist John Zorn. Ribot has never fit easily into any one genre. As a session musician and sideman, he’s played on records by pop-rocker Elvis Costello, industrial electronic noisemaker J.G. Thirlwell, and Zorn himself—perhaps most notably in Zorn’s Masada project, which turns Jewish folk music into jazz noise weirdness. Under his own leadership, Ribot has helmed bands devoted to the Cuban music of Arsenio Rodrigues, to the exploration of Philly soul, and to various mixtures of jazz, rock, and noise. One minute he’s joining saxophonist Ellery Eskelin for a grungy dissection of boss tenor Gene Ammons’s “Twisting the Jug,” the next he’s sneerily deconstructing “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” And he’s got a new album coming out that addresses the particular political pressures of the moment.
Ribot’s catalog is so extensive and varied that even the relatively small portion available on Bandcamp is a bit overwhelming. Below are some of the highlights of his work, under his own name and assisting other artists.
Ribot did a lot of session work in the 1980s, often in incongruous contexts. This track is one example; he provides spacious, echoey electric guitar backing for Syd Straw’s 1989 debut Surprise. The mercurial Ribot plays the tune straight, giving a Daniel Lanois-like grandeur to Straw’s rootsy self-affirmation. The next year, the two bizarrely but gloriously collaborated on a cover of “I Must Be In Love“—a song originally by the Beatles parody band the Rutles.
Noël Akchoté and Marc Ribot
The Other Side of Lust Corner
French guitarist Noël Akchoté released a series of duets with Eugene Chadbourne and Ribot in 1996 called Lust Corner. The original album featured tunes mostly by Ornette Coleman, which were used as blueprints for abstract noodling and improvisation. The tracks collected on The Other Side of Lust Corner have even less structure. The album is a loose conglomerate of ambience and spiky noise. Gentle passages give way to tortured blasts and screeches, with rock-like hooks occasionally emerging only to be drawn back into the murk. This is Ribot at his most avant-garde—simultaneously frustrating and engrossing.
The most famous records Ribot has played on are a series of classic releases by Tom Waits. Ribot was a guitarist for Waits on Franks Wild Years (1987), Big Time (1988), and Mule Variations (1999). Ribot provides the lyrical lead guitar for Waits’s retro-soul exploration on “House Where Nobody Lives,” the fuzz electric blues backing on “Cold Water,” and the broken abstractions on “Eyeball Kid.” On “Black Market Baby,” Ribot’s distorted notes slide on the edge of lounge, threatening to tip over into Webern before heading to extremely drunk classic rock. The guitarist’s ability to straddle nostalgic styles and art music helped define Waits’s cerebrally boozy approach to roots music—noisy, dissonant, and cool.
Eco de Sombres
Ribot has explored Latin music throughout his career, and he provides a sympathetic assist to Peruvian singer Susana Baca’s band on this 2000 album. You can hear him to good effect on “El Mayoral,” where he comes in at around the one-minute mark with a funky background hook, adding another level of rhythm to the band’s shimmy. The introduction to “Poema” is Ribot in lyrical mode, providing sustained atmosphere for Baca’s seductive vocals.
Spiritual Unity is a tribute to Albert Ayler’s seminal 1965 free jazz album of the same name. Ribot’s LP isn’t a cover of Ayler’s, but a collection of (mostly) Ayler tunes performed in a style of free improvisation inspired by the saxophonist. The band features, most notably, the amazing bassist Henry Grimes, who played on many Ayler recordings, but who retired in 1967 and only started playing again in 2002. Ribot is also joined by drummer Chad Taylor and trumpeter Roy Campbell. “Invocation” is not an Ayler tune, but is very much in the spirit, with an opening statement of a hummable theme on guitar contrasted with Grimes’s bass, leading quickly into ecstatic transcendent noise.
This 2010 solo guitar album features short melodic themes, some written for actual film projects, others for imaginary movies. Whatever the original source, though, they’re all uniformly lovely. “Bateau” is dreamy, slightly broken flamenco; Paco de Lucía falls asleep as he picks. “Fat Man Blues” places muzak-y blues lines over a driving backbeat; it’s groovy, joyfully ridiculous soul. This is one of Ribot’s most accessible recordings.
Anarchist Republic of Bzzz
Anarchist Republic of Bzzz
Ribot joins with guitarists Arto Lindsay and Seb el Zin, and rappers Mike Ladd and Sensational, to blast out a set of squalling art punk splurts on this 2012 project. “Blackhawk take me out!” someone shouts on “Body Plastic Sandles,” as the guitars blare and screech. On “Creole Rocket” Mike Ladd mutters, “I like the soul / La la la” over layers of staggering grime as the guitarists attempt to tear their instruments in half. One of the pleasures of Marc Ribot’s music is its humor, and this is definitely an album to giggle through.
Silk Around the Marrow
Italian guitarist and singer Sara Ardizzoni often seems to be channeling Ribot’s eclectic style on her 2016 Silk Around the Marrow, so it’s no surprise when she pulls the man himself in for the nine-minute closing track. Still, “Event Horizon” is characteristically weird; set against ambient guitar drift, Ribot talk/sings his way through a bored slam poetry lament. “Two o’clock in the afternoon / I feel like something to eat / Chef Boyardee / And it’s already cooked / Fix me,” he says, deadpan, and then launches into sincere blues licks. “I check my inbox baby / I take what I can get.” The moral is, when Marc Ribot guests on your record, you never know quite what you’re going to end up with.
Elliott Sharp with Mary Halvorson and Marc Ribot
Ribot and guitarists Sharp and Mary Halvorson join together for a series of jazzy improvisations. The music isn’t noisy or grating, though the guitars are often used percussively. “Wobbly” sounds like a gentle rainstorm with head trauma, while “The Ship I Am On” involves the guitarists playfully imitating each other, the lead trying to outrun an echo.
Argentinian-born, New York City-based Sofía Rei recorded this remarkable tribute to Chilean songwriter Violeta Parra for her 100th birthday in 2017. Ribot heard Rei performing some of the songs on the album at John Zorn’s 60th birthday celebration, and joined the album as a collaborator. He provides fiery Hendrixoid guitar backing on the commanding “Arriba Quemando el Sol,” creating a kind of South American folk psychedelia that stands up nicely beside the work of Gal Costa. “La Lavandera” finds Ribot in a more contemplative vein, his dripping notes vibrating around Rei’s emotion-soaked vocals. The best song, though, is the joyful opening track, “Casamiento de Negros” on which a mutli-tracked Rei sings a cappella rings around herself. Ribot fills in with a sliding cheerful melody, pushing the song on into bliss.
Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog
YRU Still Here?
One of Ribot’s central ongoing projects is Ceramic Dog, a band with multi-instrumentalists Shahzad Ismaily and Ches Smith. The trio hang out mostly on the rock end of jazz, and their 2018 album, YRU Still Here? is no exception. The opening track, “Personal Nancy” is noise rock in a Stooges/Sonic Youth vein, with Ribot talk/shrieking aggro lyrics: “I got a right to scream like an idiot / I got the right to bitch and moan / I got the right to be unhappy / I got the right to say fuck you!” “Muslim Jewish Resistance” is a pleasingly noisy call to solidarity, while “Shut That Kid Up” is an eight-minute laid-back groovy indie rock guitar freakout. At 64, Ribot isn’t exactly a kid, but he doesn’t show any signs of shutting up.
The documentary Whose Streets?, about the aftermath of unarmed teenager Michael Brown’s death at the hands of law enforcement, kept its cameras rolling in St. Louis after the national media packed their bags and left. Released in 2017 and co-directed by Damon Davis with Sabaah Folayanis, the film follows the community organizers who emerged after the uprising in Ferguson. It premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and was picked up by Magnolia Pictures for distribution, eventually released on August 11, 2017, the third anniversary of Michael Brown’s death. But St. Louis is more than one moment; and among its local cultural institutions is Davis’s own FarFetched label, an independent music and art imprint that has preserved the breadth of the city’s musical experimentation for the past seven years.
Davis is not just a producer, but a collaborator, community organizer, and documentarian. As Ferguson burned in 2014, Davis drew on the self-sufficiency he honed running FarFetched in order to film Whose Streets? The documentary was an undertaking he says he couldn’t have completed were it not for his experience founding and maintaining a record label.
“Having to be independent from the start put in me a mindstate that is the most natural way of going about all of my practices,” he writes in an email. “Keeping creative control and ownership is extremely important to me.” Mainly situated in the South Side of St. Louis, FarFetched provides liberation for generations of artists who would have few outlets otherwise.
The origin of FarFetched is not unlike that of countless other regional collectives. Davis had been amassing side projects made by artists and friends, each project with a distinctly different sound. “We started to have all this music with nowhere to put it,” he says. He became inspired by the way Danger Mouse produced one-off projects with friends, as well as Madlib’s approach to sustaining a steady output without inhibition.
“The goal was to create an alliance of like-minded artists who work together and push each other sonically,” he says. “The idea was to build a place that housed forward-thinking music made with electronics, and it was very producer/beat-driven in the beginning.”
In the early days, FarFetched acted as the intersection of bedroom ambient and local rap—and sometimes punk and gospel. The breadth was established in The Prologue, a compilation originally designed to introduce the collective, which eventually evolved to include new installments annually. Released in 2012, the first volume of the compilation is beat-driven—like a Midwest answer to producers coming out of L.A.’s Low End Theory. The Prologue opened with billowing synth flourishes and roboticized vocals from Sanguinite, and then transitioned to a beatscape of glitching bird sounds (recorded under Davis’s original moniker LooseScrewz); later, rapper Air Haze appears and laments the bubble guts blues on “Artsy Fartsy.”
The series was designed to introduce upcoming albums by FarFetched artists, some of who would become staples of the roster, like Hearskra-z, CaveofSwordS, and Wino Willy. By The Prologue III, Davis realized a new purpose for the series, which is now up to its seventh installment. “On the third Prologue, we did something different where I asked the artists to collaborate on tracks together,” he says. “That has changed the entire vibe of the series. Now instead of it being a sampler it is a cohesive crew collaboration, and has become the staple of our collective.”
Musically, Davis has dabbled in dozens of genres. He and rapper Hearskra-z formed a punk duo called Blank Generation that began as a three-chord shred over drum machines, but has since evolved into a six-piece collective. But the label’s biggest record goes well beyond the realm of producers and rappers: a blues/gospel album by Reverend Sekou & The Holy Ghost entitled The Revolution Has Come. With an album cover that’s an homage to the classic design aesthetic of Blue Note Records, the brass band blues outfit meld New Orleans jazz with traditional protest blues that shatter any misconceptions about the label’s scope.
“I think the FarFetched catalog is an example of the diverse musical landscape in St. Louis,” he says. “We, by no means, have every artist or every possible genre hybrid imaginable in St. Louis. But our dedication to specifically being experimental, collaborative, and original, makes us a place that attracts risk takers musically.”
Davis admits that his dedication to pushing art forward doesn’t always yield consistent results, but that’s all a part of being a trailblazer. Still, he’s happy as long as FarFetched presents a different side of St. Louis that the world doesn’t see. While working on Whose Streets?, Davis simultaneously recorded music that would become a multimedia album entitled Darker Gods, the latest release on FarFetched. The Darker Gods album is accompanied by an art installation that was staged in a St. Louis art gallery depicting the fictitious black deities created on the album. Darker Gods helped Davis escape reality, even if its premise is based in American tragedy.
“I think Whose Streets? is about showing the world as it is and trying to fix what we have been left with,” he concludes. “Darker Gods is about creating a brand new world. Both of which are rooted in identity and the black experience.”
As Rabbit Island, Australian songwriter Amber Fresh puts a delicate, celestial spin on slow-burn balladry. Her latest album, Deep in the Big, has the poignancy of a lullaby, right down to Fresh’s softly-murmured vocals.
But just because its pace may be unhurried doesn’t mean its reach isn’t vast. Fresh’s piano playing ranges from sparse and tentative, as on lead single “Deep in the Big,” to rippling and expansive, as on “Boxing Day.” Other tracks introduce sleepy organ, while the closing “Jonah’s Dream” shelves keyboard instruments altogether to hang on folky acoustic guitar. A few guests from Fresh’s hometown of Perth show up along the way, including Pond frontman Nicholas Allbrook, who contributes guitar and vocals.
The lyrics aren’t always clear, but Fresh takes a devastating, sigh-like approach to every track that pulls the heartstrings, even when the meaning is left vague. The wistful “Interstate,” which recalls the aching, piano-centered tracks of Cat Power’s You Are Free, sets Fresh’s voice at a wavering remove without sacrificing emotional resonance. “Zigrid” brings her voice much closer, layering it over rustling percussion and playful effects, while the nearly nine-minute “11, 12, 13” similarly gives the impression of her being right next to us, whispering like a trusted confidant.
Such painstaking intimacy is what sets Rabbit Island apart in the realm of low-key indie pop. Fresh recorded the album back in 2015, but she has spent the intervening years perfecting its artwork, sequencing, and other small details. That revelation only adds to the unmistakable feeling that Deep in the Big is something precious and handmade, glimmering with little secrets.
Let’s be real: Most of the time, “funny” bands don’t work quite as well as you want them to. Either the “funny” isn’t funny, or if the funny is funny, the music doesn’t hold up. This is not the case with staggeringly great anti-Nazi raw black metal band Neckbeard Deathcamp.
Credited to KRIEGMEISTER HATESTORM (vocals, piano, noise, production), SUPERKOMMANDO UBERWEINERSNITCHEL (guitar, bass), and HAILZ KOMRADEZ (drums), the trio’s album White Nationalism Is for Basement Dwelling Losers appeared on Bandcamp on July 21, 2018. Effective equally as anti-fascist political commentary and anti-fi black metal, White Nationalism became, within a matter of days, a viral smash and, for a while there, the best selling album on the site.
Sporting titles such “Incel Warfare,” “Zyklon /b/” (/b/ is the notorious “random” board on 4chan), the dick pic anthem “Please Respond (I Showed You My Penis),” and “The Fetishization ov Asian Women Despite a Demand for a Pure White Race (Outro),” White Nationalism is a debut EP as brilliant of vision in its own way as Fugazi’s self-titled or Mission of Burma’s Signals, Calls and Marches. Which is to say that the music itself works brilliantly, buzzing like house flies over a bloated Nazi corpse while HATESTORM bellows “HI, FEW THINGS TO START OFF. YES, I ADDED YOU BECAUSE YOU’RE A FEMALE GAMER. ‘TIS AN AWESOME THING TO SEE. I’M BRIAN. DON’T BE INTIMIDATED. I’M NOT A STEREOTYPICAL GUY. IF ANYTHING, I’LL BE THE ONE IN THE KITCHEN. PLEASE RESPOND. PLEASE RESPOND,” or “HAIL KEK VAPE NATION GOD EMPEROR CARGO SHORTS, HAIL TRUMP, VALHALLA AWAITS US VETERANS OF THE MEME WAR.”
The album also bills itself as “Fedora Crushing Militant Black Metal,” which really needs to be on a T-shirt. Like most metal, the band’s graphics tell a vital part of the story, whether it’s the Nazi eagle flag with a penis where the bird head should be and Pepe the Frog where the swastika goes, or the SS Death’s Head featuring Rick Ross in place of the skull.
Bandcamp spoke briefly with the increasingly busy trio via email. Yes, they answered in all-caps, screaming and in character.
Talk to me about the band’s origins and your relationship with black metal in general.
SUPERKOMMANDO UBERWEINERSNITCHEL: I MET KRIEGMEISTER THROUGH ART COMMISSIONS AND CHATTING ONLINE ABOUT POLITICS AND BESTIAL BLACK METAL. HE ASKED ME TO JOIN THE PROJECT ON GUITARS TO PERFORM SONIC ONSLAUGHT AND THE RITUALISTIC HATEFUL DESECRATION OF FASCISM. BLACK METAL RUNS THROUGH THE BLACK BLOOD IN OUR VEINS. WE TOOK OATHS TO RESPECT THOSE THAT ARE TRUE AND SEEK OUT THE DEMISE OF RACIST POSERS.
HAILZ KOMRADEZ: SUPERKOMMANDO AND KRIEGMEISTER WERE IN NEED OF REINFORCEMENT. I HAVE DEVOTED MY LIFE TO THE DEFENSE OF BLACK METAL.
Do you have particular favorite black metal albums or artists?
KOMRADEZ: SUPREME LEADERS INCLUDE WOE, YELLOW EYES, SPEKTRAL HATCHERY, ARCHGOAT, GHOST BATH, FALSE, AND ANYTHING LIEUTENANT LEV WEINSTEIN IS AFFILIATED WITH.
KRIEGMEISTER HATESTORM: I THINK KE$HA IS THE MOST POWERFVL EXAMPLE OV CONTEMPORARY MAINSTREAM BLVCK METAL. ADDITIONALLY, I LISTEN TO BOTH SADNESS AND DRAGGED INTO SUNLIGHT.
I can’t imagine you thought this record was going to catch on the way it has. Why do you think it has resonated so much?
KOMRADEZ: THE MASSIVE SUCCESS OF OUR DESECRATION OF NECKBEARDED NAZIS CAN BE ATTRIBUTED TO THE OVERWHELMING NEED FOR AN ALBUM PROPERLY SATIRIZING THE FAULTS OF THE ALT RIGHT AND NATIONAL SOCIALISM.
Have you heard from NSBM folks about this, or looked for reactions on Reddit?
UBERWEINERSNITCHEL: THEY ARE TOO DUMB TO REALIZE THEY ARE JUST PROVIDING US WITH REALLY GOOD PR AND PERPETUALLY PROVIDING MORE MATERIAL TO EXPLOIT THROUGH THEIR MERE EXISTENCE ALONE.
What do you think is it about black metal that it developed this particular white nationalism streak? One doesn’t automatically leap to racism when one thinks about death metal or metalcore or, say, EBM.
KOMRADEZ: BLACK METAL IS AN OUTSIDER ART FORM. NAZIS WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED IN ANY OTHER COMMUNITY, SO THEY STARTED CIRCLE JERKING IN BLACK METAL, WHERE THEY THOUGHT THEY COULD STROKE THEIR EGOS AND MASK THEIR INSECURITIES IN PEACE. BLACK METAL WILL NO LONGER STAND FOR RACISTS. HAIL BLACK METAL, HAIL VICTORY.