Welcome to Bandcampology! I’m your Bandcampologist, Justin.
This segment is intended to celebrate the delightfully weird, undeniably wonderful, and tragically underappreciated music platform, Bandcamp. In a world where music streaming services tend towards interchangeability due to the fact that any cool, new feature immediately gets implemented across board by all the major companies, Bandcamp is a welcome burst of colorful individuality–it’s free to use, with limited streaming designed to encourage the listener to an album purchase (don’t worry, many “album purchases” let you name your own price, and others are much cheaper on Bandcamp than on traditional distribution sites).
It’s also an open platform, where musicians and small record companies can bypass the typical domination of the music industry by the supermassive labels which, until now, have iron-fistedly ruled the music world. That means that a lot of music on Bandcamp is magnificently bold, experimental, and strange. Even better, these features also subvert another standard of typical streaming services–Bandcamp facilitates the PAYMENT of the ARTIST directly, and in much higher rates (thanks to their emphasis on album purchases) than the paltry percentages streaming monsters get away with.
In short, when I say “celebrate,” I really mean CELEBRATE, since there’s much to celebrate at Bandcamp. In the spirit of celebration, then, this segment will document my journey through the Bandcamp world with album reviews encompassing multiple genres, the scoop on badass discounts, and more!
If you haven’t already, go to Bandcamp and create a profile. It’s entirely free, and you’ll need one in order to follow our excursions here on Bandcampology.
The Rating System
- Merchworthy (*****)–The highest of honors. This means that, not only do I think you should unhesitatingly buy the digital album, but you should grab a shirt, CD, or vinyl copy as well. In short, this album is one of my favorites on Bandcamp.
- Buy it! (****)–this means, obviously, that the album deserves an unhesitating purchase, but doesn’t quite justify the lavish honor of a merch purchase, at least by my standards. This is the second-highest honor an album can receive.
- Stream it and buy it cheap (***)–This means give it a listen, if you want, and if the price is right, I would probably bag a digital purchase. These albums range from “okay” to “worth a spin.” It’s not necessarily bad or unenjoyable, it just isn’t essential.
- Stream it (**)–This means I’d give it a listen, but I wouldn’t go as far as to spend money on it. I’m a pretty voracious album purchaser, so if I wouldn’t purchase it, it’s not good. However, some albums are worth listening to, if only to experience how amusingly bad they are.
- Ignore it (*)–It’s total shit. Leave it alone.
Let’s begin with a bang. Tunisian producer Deena Abdelwahed took me by storm with her dark, moody, and chilling electronic offering, Khonnar. The Bandcamp album description says Khonnar “evokes the dark, shameful and disturbing side of things,” and I emphatically agree that this album leaves you feeling a little nasty–just check out the twisted chord progression that launches the track “Ababab.” You won’t be getting that insidious little lick out of your head for a while. You’re welcome.
I’ve never heard an Eastern album so laden with folk influences sound this contemporary before. Muslimgauze might be my primary reference point here, and although Bryn Jones (a Brit) might infuse his electronic music with heavy folk influences (not African, but Israeli-Palestinian), it never sounded this serious, or anywhere near this disturbing. Abdelwahed is destined to move some heads in the electronic music sphere, even given how the genre seems to be peaking in innovation and originality. Strangely, Khonnar remains consistently danceable while retaining a sonic depth that lends the album a deeply introspective character. If you’re dancing to this, you’re dancing somewhere in an unlit, Doom-esque dungeon of your own subconscious fears.
Khonnar is definitely one of the greatest dark albums I’ve stumbled across in 2018. That’s certainly saying something, since there’s been no shortage of incredible music this year. At 9 Euros for a digital copy (12 for a CD), this thing certainly isn’t cheap for Bandcamp, and it’s worth every penny. If you like dark electronic music with a seriously experimental bent, get this immediately.
Rating: Merchworthy (*****)
I came to this one-man-wonder late this year, but I’m glad I finally made it. Impressions of the Morning Star is a solid effort in the ever-changing forefront of experimental black metal. Released by Spain’s DIY label, Throne Records, this album definitely caught my ear as a unique voice in a genre that all too frequently tends towards anonymous uniformity. Although there are certainly more groundbreaking heavy-hitters in the field (Imperial Triumphant, Slugdge, and A Forest of Stars come immediately to mind), Entropy Created Consciousness admirably keeps closer to its atmospheric black metal roots than most of 2018’s black metal genre-benders. The Agalloch influence is strikingly prominent (although ECC’s pacing isn’t uniformly slow here), and I’d argue that Impressions of the Morning Star is a more interesting and diverse listen than most of Agalloch’s albums are (admittedly, however, I’m not a huge Agalloch fan).
The diversity here is laudable, and the passages are generally beautiful and moving. My main complaint is that Impressions of the Morning Star doesn’t transition between passages as seamlessly as it should. This still feels like an early effort of a potentially great musician (which I’m certain is the case) who hasn’t quite figured everything out yet. In this this way, it reminds me of Enslaved’s album Frost, although nothing here is quite as sloppy as Frost at its worst. It’s still an enjoyable album, and definitely worth a purchase for experimental metal fans, especially since you can name your own price. I’m keeping my eye on this one; after all, we all know how amazing Enslaved became.
Rating: Stream it and buy it cheap (***)
That’s it for now! Please let me know in the comments below what albums, news, or sales I should cover next time on Bandcampology. Look for part three of our “Darkest Albums Ever Recorded” list, as well as our “Top Twenty Albums of 2018” soon.
-Justin A. Burnett