Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Bandcampers: "This One Time at Bandcamp ... I Paid for a Download"

When my allowance was bounced up to $15 a week the only logical destination for my cash was the local record shop. There, I was guided through classics like Fresh Fruit For the Rotting Vegetables, Damaged, and Among the Living. When I looked for things on my own I was left with few options or waiting on the owner to order it. Scouring the web for obscure French black metal or long out of print British crust left few options as my parents wouldn't offer a credit card and money orders/mailing cash seemed a bit too much for me at 13. Enter Napster.

I cuaght the tail-end of Napster, but fully embraced (and later suffered) Kazaa and flimsily grasped torrents. Thankfully alternatives filled Napster's gap and Myspace/Youtube became the new purveyor for previewing a band. Still, the problem was unsolved for cds/records that were out of print and without alternative means some music simply became impossible to listen to. This is why, more than Myspace, which was never great at all, Bandcamp and similar sites have filled important roles.

Bandcamp to me is so crucial because it's so simple. No friends to add, or pictures and ads to get lost in, just the music I came here for. For those of you unfamiliar with Bandcamp, it is a site tailored to each artist/label that provides the ability to sell music as well as stream full releases. Downloads typically are "pay what you'd like to" and are available in almost every format/quality (many times free downloads are an option). Mathias Huxley, half of Australia's thedowngoing, points out that "...the direct connection between artist and fan is a great way for independent artists to keep their fans up to date on their music and releases." This connection is something lacking in entities like Amazon and iTunes.

Will Butler, sole dude behind To Live a Lie Records has been on a mission to upload as much of his label's discography as possible to bandcamp, and all for free. Proudly posted on TLAL's facebook Mr. Butler claims "zero dollars made on Bandcamp and counting!" While many bands and labels stress the option to download the music for free or whatever you wish, the streaming ability has proven to be another great asset. Fellow label runner, Adam Bartlett of Gilead Media, feels that...
"Bandcamp changed the way I operate the label. They've given me an amazing outlet for streaming and downloadable audio that directly benefits the bands and the label. They filled an enormous void where many other sites tried and failed."

While Mr. Bartlett and I's backgrounds might be different, I completely agree that Bandcamp has only been an improvement for fans, labels, and the bands themselves (and hopefully is the death knell for buggy, awful quality Myspace). I spend a lot of time going through records, whether it be in a real store, or online, so having the ability to listen beforehand has been humongous.

Many labels are using Bandcamp to showcase their catalog, Grindcore Karaokee however is an unusual presence in that it is a label strictly operating through Bandcamp. Run by Agoraphobic Nosebleed vocalist Jay Randall, Grindcore Karaokee has a vast catalog of bands covering every possible spectrum of grindcore and all available for streaming or free downloads. This offers a unique and easy to access platform for many smaller acts and those who lack the means for larger physical distribution.

I'll admit my perspective might be narrow in regards to the world of trends and the music biz, being that I grew up with cassettes and saw their demise and was really a child of CDs, but in an age were people are less inclined to pay for digital files, Bandcamp has been a pleasant surprise and an effective halfway point between blog-whoring download links and artists/labels getting their names out. As Mr. Butler points out...

"The Internet is a great place, and I'm scared the SOPA thing, ISP monitoring downloading, and the whole download blog crackdown is going to affect free underground music heavily... so these are my wants to keep my releases available for free (Bandcamp) and cheap but making the money count (digital distribution via my aggregator)."

If we are entering an era of a Phillip K. Dick-like crackdowns on internet freedoms, then Bandcamp might be a strong contender for maintaining our collective wants as enthusiasts and supporters of independent bands and labels.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Sakatat - Bir Devrin Sonu

Turkey's Sakatat make a strong case with their debut full-length Bir Devrin Sonu which I believe translates to "end of an era." End of an era couldn't be more wrong as Sakatat are heating up and developing into one of the most energetic bands around. After a handful of splits and eps, we finally get to hear the treatment this band has deserved for quite awhile.

Bir Devrin Sonu might not have the length one would expect for an LP, even if it is a grindcore album (8 minutes does  leave a bit to be desired), but the production this time around wholly warrants the title of a full-length. The band still maintains their old school, buzzy style but have a robust production to heighten the punch of the drums and bring to light some great fret work which typically got buried by their Warsore style production. Another giant step are the vocals as vocalist Semih sounds outright crazy. Chang like bat screeches, throaty barks and even gang vocals; the dynamic vocals work wonders for the band's momentum shifting style.

Sakatat are one of a handful of new bands carrying the torch of old school grindcore and not sounding redundant or like a clone. Their production is fresh, yet heavy and powerful and their approach doesn't have a fetid smell to it. The band's at their best with songs like "Adım Adım Elerki" or "Tahammül Etmek Kabul Etmek Demek" which break away from the blasts to heighten the intensity with crashing sheets of cymbals and power chord riffs.

There's not much else to say besides this is what we have been waiting for. Sakatat strike with a lethal dose of speed and energy and beg your repeat button to get some wear.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

thedowngoing - athousandyearsofdarkness

Much like watching a film that's most enjoyable when everything seems to have gone wrong or gotten weird (like Altered States) the best part of thedowngoing is seeing how far they will spiral out of control. The band thankfully doesn't just devolve into painful noise, but rather straddles a horizon of experimentation and familiar grindcore tropes  to create a sound that can't be cornered.

The noisy grind duo have gotten pretty damn close to perfecting the art of being incoherent as their latest athousandyearsofdarkness, is an atonal compactor of jagged riffs, vocals pushed as far as possible  and cascading drums that threaten to bludgeon everything else out of the picture. Grindy, angular riffs reminiscent of Discordance Axis splash against "out-there" pinches and strums that complement the samples, drums, modulated vocals, and everything else that's filling this kitchen sink to the brim.

As I said in my review of their previous ep, thedowngoing isn't something I'd usually find myself coming back to, but like early grindcore, part of the enjoyment is seeing them on the brink of chaos and controlling it and coming back to (relative) safety. Try and remember when you first heard Scum, there's a constant thought that during elongated blasts (like that of "Instinct of Survival") that the band might just fall apart and their limbs would just fly off their bodies trying to keep up with the bar of fury they set. That's the same sort of enjoyment thedowngoing captures, especially with tracks like "hope[sic]" and "snakecharmer."

Much more cohesive and fulfilling than their previous efforts, thedowngoing have done a great job in riding an aggression and weirdness that seems to be lacking from so many grindcore bands today. On another note, the lyrics are a nice surprise as they're a an uncomfortable linage of vignette meets stream of consciousness that will spark your curiosity and imagination.

This one's a real grower.

thedowngoing bandcamp
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