Five Labels Deliver a Digital Bounty via Bandcamp
I tend to agree with Cosmo Lee, the former Pitchfork metal critic and figurehead of the metal blog Invisible Oranges, who declared “Every label should have a Bandcamp.” In his post, Lee goes on to give a fairly convincing list of reasons why every label should have a Bandcamp. For my part, I mostly enjoy the convenience of easy streaming in the office and the occasional free-or-cheap download; I’m not ready to give up on physical media just yet.
Still, there are a handful of Carolinas-based record labels that are making this whole digital music thing seem pretty enticing, offering some combination of deep catalog titles, obscure miscellany and promising first-listens. These are just a few:
1.) Grip Tapes
The still-young Chapel Hill label Grip Tapes has, to-date, only two physical releases: Veelee’s The Future Sight, and Old Bricks’ City Lights (both vinyl-and-digital-only). But online, the label’s catalog is exponentially greater, collecting mostly free teaser EPs and singles that cross from synth-jacked funk (Doctor) to earnest singer/songwriter fare (Logan Pate); from sharp hip-hop (Juan Huevos) to skewed pop (Veelee).
- Old Bricks, City Lights — From the spare, creaky folk of their debut, Chapel Hill’s Old Bricks expand the sonic template for a lusher, more dramatic sophomore effort.
- Libraries, The Wilmington Bootlegs — Buzzy electro-pop from this Wilmington duo. They call it “trillwave,” which actually seems pretty apt.
- Cassis Orange, Cassis Orange EP — A small package of lo-fi pop bundling easy, effervescent melodies and just-right electronic blasts.
The prolific electronic musician Brian Grainger runs the Columbia-based Recycled Plastics as an extension of his Milieu Music imprint. And, fittingly, Grainger boasts a few titles in RP’s growing catalog — as both Coppice Halifax and Troth. The so-called “braindance and bedroom ambient music for electric adults” he’s compiled thus far run from warped drone to understated, but kinetic techno, all with a clear element of deliberation. Braindance, indeed.
- Ohrwert, Tral — Dutch producer Arjet Schat offers a platter of spacey and patient mood music, informed by synth-drone and dubstep. Available as a limited-to-50 CD-R, or free download.
- Troth, Combs Hydros — The newest of Grainger’s monikers, Troth focuses on playful electroacoustic arrangements, crafting kinetic beatscapes with an array of synthetic and organic implements.
- Grey Deer, Constance Dubs — Colorado’s Carl Ritger crafts elegant drones as Radere, but here, under his Grey Deer handle, Ritger cuts his panoramic sweeps with sturdy, resonant percussion.
The Carrboro-based Sorry State imprint can count among its catalog titles from Carolina heavyweights Double Negative, Whatever Brains, Brain F≠ and Devour. But Sorry State’s scope is far from local. The cream of the label’s global-punk crop includes Sweden’s Instängd, Italy’s Smart Cops and the UK’s Shitty Limits and Mob Rules, among others. Digital titles are available at a pay-what-you-want rate.
- Shitty Limits, Speculate/Accumulate — The final effort from The Limits finds the band turning toward sharp-angled post-punk, tossing hints of Aussie rockers Eddy Current Suppression Ring into the garage-core base.
- Whatever Brains, Whatever Brains — The Raleigh favorites’ debut long-player is a sprawling trip through lo-fi squall, post-punk spite and spittle and garage rock bluster.
- Mob Rules, The Donor — Because it’s so destructively heavy, it’s easy to miss the melodic nuance lurking in British band Mob Rules’ burly, bludgeoning hardcore. But lean in for the guitar lines, which ply like compound-fractured prog rock recorded in a trainwreck.
A labor of love based near High Point, N.C., Three Lobed Recordings is a reliable source of adventurous psych rock and warped Americana. With limited-edition (mostly) vinyl releases, including titles from heavy hitters like Bardo Pond, Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo, Jack Rose and Mouthus and burgeoning legends like Steve Gunn, Three Lobed has earned its stellar reputation.
- Bardo Pond + Tom Carter, 4/23/03 — An extemporaneous psych-rock bliss-out, as concocted/conjured between space-fuzz stalwarts Bardo Pond and Charalambides’ Tom Carter. This is one half of a double-album; the other half, a live recording, is also worth a listen.
- Steve Gunn, Boerum Palace — An essential record. Steve Gunn’s a young gun in the solo-acoustic scene, but his easy commingling of VU-drones and psychedelic blues is inimitable.
- Idyll Swords, Idyll Swords III — The mostly acoustic guitar trio of Chuck Johnson (Shark Quest, Pykrete), Dave Brylawski (Polvo, Black Taj) and Grant Tennille (Black Taj) here assembles a tangled and captivating mass of folk revisionism.
5.) To Live A Lie
Grindcore. Fastcore. Powerviolence. To Live A Lie leave no room to doubt that its catalog is an aural melee, but the brutal buffet on offer has more hits than misses — and has a net-label side-arm focusing on digital-only demos, live recordings and ephemera.
- Magrudergrind, Crusher — Originally released as a free EP by Scion, the D.C. grindlords’ Crusher is a perfect blend of death-metal riffage and punk ferocity.
- Chest Pain, Chest Pain — Austin, Texas’ Chest Pain fits 10 songs on this 7-inch, packing speedcore blasts into unsuspecting lurching riffs.
- Old Painless, Demo (2011) — The feral screams, squealing guitars and gut-rumbling blastbeats can’t hide the dark serial-killer narratives Raleigh’s Old Painless use to fuel their frenzy.
—Bryan C. Reed