It’s a measure of our fawning media’s willingness to accept unquestioningly the contrived publicity points of Kim Dotcom that when he announced his next venture would allow artists to sell their product and receive 90% of the income directly, no one thought to point out that it has been done legitimately with a site called Bandcamp for quite some time.
In just five years since its launch, Bandcamp has become the go-to online retailer for self-released musicians and independent labels, delivering 85% of money paid, without any intrusive ads, irritant owners or dubious schemes attached. With expat Kiwi and industry consultant Andrew Dubber an early champion, and a reliable service that actually does level the playing field, local artists and labels have taken to the service with a passion.
So it should come as little surprise that Christoph El’ Truento, who is the principal producer for @Peace and contributed beats to Home Brew’s chart-topping album, should choose Bandcamp to release What We Used to Know, a deceptively brief album of unfathomably deep beats and pieces. Although the influence of enigmatic Californian producer Flying Lotus is strongly evident in the flittering synthetic shards, occasional harps and restless rhythms that ebb and flow like a deliciously unreliable tide, El’ Truento still manages to stand out from the legions following in the master’s wake.
Opener Rã begins its 90-second journey with a sumptuous moody jazz piano riff that only just fully establishes itself before the listener is whisked away to the appropriately titled Travelling. Although this common trend of brief tracks, which has become a trademark of the new school of avant-garde beatmakers, can frequently uncover compositional superficiality, in this case there is a sense of a bigger, album-wide picture that gradually reveals itself through these pixels of tunes.
Liquid Sunshine acts as the album’s pivot with a nagging vibes riff that morphs itself into oblivion, complemented by macro-level dripping percussion and all manner of evocative ambience. In keeping with the rest of the album, it’s an absorbing, all-enveloping journey that doesn’t necessarily have a specific destination, or require one.
For Galaxy, the other most substantial and structurally impressive composition on the album, Julien Dyne contributes a delicate bossa beat, while Isaac Aesili’s trumpet parps promisingly early on, before descending into disappointingly traditional territory at conclusion.
In Bandcamp tradition, the album price is “pay what you like”, but if it’s what it’s worth you’re interested in, prepare to dig deep.
WHAT WE USED TO KNOW, Christoph El’ Truento (Bandcamp).
Although she’ll never fully escape the shadow of big sister Beyoncé, Solange Knowles takes a step forward on TRUE ( Terrible/Rhythm Method), a seven-track mini-LP presented as a warm-up for her third solo release. Co-writer and producer Dev Hynes, from Blood Orange, is responsible for the 80s-drenched vibes that permeate the collection, allowing the 26-year-old to flaunt her best Madonna tendencies on an unashamedly pop-oriented fling. It’s charming but patchy, and hook-heavy but still pleasantly twisted. The easy road would have been another tepid 60s soul knock-off ; this is much more intriguing.
The beneficiary of Jarvis Cocker’s first outside production role, British vocalist, classically trained harpist and multi-instrumentalist Serafina Steer, excels on her third album, THE MOTHS ARE REAL (Stolen Recordings). Musically pared-back, with the harp in the spotlight, Steer’s tales span everything from Skinny Dipping to Alien Invasion, with a whispered delivery that is captivatingly natural. Possessed of a gorgeous turn of phrase and humour that can recall the dryness of Ivor Cutler or the peculiarly British whimsy of Viv Stanshall, Steer is an original at a time when they are all too scarce in contemporary pop music.