Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music (part IV)

Or “ASAM: Bandcamp Edition”.

If you’re an independent musician, trying to sell your records, it’s increasingly cheap to get your material out to people. With the growing popularity of digital downloads, you could probably get away without ever burning a CD copy of your music. (I wouldn’t recommend this, obviously: a lot of people still like to buy CDs from the band at gigs, and lots of venues, music reviewers, etc still prefer a hard copy.) There are numerous websites offering to host your music so that punters can exchange their hard-earned cash for a digital copy. Websites like iTunes even let you keep as much as 25% of that cash*.

If you’re one of those people that likes to discover new music, you can find a veritable deluge of the stuff around the internet. And if you don’t mind having it in digital form, it’s the easiest way to get your own copy of an album released by an independent artist who’s trying to get his or her music out to as many people as possible. You could buy it from iTunes, or Amazon, or umpteen other websites. But you know, ultimately, most of the money you pay for that album is going to Apple, or Amazon, or whoever is hosting the music and managing the sale. And it’s a pity that they’re so restrictive about what you can do with that download once you’ve paid for it…

Enter Bandcamp. What if the artist could upload their recordings and decide exactly what price they wanted to charge for them? What if the buyers could pay this price – or more, if they wished – and know that 85% of their money was going to the artist? And what if they could download the music in more or less any digital sound format they wished? And what if they had the freedom to copy those files to any device they wished?

Bandcamp has become immensely popular with independent artists and the fans of independent artists. I’m certainly not the first person to praise it on the internet. Mainly through my own pestering, Cherry White put their EP up on there back in October. (Rest assured, the album will be going straight on there once we’ve recorded it.)

So I thought I’d use this edition of ASAM to share some bands that I discovered through Bandcamp. These were not recommended by any friends, and unlike ASAMptI, I don’t know any of the artists personally. I simply typed genres that were of interest to me into the search function, and had a listen to what came up.

The Murlocs

First up: some bright, brash psychedelia from Australia. They might be based in Melbourne and only have existed since 2011, but this quintet sound like they could have been on the lineup for the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. Tee Pee EP was tremendously enjoyable, and I’m still trying to work out who the vocalist reminds me of (any suggestions welcomed…)

Duo Malarkey

My most recent discovery, and probably the most esoteric – at least in terms of instrumentation. I can only imagine the interchange that went on between these two musicians…
“Hey, I play the flute.”
“Hey, I play the bass. We should definitely form a band between the two of us.”
“Oh, well I know a guitarist who might like to-”
“No. Bass and flute will suffice.”
And the strangest thing is: it does. Evident Nonsense is, the duo insist, only a demo, recorded hastily one afternoon, but the interplay between the bass and the flute is enough to make for a really good recording. I suggest starting backwards with this one: try their rendition of Kenny Dorham’s jazz staple Blue Bossa and, if you’re sold on that, have a listen to their own compositions.

Bernard Adamus

I’ve saved this one until last for one simple reason: I am hooked on No 2, Adamus’ album from last September, and I felt that if you heard this one first you might forget to listen to the first two. It’s just such a wonderfully absorbing album. And it’s not often you can say that about an album to which you can’t understand the lyrics.

Adamus seems to be Canada’s answer to Tom Waits: a dry, tired-sounding voice that conveys the blues perfectly but still shows a dark sense of humour. And strange, clunking instrumentation that sounds like a group of drunken Québecois sitting out on their back porch thumping through traditional songs and making up the words as they go along.

I suggest beginning with track 2: Entre ici pis chez vous and then, if you’re feeling as tired as I am right now, Fulton Road should echo that mood. I say that; at some point I’ll try and translate the lyrics, and probably find they’re woefully inappropriate, or something…

*Depends who you ask, and what your situation is, it seems. Apologies if I’m wrong, but from what I could gather, it’s 25% if you’re selling independently. Though apparently if you’re signed to a major label, it’s closer to 10% once they’ve had their cut.

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