Bandcamp Picks

Bandcamp Picks of the Week 11/17/2023


It’s our Bandcamp Picks of the Week, featuring the icy-post punk of Lathe of Heaven’s BOUND BY NAKED SKIES and the dreamy art pop of ML Buch’s aptly named SUNTUB! 

Lathe of Heaven album cover

Lathe of Heaven – BOUND BY NAKED SKIES

Genre: Post-Punk, New Wave

Favorite Tracks: “Genome,” “Moon-Driven Sea,” “At Moment’s Edge”

If you can somehow recall February 2022, I gushed over the three-track demo from Brooklyn’s own Lathe of Heaven. Now, some 20-ish months later, and the band is back with their debut album, BOUND BY NAKED SKIES. It surely is an early Christmas for fans of moody, ice-cold post-punk from the genre’s undisputed North American hub. But how have Lathe of Heaven evolved over all this time? And was their demo a good roadmap for what they’d get up to next? To fully answer those questions, I’ll be framing this review by looking at the three demo cuts and the final versions featured on this 11-track effort. Why? ‘Cause I think it’s a novel way to explore a band’s trajectory and how songs remain these unfixed creations. Also, I’m just a touch bored and this seems like a bit of fun.

“Genome” vs. “Genome”

I called this one “every post-punk song you’ve ever heard, remembered in the midst of an extended fever dream.” And it’s nice to see that, aided by a touch of studio magic and sheen, it now exudes even more rebellious fire and that endlessly sharp edge. Sometimes the littlest touches unearth a wealth of magic.

“Breaking Strain” vs. “The Breaking Strain”

This little gem blurred the aesthetic lines between a “UK dive bar in the late ’70s and a dingy Brooklyn club circa 2013.” Now, it feels like they’ve chosen a side (the former), and that not only makes for a more compelling song but greater overall power. It’s a wholly more definitive statement that maintains that playful sensuality.

“Moon-Driven Sea” vs. “Moon-Driven Sea”

I almost preferred the ramshackle-y qualities of the original. Yet this final take at least better balances that “overt intensity and a playful sense of mystery” by emphasizing poppy undertones, which is a definitive decision even as it stymies some DIY undertones. But sometimes you’ve got to go big in every possible way.

Analysis: It’s great to see that Lathe of Heaven have evolved in all the right ways. They continue to honor the confines of their beloved genre—all dramatic moods and extra chilly sentiments—while recycling these ‘80s energies with a deliberateness and unassuming joy. It’s maybe not a massive leap forward, but it’s similarly important as this record highlights the band’s output in a new, more streamlined package. It’s everything about the demo, and the way it utterly seized me, but with heaps more gusto and added textures.

A Final Note: Luckily the rest of the album’s both super entertaining while extending that dynamic of measured growth. Be it the visceral majesty of “At Moment’s Edge,” the dance party jam that is “Inertia,” and/or the ultra-celebratory anthem “The Faithful Image,” there’s so many aesthetical tangents and pockets of interest. They add something new to the record’s ’80s-indebted tapestry, leaning in and backing off in equal measure to forge an experience with proper nooks and crevices. With songs this slamming, time don’t mean a thing, folks. Listen to it now over on Bandcamp. [Chris Coplan]

ML Buch album cover


Genre: Dream Pop, Art Pop, Neo-Psychedelia

Favorite Tracks: “Pan over the hill,” “Fleshless hand,” “Dust beam,” “Working it out”

On her second album, SUNTUB, ML Buch musically bridges the corporeal with the intangible. It’s an incredible exercise in off-kilter electronic pop. Buch severs what normally constitutes ambient pop, or even post-rock. Where the latter is oft-forlorn, adopting crashing guitar timbre, its construction here is uncharacteristically chipper and sparkling—like the artwork’s blinding glimmer from her guitar’s tuning peg. Buch’s shielded sight symbolizes the spectacle of this album: its beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. Either these soothing songs gel together, or ideally, their textually rich acoustics breathe gracefully. Buch’s lustrous collection is perhaps one of 2023’s most adventurous sonic journeys.

SUNTUB equally conjures faded Earth tones, the warbled reflective sheen of chrome, and abyssal ocean depths. Buch’s breathy voice like Imogen Heap, particularly when she harmonizes by herself (“Solid” and “Working it out”), imbues a bodily quality to her paradoxically synthetic soundscapes. Primitive drum machines and woozy synthesizers (both at their best on “Somewhere”) linger below her singing, to bolster her unstopping metallic guitar—her second voice. Its sole presence in the album’s roomiest cuts (“Slide,” “Clearing,” and especially “Dust beam”) rings valiantly with the same hypnotic vibrancy as The Police’s Andy Summers. The lack of density in those spacious songs invites a deep ocean blue to engulf the listener’s imagination. Buch’s mechanical instrumentation is conjoined with the familiarity of her poignant, human voice and new wave guitar sensibilities, ultimately eliciting déjà vu: her futuristic sound palette is founded from noises we’ve already heard.

Comparisons can be drawn, certainly, but they hardly dismiss Buch’s idiosyncrasy. Opener “Pan over the hill” recalls the ethereal, swaying, baggy alt-dance of CCFX’s 2017 self-titled EP. Something that’d be classed as Cocteau Twins-esque dream pop sounds more spiritual on “Fleshless hand.” SUNTUB isn’t entirely glossy though—more abrasion appears on the shoegazing drum-heavy “Big sun.” Meanwhile, “River mouth” steadily chugs with a neurotic guitar melody, until erupting into towering feedback that cushions Buch’s visceral voice. The song carries a gothic lonesomeness like being anchored in a deserted place, distant from human connection. The closer “Working it out” is noteworthy for its sparsity, but also its awe-inspiring lyrics: “You’re working it out / Your body can care … You’re reaching out / And I / Give you the hug of a sister.” With those self-reflective lines, SUNTUB culminates into a large, protective divine embrace.

SUNTUB is a glamorous, gorgeous display of blending organic instrumentation with digital sounds. Again, potential likenesses are apparent—perhaps Buch emulates The Durutti Column, sharing their meditative ‘80s jangle guitar arrangements. However, I immediately pointed to Baltimore-born artist Mark Renner’s 2018 FEW TRACES compilation, a sampler of his pastoral ambient and new romantic ballads sounding like a cross between Brian Eno and New Order. If Renner’s excavated, comforting songs from 1982–90 stand the test of time today, then they’re timeless—Buch’s abstruse offering here promises similar longevity. By concocting a mixture of diverse influences and her own individuality with intense precision, ML Buch has brewed a frictionless, free-flowing seraphic pool to bathe in. Experience her sublime aural exploration over on Bandcamp. [Dom Lepore]

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