Bandcamp Picks

Bandcamp Picks of the Week 11/5/2021

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It’s our Bandcamp Picks of the Week, featuring a diverse lineup of new releases in the world of punk (Paprika), country and blues (TK & The Holy Know-Nothings), and ambient (Forest Management)! 

String Loops Series Forest Management cover

Forest Management – STRING LOOP SERIES

Genre: Ambient, Experimental

Favorite Tracks: “Confiding Complacency,” “Lacking Only In Zeros”

Some years ago, I saw John Daniel perform as Forest Management from a Ukrainian Federation building in Montreal. Maybe it was the crisp autumn air, the reverence built into the very wood structures, or the mound of poutine in my belly, but it was like the night was planned out specifically for Daniel. He embraced that responsibility with gusto, pairing his slow-burning stream of electronics with found footage to create a deeply compelling, hugely comforting full-body media extravaganza. Then, I went out and ate more poutine afterward.

STRING LOOP SERIES, a recently released collection of pieces made circa 2017, doesn’t exactly recreate that one magical night up north, but it comes close enough. Ambient music can feel somewhat formulaic; often, there’s only so much you can do with pacing and structure and the basic musical tools associated with the genre to craft these soundscapes. But Daniel embraces that notion with boundless wit, and his resulting creations feel fresh and lively because of the structure he imposes.

“Breaking Through The Ceiling” spends 14 minutes letting the intro build without ever really getting anywhere—it wraps around you cooly and deliberately until you’re overtaken by the rush of lukewarm synths. Similarly, “Lacking Only In Zeros” becomes obsessively focused on one repetitive tone for 11-ish minutes; it’s not so much pointless repetition but a way to cleverly explore certain sounds by letting them engage with and speak to the listener. Yet these are more than just sonic experiments, and the collection builds (in terms of scope and ambition) with the 30-minute “Confiding Complacency.” Don’t be scared of the runtime, though, as Daniel applies the lessons and tools of STRING LOOP SERIES to create this genuinely thrilling sonic leviathan that builds and builds with grace until you’re entirely consumed.

When I think about this record and seeing Daniel in-person, I see the commonality as peering behind the man and the machines. Both the record and performance prove that he’s a meticulous builder, taking the utmost time and attention to create these constructs. The closer you look, the more detail and nuance appears, and the more we understand Daniel’s ambitions and message. It doesn’t take much effort, either, as whether he’s performing or speaking to us via LP, Daniel is a perfect guide into some deeply magical realms. You can check out Forest Management’s STRING LOOP SERIES over on Bandcamp right now [Chris Coplan]

Paprika EP cover

Paprika – PAPRIKA EP

Genre: Punk, Hardcore

Favorite Songs: “Polite Society,” “Git II Heaven”

In the name of utmost transparency: I know almost nothing about the punk scene in New Orleans. But if the self-titled demo/EP from Paprika is any indication, that scene deserves to be in the same conversation as havens like Los Angeles, Boston, and New York City. The six-track EP, out early last month via Seattle’s Iron Lung Records, is roughly six minutes of “sweaty, angry songs about colonization, greed, excess, and exploitation…” It’s about as subtle and nuanced as a ball-peen hammer to the face, and the band are relentless in distilling their sound down to the truly bare essentials of angry, hyper-dissonant hardcore. 

The EP is just the sort of wall of noise that cracked open the brain pans of an entire generation of punk fans. “Git II Heaven” may only be 37 seconds, but its intensity will leave you feeling rattled for days after. Even “Polite Society”—the longest song at a sturdy 84 seconds—spends the whole time drilling the listener with waves of crunchy noise. What this all lacks in nuance it more than makes up for in raw power and boundless momentum. 

But this EP is more than the sonic equivalent of taking a cannonball to the sternum. There’s some clear evidence that the band are genuinely talented musicians, and though they use these technical skills somewhat sparingly, what’s actually here is impressive nonetheless. “Genesis” has this really great start-stop rhythm, which feels really thrilling in the way it endlessly teases. Meanwhile, a little echo/reverb on “Insane Machine” does a ton for building up a more understated sense of foreboding. And even if the lyrics come out as mostly incoherent gibberish, the writing’s extra sharp. Find me a better line nowadays than “Could you even consider that living / Sitting around eating shrimp today” (“Polite Society”) and I’ll gift you a crisp $20 bill.

This EP feels like everything I’ve ever wanted from punk: the ear-obliterating noise, the robust layer of leftist politics, the unassuming technical prowess, and the unapologetically brazen attitude. It’s a love letter to punk’s past and a solid declaration that some things will never truly die. If you spoke punk as your first musical/creative language, PAPRIKA is an obvious choice. And if you spin it loud enough, the whole world just might listen in. Listen to PAPRIKA over on Bandcamp. [Chris Coplan]

The Incredible Heat Machine cover

TK & The Holy Know-Nothings – THE INCREDIBLE HEAT MACHINE

Genre: Blues Rock, Country

Favorite Tracks: “Serenity Prayer,” “Hell of a Time,” “Laid Down & Cried,” “She Wonders”

On the surface, the flashiest thing about TK & The Holy Know-Nothings is their name, one that without context conjures a group of journeyman musicians and ragtag miscreants who could just as well be playing the touring medicine show as the Laurelthirst Public House. That singer-songwriter Taylor Kingman’s reputation would precede him locally feels fitting—like a traveling band that would appear and then disappear just as quickly, TK & The Holy Know-Nothings read on record as the best band playing in town on whatever night you see them.

THE INCREDIBLE HEAT MACHINE, the group’s sophomore outing, is a workmanlike collection of country and blues rock tunes with clean choruses and tight musicianship. While the album feels defined by its quiet, folksy ballads (the horns on closer “Just the Right Amount” and the quiet pedal steel on “Hell of a Time” are highlights), it’s a raucous bar rock celebration that ranges from playful honky tonk stomps (“Bottom of the Bottle”) to blistering vintage guitar radio rock (“The Incredible Heat Machine”). There are songs across the album that eight or nine years ago might’ve led to a major label deal, a spot on the Railroad Revival Tour, or eventually some time in the studio with Dan Auerbach; while I’m not sure if that’s received as a compliment or an indictment in 2021 (for a blue-collar band like the Holy Know-Nothings, it could go either way) the songwriting across THE INCREDIBLE HEAT MACHINE feels lived in and full in a way that few artists to emerge out of that moment did. The group’s dogged personality, built on the music of Jeffrey Frederick and Heinz mustard, propels the album, and it’s all the better for it. Go scope THE INCREDIBLE HEAT MACHINE over on Bandcamp. [CJ Simonson]

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