Bandcamp Picks

Bandcamp Picks of the Week 2/27/19

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Bandcamp Picks of the Week is back and better than ever

Bandcamp Picks of the Week The Man In Black

The Man In Black – VALLEY OF FLOWERS

Genre: Lo-Fi Western

Favorite Tracks: N/A

I’ll be flat out honest: I’m a sucker for a good western. JOHNNY GUITAR. THE SEARCHERS. UNFORGIVEN. THE WILD BUNCH. A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS. Frequently I was pulled upon my father’s knee as a young lad and made to watch the classics of John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart and Clint Eastwood through the TV edits on AMC—problematic as they were/are, I still find a great comfort in them (cancel me if you must, but if you’re just now finding out about John Wayne, I mean… pay more attention to your history of film classes). At the risk of making this sound like a novelty, listening to The Man In Black’s VALLEY OF FLOWERS reveals a similar comfort, delivering an extension of the genre’s robust musical scores by way of lo-fi home tapings that pay respect to the cinematic sweep of THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY with four-track cassette recorders. As the premise would suggest, there is no swelling orchestra, there is no brass section to deliver mariachi flourishes, and the tone remains as dry as ever. VALLEY OF FLOWERS rightfully feels like a spacey homage to the western genre without getting lost in the attempt at making something truly cinematic — even if you can envision Peckinpah or Ford or Leone’s masterworks, The Man in Black isn’t really trying to replace those films iconic sounds. In moments, we hear something conventional; “Valley of the Flowers” rings with crooning lyrics, and “Vulture on a Carcass” features the showdown whistling we’d expect from a such a soundtrack. But other times we find ourselves enveloped by something far more minimal and subtle, like the campfire clicking of  “Sacred Medicine” or the slow meandering of the padded drums on “Lonely on the Mountain.” While I teased that I dare not call it a novelty record earlier, it is the kind of experience that reads like one. Still, VALLEY OF FLOWERS is unique enough and singular enough an experience with such a clear understanding of its own identity amidst some of cinema’s greatest musical works that, novelty or not, it really doesn’t matter. Even as a one-off, The Man In Black is ready to soundtrack his own shootout. Give it a listen on Bandcamp. [CJ Simonson]

Bandcamp Picks Leon Vynehall

Leon Vynehall – DJ-KICKS

Genre: DJ Mix

Favorite Tracks: N/A

Look, we’ve all been there: an aux-cord DJ event where the songs are predictable, if perhaps basely enjoyable, the drinks are watered-down or overpriced, the clientele are all posers, and you wish someone, ANYONE, would realize that all eight minutes of “Dance Yrself Clean” do NOT need to be played if you want to keep a crowd invested. In short, it’s easy to sneer at the concept of a DJ in the post-whatever wave of live performance we’re in now. But mixes like Leon Vynehall’s recent take on the DJ-KICKS series exist to prove that it’s still an art form in the hands of someone with talent and vision. At the risk of sounding snobby, curation is a skill; the DJ, in some sense, exists to introduce their crowd to new sounds as much as they exist to make sure a communal pocket of appeal and investment is maintained. The entire implied contract of a DJ event is that you trust someone else to take the reigns, keeping things tonally cohesive but the energy approachable, hopefully with an ebb and flow of tension and release. With these parameters in mind, Leon Vynehall’s DJ-KICKS is inarguably a high-water mark for DJ mixing as an artform, somehow navigating through a collection of tracks from genres as disparate as synthpop, jungle, soul, and an exhaustive collection of whatever “art-” or “avant-” subgenres you want to fix, all while keeping things within a distinct and idiosyncratic aesthetic palette. It makes just as much sense, as presented here, to include the airy seaside stroll of Haruomi Hosono as it does to include the dubby flip of esoteric Throbbing Gristle alum Genesis P-Orridge… it’s honestly astounding to consider just how little similarity everything presented within has to do with each other and how fundamentally right they feel when presented as a Vynehall unit. It’s weird, it’s a little challenging, but it’s nothing if not impressive. Also, a special shout-out goes to including Degrees of Freedom’s “August Is an Angel,” a song I would have never discovered unless a DJ mix gave me an assist and quite honestly one of the best things I’ve heard. You can listen to DJ-KICKS via !K7’s subscription service (a worthy purchase) on Bandcamp, or get a free taste over on YouTube! [Thomas Seraydarian]

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