Bandcamp Picks of the Week are back and better than ever
billy woods + Kenny Segal – HIDING PLACES
Genre: Lo-Fi Hip Hop
Favorite Tracks: “Spongebob,” “A Day in a Week in a Year (featuring Mothermary),” “Toothy,” “Bigfakelaugh,” “Red Dust”
There’s a scene near the end of ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND where Joel (Jim Carrey) is having the final memories of his relationship with Clementine (Kate Winslet) erased. To him, she will cease to exist, and in their final moments he takes refuge with her in a memory on a house on a beach—one of his earliest memories of her will now be his last. As the fragmented parts of the memory begin to literally cave in on him, that house on the beach begins to crumble with them still in it, a visual display of their final moment decaying. The house on the front of the cover of HIDING PLACES is just that: a decaying labyrinth of billy woods’ memories soundtracked by Kenny Segal’s beautiful, haunting, vanishing, and not un-Jon Brion-y beats. Musically Segal, the accomplished L.A. beat-making veteran, takes HIDING PLACES and makes it a cinematic journey, a minimalist jungle of lush, ecstasy-laden vibes and harsh confrontations. And woods, the Brooklyn rapper whose name is coming more and more to the forefront, rides those vibes and confrontations expertly, from his self-defense-triggered rise on “Checkpoint’s” intensity, to his sleepwalking flow on the daydream “A Day in a Week in a Year.” HIDING PLACES works because it constantly feels as though its creators are fading from memory, grasping to musically retain a sliver of nostalgia or heartbreak or anger. Even closer “Red Dust,” a relatively straightforward venting about hip hop and his come-up, is done so as though its his last memory of his life as a rapper: “I wanna swallow you, show you the hate inside, it’s a lake / So cold, so deep / I see you, you never saw me / Transferred to the sea.” That kind of prose, delivered behind a disintegrating piano beat, is the norm on HIDING PLACES, a hazy display of reveries that Segal and woods bring out of each other. It’s a fantastic release and in a year lacking in amazing hip hop, not to be slept on. Give it a listen on Bandcamp.
Smoulder – TIMES OF OBSCENE EVIL AND WILD DARING
Genre: Doom Metal
Favorite Tracks: “Voyage of the Sunchaser,” “Black Gods Kiss”
Remember the first time you heard Mercyful Fate’s MELISSA? The Danish heavy metal band’s 1983 debut is the stuff of literal legend, an almost cartoonish representation of the gothic mythology, demonology, and darkness that courses through the veins of metal and metalhead archetypes and stereotypes. Even that album cover, an artistic rendering of a demon skull with piercing reds and stark blacks, seems to revel in the devilish chaos its presenting. But here’s the thing: MELISSA, with song names like “Curse of the Pharaohs,” “At the Sound of the Demon Bell,” and “Satan’s Fall,” kicks so much ass even in spite of the modern day silliness. The vocal performances are extremely performative, the riffs heavy, and the atmosphere and iconography embody a history of pop culture metal tropes for a reason—”Into the Coven” was one of the Parents Music Resource Center’s Filthy Fifteen objectionable songs because of the songs “perceived” occult content, the best fun fact you’ll read all day, but it’s also just a beast of a song.
And we’re all thinking it, so I’ll just say it: Does it really matter if this Smoulder debut is any good? You’ve already made up your mind, just as you did about Mercyful Fate. Top to bottom this thing has a lot of the same non-musical tangibles as MELISSA, even if its DNA is less rooted in satanic worship and is more in line with Manowar’s lineage of fantasy-centric metal. The song names? They fuck: “Illian of Garathorm,” “Voyage of the Sunchaser,” “Black Gods Kiss.” That album cover? It also fucks. If it was a Sega Genesis game you’d have owned it, and if it was the poster to a show on Netflix, there’d be inappropriate fanfiction on Tumblr. immediately. But, dear reader, I’m here to let you know that Smoulder’s debut, the title of which I haven’t even mentioned yet because it’s far too powerful to mention in the simple intro of a review, also fucks. TIMES OF OBSCENE EVIL AND WILD DARING is so over-the-top fun that it might be a gag—I have no idea. If someone were to tell me that everything about it were somehow an elaborate prank to trick dullards like myself into buying into a fantastical doom metal album, a musical beast created in a lab to simply emulate the concept of fun, I’d cede and say yes, I’m an idiot. But perhaps I want to be tricked. I mean here’s a quick sample of the lyrics:
“I sell my sword, to the highest bidder / To ride with my brethren / With shining steel by my side / Crush the traitors and revel, in their cries!” — “The Sword Woman”
“Mastering the forbidden arts / Thickly cloaked poisonous scents / Tinctures thrown in the hearth / To cut out her beating heart!
COAT! THE DAGGER!
Steel on flint, glowing otherworldly spark” — “Shadowy Sisterhood”
And for those of you disappointed by the most recent developments on GAME OF THRONES, don’t you worry, here’s a singular line from “Bastard Steel” that’s better than any moment in HBO’s prestige drama:
“Battling eternal winter / In the dark the others risen / They possess and enslave us / The ancient ones our downfall”
And in case you needed to know: The drumming on this thing, from the double-bass drum avalanche on “Bastard Steel” to the guiding stomp of “Black God’s Kiss,” is immaculate, vocalist Sarah Ann’s performance is constantly steadying, wizened at times like quintessential fantasy narrators Ozzy or Plant, and unhinged in other moments, and the guitars are going to make most ‘80s metal fans happy (the end soloing in “Voyage of the Sunchaser” is as good a place to start as any). Nothing here should work as well it does given how exaggerated the whole experience feels and yet, it’s a fucking blast. TIMES OF OBSCENE EVIL AND WILD DARING is on Bandcamp right now—allow yourself to have some fun and give it a listen here.