20 essential Bandcamps From 30-year-old Chicago house institutions to TOP bands breaking through to rappers on the hustle, a score of must-check Bandcamps to check and love.
In the digital world’s new landscape, few networks are closer to Dummy’s heart than Bandcamp. While not without its issues, its empowering, enlivening side-stepping of the industry has provided artists with over £1 million in the last 30 days alone, and the office with countless hours of unknown music. There have been an equal amount of forgettable fluff, of course, but that’s much of the pleasure of the site. Unlike the social-focussed platforms of Soundcloud, Facebook or, historically, Myspace, Bandcamp encourages in depth listening to one artist or label at a time. The difficulty of zapping through top friends is often spoken of as a weakness, but in providing a place for music to be hosted, charged and downloaded, artwork to be displayed and not much else, it’s far easier to fall in love with an artist through the tunnel vision of a single page. In a terrific piece of advocacy, Adam Harper praised the site’s long-understated discovery capabilities, and partly in response, here are our best tips to navigate our favourite music site.
- An evening with Adam West
Without doubt one of the most unconventional things on Bandcamp is this, a long talk with Adam West, a man known for playing Batman in the 1960s and having to parody himself ever since. The £2 that the talk costs goes towards funding a star for him on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which is clearly a great cause.
- B.YRSELF DIVISION
B.YRSELF DIVISION have a huge range of releases on their Bandcamp, all straddling the lines between bass music and hip hop in the same way that Rustie, Obey City and other members of the LuckyMe family do.
- Burundi Cloud
The label set up to by west coast new wave band Horrid Red and their friends to push impressionistic post-punk was one of my favourite discoveries of 2011. Their recent EP of outtakes is a subtle, outsider pop mini-masterpiece.
- The Caretaker
The Caretaker is the long-running ambient experimental project of James Kirby. Using music to explore certain ideas with an academic attention to detail, he has released music from 1999 onwards, and it’s all available on his Bandcamp, including the 72-track ‘Theoretically Pure Anterograde Amnesia’ (based around a condition where it’s impossible to remember new events).
- Donky Pitch
Brighton-based label Donky Pitch have a lot of great stuff under their belt, but the best has to go to the Ninja Tune-affiliated oddball Slugabed and the first physical release from Lil B producer KeyboardKid206.
- Electro For Japan
After the Japanese tsunamis in 2011, there were plenty of compilations put together by bands and labels that would go towards the relief fund. This was perhaps the most unlikely – a 46-track electronic synth compilation, featuring legendary EBM group Absolute Body Control, old NDW act Pankow and covers of The Normal and Anne Clarke.
- Electronic Explorations
The brilliant Electronic Explorations podcast series released this 60+ track compilation series comprising of exclusives from ace producers, including Machinedrum, Perc, Distal and Kahn. They haven’t got anything else up, but it’s worth a watch for any future movements.
- Green Ova Undergrounds
Main Attrakionz – one of the biggest sparks in the cloud rap ecosystem (to mix metaphors – have pushed their billowing yet gritty rap mixtapes through Bandcamp, providing a space for some of the most vital underground hip hop to sell its wares on its terms.
- In The Machine Age
In The Machine Age is mainly focused around raw-sounding house and techno, but they venture into other territories, too. The unifying factor between their artists is the mechanical drum machine, placed in the centre of all of their records.
- Marketing Music
Tim Paris’ Marketing Music label is worth a shout mainly because it’s one of the most beautifully put together and in-depth Bandcamp pages around, but with EPs from Bot’Ox, Ivan Smagghe and Alex Egan, it’s got a solid set of releases to its name, too.
Mishka, aka Мишка, is a New York-based streetwear brand that branched out into releasing the sort of washed out hip hop that you might lazily tag as ‘cloud rap’. With free mixtapes from Main Attrakionz, The-Drum and Lil B, it’s not one to be ignored.
- Nico Muhly
The most tech-savvy (and, arguably, most talented) new composer out there, Nico Muhly takes breaks from collabs with Grizzly Bear and Philip Glass to keep his site topped up with his string of EPs and albums.
- Rappers I Know
The two biggest artists to appear on Rappers I Know are probably Jay Electronica and Danny Brown, but there’s a stack of other quality stuff ready to get into.
- Red Bull Music Academy
The Red Bull Music Academy’s Bandcamp page is a mecca for music fans, as their Various Assets series will attest to – just look at the quality of the contributors on the series, and then realise it’s all available for free, and you’re looking at a treasure trove.
- Ricky Eat Acid
The entire Ricky Eat Acid project is up on this Bandcamp. It’s pretty exhaustive, but pretty rewarding, with a lot of ambient and experimental constructions that, a few daring tape-based DIY labels aside, would be too comprehensive to be released anywhere but Bandcamp.
- Stella Mortos
Stella Mortos put out everything from psych folk (Wildeflower) to grungey thrashers (FOE) to glitch (Entrepeneurs), but all are great and are supplemented by gorgeous artwork.
Perhaps the first buzz band to have broken through Bandcamp, the Canadian four-piece have a an album coming on Grimes’s old label Arbutus and French house Atelier Ciseaux.
- Trax Records
Trax shouldn’t need an introduction – the seminal Chicago house label was pivotal in the development of dance music as we know it. Still, they had a history of not paying their artists, and the vinyl they used to press up releases was often recycled, leading to godawful sound. This is important to bear in mind because a) we’re not sure whether the older artists will get paid from any of these sales and b) some of the music is ripped from vinyl, so still sounds awful. Still, they’ve got a vast discography up there, as well as some stuff from new artists on the revived label.
The WEDIDIT collective have only a few EPs up right now, but when those EPs include corkers from Ryan Hemsworth, RL Grime and Shlohmo, you know it’s a sign of quality. They also have a great DIY streak in them, selling limited edition patches and similar merch with their releases.
It was with great pleasure that we discovered that Whitey had put all of his albums up on Bandcamp. Back in the mid-00s, he had a run of form in releasing electro/rock hybrids such as Y.U.H.2.B.M.2, The Awful Truth and Leave Them All Behind, music that was in a similar vein to scene contemporaries Soulwax and Headman. Sadly, history seems to have forgotten him, but his debut album ‘The Light At The End Of The Tunnel Is A Train’ still holds up.