Buy from Bandcamp today… again!

Here we are again, my fee-free friends. My Bandcamp buddies. We made it. Another big, beautiful Bandcamp Friday. I dunno about you, but I’ve definitely started using these events as quarantine mile markers — something to look forward to, look back on, and generally use as a temporal tool for resisting the Groundhog Day grind of life these days. And it’s such a great feeling seeing the music community light up all at once and celebrate the value of create work — whether it’s a new album recorded under these unusual circumstances or music made ages ago that’s just now wriggling free from obscurity.

Here are a few releases I have my eye on:

Aquiles Navarro & Tcheser Holmes — Heritage of the Invisible II

Album announcements from the International Anthem label are an immediate cause for celebration, and this one was particularly intriguing. “Telepathic Afro-Caribbean improvisational trumpet-and-percussion duo”? Members of Irreversible Entanglements? An instant classic lead single? Count me in.

DJ Mentos — “1989

This here is a vibe. Combined with the video, “1989” is like being dropped down in the middle of a narrative that you get to finish writing yourself. It’s easy to get lost in those possibilities — despite the video’s six-minute running length, it feels like a lifetime has passed when its finished. So fun. Another demonstration of DJ Mentos’ masterful ability to make the past feel vital in the present.

Alex Ingersoll — Ruins Form

Speaking of vibes, this is where I’ve been on a nightly basis. This vibe. This place. This sound. Laptop open, typing, listening to music that opens up an imagined, uncanny space where time and gravity are different and whole worlds appear and disappear at the whim of music that dodges familiar melodic pathways. I’d compare it to the Valley Beyond in Westworld, but I’m only 50% certain I’d be referencing the right thing, given that I’m 100% confused by Westworld at all times. One thing I do know is that Alex Ingersoll’s Ruins Form album is wonderfully immersive, combining modular synthesizer, live instrumentation, and field recordings, and I highly recommend letting it bend your personal space-time continuum for a while.

left.hnd — ad mausoleum

I’ve been looking forward to this record since the day I interviewed Scott Lane for River City Magazine. While the resulting article mainly focused on his American Paradox label, he mentioned in that conversation that he’d been working on recordings of his own, and that itself was music to my ears, given that he’s had a hand in making so many of my favorite albums to come out of Richmond in recent years. (And that’s on top of his outstanding work with The Congress.) If you’ve been following along with these Bandcamp posts, you already know that I recommend his Mira EP from April in the highest terms. Judging by the bright, bold, and impeccably detailed tracks released from ad mausoleum so far (check out the latest of those below), his debut LP as left.hnd is going to meet and exceed all the hopes that started forming during our interview.

John Calvin Abney — Familiar Ground

This is another one where anticipation runs high. How high? So high that my very first act after gaining consciousness on Tuesday morning was checking the Black Mesa Records site to see if the preorder was available. You know you’re excited for an album to be announced when you literally can’t and don’t wait for the announcement to go out.

Lonely Rooms — Until We Have To

Joshua Quarles, Jonathan Vassar, Christina Gleixner… these are some of the first names I learned to look out for when I started following Richmond’s music scene. They’re names that have come to stand as synonyms for craft, and while I’ve heard them make wildly divergent music separate from one another — from hushed folk to jazzy Turkish-language pop to wind ensemble music that incorporated the sounds of SCUBA diving in real time — their shared capacity for making music of great depth (not a SCUBA pun, I swear) and substance gives Lonely Rooms a powerful sense of cohesion. I love this album. It’s remarkably poised, capturing moments of quiet turmoil and questioning made crystalline by melodies and structures that make you want to sing along and stay in the moment, however difficult it may be. And while there’s tremendous weight to the lyrics, closing track “Comeback” leaves you with a hopeful mantra I plan to return to repeatedly:

No alarms. No attacks.
Today wasn’t that bad.
I can take some comfort in that.
Try and figure out where my head is at.
I need strength and I find that I can
Feel it coming back.

Daniel Romano’s Outfit — How Ill Thy World Is Ordered

I am absolutely crazy about the live album Daniel Romano’s Outfit put out earlier this year, entitled Okay Wow. Good lord, y’all. It’s so good. This is one hell of a band, and not just in the sense of rendering songs well or being proficient. They have that elusive thing that makes the whole endeavor feel grander and more meaningful than just people on a stage playing instruments. The harmonies feel triumphant, and there’s grace and power to the way the group moves together. If you haven’t heard Okay Wow, please listen to it now. Then join me in being really, really excited for How Ill The World Is Ordered, which has a dynamite lead single called “A Rat Without A Tale.”

As always, here are a few other items of interest (I’ll keep this list updated throughout the day):

William Tyler — New Vanitas
Various — Good Music To Avert The Collapse Of American Democracy (benefits Fair Fight)
DarkTwaine_ — L’enfants Sauvages
Mdou Moctar — Mixtape Vol 5
Dogwood Tales — Live in the Velvet Rut vol. 2
ragenap — “hard rain” (benefits My Block My Hood My City)
CZAR — Gore en Regalia
Irreversible Entanglements — Who Sent You? (a few Implacable Maroon vinyl versions were made available!)

The Low Branches

The Low Branches

I can remember the first time I got a recording of a show I’d just witnessed. It was while I was in college — Soulive at the Canal Club. I almost didn’t go — I wasn’t the biggest fan and agreed to go at the last minute, but I loved it. Looking back, as jammy as Soulive may be, that show represented a significant step in my quest to access jazz. I couldn’t believe the dexterity of keys player Neal Evans, who was pulling double-duty by playing synth bass with his left hand. I’ve since learned that this is typical for Soulive, but it seemed incredible to me. I stared at Evans for large chunks of each song, totally awestruck. Focusing on a single player like that has become one of my main techniques for appreciating genres I’m less familiar with, and it worked wonders at that show.

They had CD burners at the merch table, and you could buy a two-disc recording on your way out. $15 bucks, I think. Easy as that. I know (and knew then) that people have been taping shows and trading recordings for ages, but it felt like the future to me. You heard something, then you had it. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that night was the dividing line between two worlds — the world in which I watched and listened to live music without worrying whether I’d see or hear it again, and the world I live in now, wherein I consciously ask myself whether I’m seeing/hearing this concert for the first time or for the last time. I process performances differently if it’s the latter. I try to be more present.

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You Watch That?!?

The clip above is from When the Song Dies, a documentary short I learned about from my father-in-law. I wish I could embed the whole thing (you can watch it here), because it’s well worth the 15 minutes. Though music does play a part, the story is much bigger, focusing on cultural mortality and how, when the last person who knows a tradition or song dies, that thing is lost forever. It’s a brutal thought — as true and scary as thinking about your own death. Imagine that you’re the only one in your family who knows the melody to a song that’s been passed down from one generation to the next, only there’s no next generation to teach it to. That’s the situation in which some of the documentary’s Scottish subjects find themselves.

I’m not sure if the director was thinking about this when he was working on the short, but I found myself wondering if this type of cultural death is, itself, dying.

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The Low Branches

The Low Branches

Positive feedback comes in many forms. A thumbs-up. A compliment. A vote of confidence. If you’re a dolphin performing tricks at SeaWorld, it comes in the form of a tasty, frozen fish. Yum!

But in certain situations, the best feedback of all is total silence. The Low Branches’ January 19 album release show at Gallery 5 is a wonderful example.

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The Low Branches

The Low Branches

Near the end of August of last year, I had the opportunity to interview Christina Gleixner about the home recording project she’d undergone to help pay for the next Low Branches studio release. At the time, not many details on the album were available, other than the fact that they’d done some production work with John Morand at Sound of Music, some themselves, and that the final product was to be titled One Hundred Years Old (or 100 Years Old, as I styled it at the time).

Exactly four months after that interview was published, the album’s title track hit the interweb via Richmond Playlist, and I haven’t been able to get over how much I love it… in large part because I can’t seem to get it out of my head.

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The Low Branches

Rock Bottom

Everything tastes better when it’s homegrown, and The Low Branches are taking a refreshingly agricultural approach to financing their upcoming full-length, 100 Years Old.

In order to grow the funds needed to release 100 Years Old, frontwoman Christina Gleixner has been seeding Bandcamp with home recordings, each of which can be purchased for $1 (or more — you have the ability to name a higher price if you’d like to donate extra). The series started with a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Leah,” and it continues with an original entitled “Rock Bottom.” Gleixner was kind enough to answer a few questions via email about this latest recording, the status of 100 Years Old, and more.

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