As with Discogs and Boomkat, Bandcamp looms as a potential worm hole for aficionados. Now, if you know what you’re after, you can escape quickly, and financially intact, but if you’re browsing you can easily get sucked in.
Not that this is a ‘problem’. Quite the opposite, nearly all of us will have extra time to do this thanks to working from home, or self-isolating to combat the spread of Coronavirus. There are worse ways to kill some time – well, unless you want to purposely infect a cunty neighbour who hasn’t returned that Parmesan microplane you lent them – especially as Bandcamp supports a lot of independent musicians, bands and labels, who, as so many do, need all the support they can get right now.
(I know we’re supposed to be vigilant and earnest about Coronavirus and its threat, but I did manage to amuse myself by reading the headline to this story as ‘A man has appeared in court charged with fake tits which claimed to treat Covid-19’. Hey, sometimes a little levity in uncertain times is necessary. Also necessary, that the scummy dickhead in question who made the fake kits gets what’s coming to him.)
Bandcamp’s catalogue is vast but it still retains a niche feel. Its skin and layout is favourably reminiscent of Myspace, which is now synonymous with the early internet’s look and feel (remember the days before ‘do you accept our cookies?’, ‘Please register with us’ and using your data consent bars incessantly popping up?) and as one of the first significant sites with which burgeoning musicians could self-promote. Bandcamp is a business, and while it does take a cut of the proceeds, fifteen percent to be exact, you struggle to begrudge it this when compared to Spotify or fucking Apple music (*spits*), mostly due to its ease of use for both uploaders and buyers and having no adverts. Everything is linked by label and by genre, encouraging you to wander. Information and context are often sparse, and the (relatively) large media buttons are given prime of place at the top left of the page. Sure, there may be a soft-sell blurb from the producer, label or artist placed further down the page, and there’s a comments section from those who have tried it, but why would you read these instead of trying the music? Bandcamp succeeds in placing you vis-à-vis with the music and poses the important questions; is this interesting, do I like this?
Oddly, Bandcamp’s indiscriminateness reminds me of the Coronavirus. It’s a leveller. However, the simplicity of Bandcamp’s interface is a welcome inverse to the infuriatingly confusing coverage the pandemic has received in the media. The information matrix, that’s a euphemism for the internet kids – and it’s now the place where nearly all news is sourced, has become such a landfill that it’s never been harder to parse what information is genuine, vetted and given to you for your benefit.
Normally you’d trust the government guidelines, but their confused message at the start obliterated trust and makes people less likely to follow the medical advice tethered to it, no matter how viable or reliable it is. When Boris Johnson first announced his headline figure of two hundred-thousand deaths by the virus, that was based upon influenza data, a different affliction. Then came Dominic Cummings’ quickly aborted herd immunity ‘take it on the chin’ strategy (I’d pay good money to see Cummings’ head bounced off a kerb before someone in a JCB digger reversed over him), which everyone sensible recoiled at. Was this dogmatic, strategic Darwinist right-wing wet dream challenged as outrageous bollocks? No, and in the darkest of ironies they were absolved by the ground shifting too quickly. Now, in lockdown, we’re reduced to medical experts being wheeled out daily to offer speculative predictions. What good does this do other than fill news cycles?
In the absence of facts or even consensus, or, get this, actual news, you know, reporting of events, we get opinion. News as opinion is always editorialised, which makes it propaganda. Case in point – see the Daily Mail whipping up its readership with xenophobia, with the utterly ludicrous assertion that Michel Barnier infected Boris Johnson with the virus as revenge for Brexit.
While that might be the bottom of the barrel, the rest barely rise above it, we’ve had copious interviews and ‘what it could mean’ takes – answer: nobody knows, using the pandemic as a conduit for political point scoring (it’s the absolute worst), non-medical experts discussing the issue and asking inane questions of other non-experts. Such a circle-jerk of incessant news filler is the terrain where conspiracy theories, bad faith anti-vaccine nutjobs and mis-information thrive, and it spills over to social media, in the pub, at home or in your workplace. Worst of all, it helps breed the kind of ignorant contempt that sees people act without concern of spreading the virus to others.
It’s alarming, but no less surprising, that someone as lacklustre as Johnson, in a position with direct access to the best experts, initially struggled to identify and act on the correct information. While it would be facetious to blame the media directly in that case, the government’s dithering is indicative of how robust the current media’s propaganda model is and its ability to sow doubt. In Johnson’s case you wonder if a potential backlash from the ignorant talking heads who set the public tone encouraged him, and that nasty fuck Dominic Cummings, to prioritise optics, business, the market, way of life, instead of following the lead of other countries, like South Korea and Japan, and adopting the correct strategic approach. It’s fitting that the current government’s early handling of the situation; complacency, dysfunction, ineptitude, sycophantism, also prevail throughout much of the mainstream media. Its main job is to hold people and institutions accountable, and now it does everything it can not to, including, crucially, itself.
We are to blame here too, we don’t hold them to account. We’ll distract ourselves with anything to avoid holding ourselves to account. See the slew of self-serving arseholes going out and getting pished one last time when pubs were forced to shut, or doing a Kirstie Allsopp and contravening the current lockdown cause ‘not travelling to our second house is a bit inconvenient, yeah’.
Thankfully, not everybody is an epic cunt like Kelvin MacKenzie who’s made a career out of lying and saying anything to remain relevant, or the worst kind of self-interested shameless grasping cunt; Mike ‘I need to go on a zero calories per hour diet’ Ashley or Tim fucking Martin – here’s a naming and shaming spreadsheet for employee testimonies for treatment and conditions during the outbreak. There are sane, altruistic people in the public eye. They’re the folk who aren’t blagging, claiming to have expert knowledge. Take Gary Neville allowing NHS staff to use his hotel’s premises and just being a voice of reason generally, and Jürgen Klopp rightly refusing to give his opinion on the virus when some lazy arsehole journo looking for easy copy pressed him on the issue. Klopp had the requisite self-awareness to know he didn’t know enough about the subject and therefore it was irresponsible for him to give anybody advice. If only everyone else heeded it…
…anyway, down a different wormhole there, so, where was I?
Oh yeah, Bandcamp. The following is stuff I’ve found, or been directed towards, over the last few years that can act as jumping off points. Who knows where they’ll take you? That’s the fun of it.
There’s loads of Japanese Vaporwave on Bandcamp. Who knew? My initial exposure to Vaporwave was not favourable. It’s crap, as crap as a McDonald’s breakfast, and its construct is too – knocked off soul and R’n’B samples slowed down to half speed, often with the vocals distorted into sluggishness, and occasionally augmented by ambient collages.
Clearly an ignorant stereotyping. 2814 would be perfect as the sombre part of the score for one of the Yakuza games or one of Takeshi Kitano’s stylised hard boiled crime movies. The other one’s music to get down to, it’s twenty plus minutes long (take it as a challenge fellas) and is essentially two different mixes of the same track. It, and the person(s) responsible retains some mystery. There’s bugger all info provided, and the artist and album title haven’t been translated from the Kanji (I daren’t attempt this through Google Translate for fear of looking like a bigger fanny than usual).
However, the latter of the above shares a label with a bunch of other Japanese Vaporwave and this wee gem:
If I hadn’t noticed this was a Japanese/Chilean combo I’d think it was released by Star Slinger. The beats and abbreviated hooks are almost as delightfully garish as the cover art. The second wields eighties funk baselines with serious aplomb.
I discovered some KevinTheCreep stuff on an NTS mix, then Vector Graphics as they share the same label. If you’re so inclined you can buy the entire Sic Records discography for about £70 (subject to exchange rates). This presents a quandary, buy the whole lot based upon one or two you’ve tried, and get a discount, or buy them separately cause you like them. Who listens to seventy odd albums from one source? Who buys seventy all at once? Thanks to Coronavirus perhaps this will be our only chance.
Some other Kevin The Creep picks from the catalogue – Sic Oasis offers the kind of laid back yacht grooves found in eighties commercials or video game title sequences, while Marble Eternity’s beats owe much to new jack swing and nineties west coast rap’s jazz sampling, as does another Sic Records offering – International Jazz Playaz by the Jazz Playaz Quartet (why of course!)
And yes, I’m finishing with 1991’s bleak and austere soundscapes, with a dash of Vaporwave, again highlighting the genre’s sonic versatility. It sounds imposing, vast, even threatening at times. The title ‘No more dreams’ is topical. Are you dreaming of what once was? Being able to go anywhere at any time, for a meal, to the football, nightclubbing, following the herd down to Greece – on holiday, heaving up a rancid kebab, to the cinema, for normality to return? You know, the shit we take for granted? So fams, let’s not take Bandcamp, and what it can do for the music industry and your sanity, for granted either.