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Digital Digging #1: Bandcamp Discoveries

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Perhaps it has something to do with a lack of expectations or with the simple satisfaction of scouring for obscure tunes like an archaeologist, but I find myself more intrigued by combing through Bandcamp for new music as of late than digging through the standard-issue, label-submitted IO promos. It’s the closest I’ll get on a computer to the overwhelming satisfaction of sifting through physical records and stumbling upon an obscure gem that makes me feel all fuzzy and loved on the inside.

Despite the redundancy of this statement, no doubt collecting dust by this point, Bandcamp may be the most realized and supportive platform to surface since “MP3” became a household term. It appeases both the fan and the artist in its format, therefore keenly acknowledging how the music market has changed over the past decade. Additionally, it’s incredibly easy to navigate, which is a huge part of its success. In my countless hours egged on by stimulants and clicking like a mad fool for fresh sounds, I’ve come across some interesting discoveries; here are some recently discovered acts that deserve repeat listening.

— Aaron Maltz

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It’s hard not to think of Krallice’s “Wretched Wisdom” during the opening riff of “Phantom Canyon,” the first track from Sun Worship’s two-song EP, yet as soon as the drums enter it becomes clear they adhere to more of an old-school black metal aesthetic than the aforementioned crew. Hailing from Germany, Sun Worship pummels the listener over the course of 15 minutes with an acute metal assault that brings to mind the spawn of Deafheaven and Darkthrone, a combination that might warrant them the (occasionally derided) title of Cascadian Black Metal. There’s a forward-thinking element to their music that doesn’t translate into progressive riffs or structures, but more progressive tones coupled with a dramatic sensibility. Despite its unrelenting quality, there’s a soothing element to their music that left me eager for more.

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For a genre often thought of as the least musically inclined within extreme metal, there just isn’t a line of black metal troupes interested in axing their vocalist and shuffling into the instrumental queue. While listening to Ibn Ghazi, the latest EP from Austin instrumentalists The Ash Eaters, the leap into that line is distinct yet almost overwhelmed by their bizarre music. One of their most startling and defining qualities is their incredibly harsh guitar tone, which sounds like East Bay Ray playing on The Stooges’ Raw Power, a trait bandleader Umesh Amtey shared with his previous band, Brown Jenkins. While as technical as a tech-metal band, their music relies upon familiar riffs rooted in black metal phrasing that challenges convention without straying too far from the abrasive course. Cosmo once said of an earlier Ash Eaters release that “Daydream Nation-era Sonic Youth comes to mind very strongly”; I defer to his refined sensibilities.

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Though not on Bandcamp, Toronto’s Thantifaxath rightfully deserve a spot in this list with their progressively influenced black metal reminiscent of Enslaved, minus the arena-rock heights. The track below begins with “10,000 Years of Failure,” a beautiful choral passage reminiscent of defunct Canadian legends Mare, before transitioning into a piece of pummeling black metal dubbed “Violently Expanding Emptiness.” Throughout the rest of their EP, Thantifaxath balances experimental harmonies with a blistering course and welcomed ambient segments. Though a difficult achievement, they manage to forge highly memorable and catchy compositions. And if it weren’t for pictures to the contrary, I’d swear they were playing alongside a drum machine.

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Thantifaxath – “Ten Thousand Years Of Failure” (Intro) + “Violently Expanding Emptiness”

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If Hex-era Earth copulated with Yob while Khanate recorded the insidious act and Thalia Zedek somehow contributed her DNA, Taurus would be the glorious result. The Portland, Oregon two-piece, with Dark Castle’s Stevie Floyd at the helm, is absolutely unrelenting in their tenebrous and organic approach to music, acting as the sonic representation of heroin and suicide smoked through a crack-pipe. Even their titles, “Life (Part I),” and “Life (Part II),” off the album Life, make a bleak statement. Their music develops at a slug’s pace, but the fact that it goes somewhere good makes it worth every second of drone and anticipation, creating the sensation of music both spontaneously composed and highly refined. Most importantly, they’re willing to plumb the depths of depression without billowing into complete ambient muck. Life is best experienced when you’re willing to put in the effort.

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RIEN – 3

One of my favorite qualities about French instrumentalists Rien is their ability to channel restraint into something more powerful than speed or volume, as heard on the brilliant “Masterkraft” below. As much as a whipping frenzy can sate the desire to scorch the earth, Rien’s talent to both build pressure and tickle our harmonic intellect displays a great grasp of composition. Their capacity for loud-to-quiet dynamics places them in a post-rock category, yet I find myself reminded more of Magma, minus their larger theatrics, when first listening to 3. That comparison, coupled with a harmonic sensibility reminiscent of Do Make Say Think, immediately perked my musical barometer.

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Rien – “Masterkraft” (live)

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