Crow’s Nest 30: 031322
[Deep exhale] Hello there, and welcome to issue #30 of Crow’s Nest. If you’re reading this, even if takes you a minute to get to it, thank you for doing so, I appreciate it and more than get the delay.
The news of the past few weeks has been dominated by Putin’s war of aggression on the Ukrainian state and Ukrainian people. I don’t really have much to say on the subject other than to say that I very much support Ukraine in defending themselves, along with the Russian people showing more bravery protesting/resisting their government than I have ever had (or hope to need to have) in my lifetime, alongside all others negatively affected by the war. (Those encouraging escalation into a full US-NATO/Russia shooting war, or arguing ‘actually nuclear war is more survivable than you think’ should have a special spot reserved for them in hell.) I would encourage you support these victims or those suffering as a result in any way you can, though I ask that you do your research first and do not inadvertently support elements such as the far-right that you do not also align with personally.
The international music community has worked to support the Ukrainian people through a mix of advocacy and charity releases. Last Bandcamp Friday I purchased Permanent Vacation and U4E’s charity compilations since those aligned with my taste. Honestly I have felt overwhelmed in trying to work through it all on top of my usual listening—what else is new—and there are plenty of releases or compiled resource lists to consider. (The Quietus has a few that I trust they’ve vetted adequately, considering their longstanding bolstering of eastern European music.) I’d like to bring special attention to Russian label Gost Zvuk’s ambient compilation Stop the War! among these—again, much more bravery than I have.
It feels a bit silly and lacking in meaning to take other subjects seriously at this time, but closer to this newsletter’s usual focus the big recent music story has been Bandcamp’s acquisition by Epic Games (Fortnite, Unreal Engine) and what it means for the platform and independent music writ large moving forward. Organizationally, Epic is 40% owned by Chinese conglomerate Tencent, which also has ownership stakes in Spotify and at least 2 out of 3 of the remaining major music labels; this on paper likely means Bandcamp can no longer be considered ‘independent’. As far as a direct impact on Bandcamp is concerned, Epic intends (afaik) to be hands-off in its management of the platform while providing development assistance it needs—a recent Bandcamp app update enabled queueing across multiple releases, a seemingly basic functionality which, despite receiving much praise, being released only now is demonstrative of how technologically far behind Bandcamp is.
There are certain philosophical synergies between Epic and Bandcamp, though the growth/revenue models of the two are far apart. It’s still too early and unclear as to see what happens with this, as with what Epic saw in Bandcamp and sees in its future. The concern for me and certainly, the musicians who have relied on Bandcamp for revenue, is what happens moving forward and if Bandcamp thrives or disintegrates under Epic’s umbrella. I’m hoping for the former but the cynic in me fears the latter, and will stick to (mostly) Bandcamp embeds within Crow’s Nest for now. It’s been an understatedly impressive 15 years for Bandcamp, regardless.
Ok, time to get to the music. I’ve not gotten to it myself yet but Substack has released an iOS app for better reading on the go than in your inbox or in a browser. Perhaps that means, via Bandcamp and other embeds, you can stream my selections on the go? Let me know of any experience you have with that or how I might be able to improve Crow’s Nest for that, along with any other comments you have on this:
No tweets this week as I’ve been busy going to shows and other similar stuff to dig those out. Let’s get to it then.
I didn’t know anything about Toronto noise rock quartet Gloin before they opened for Snapped Ankles at the Bottle last week. It was apparently their 2nd post-pandemic show, but the energy, talent level and intensity they brought to it blew me away—they are phenomenal and I highly recommend catching them live if you have the chance. I believe the name is a Tolkein reference but as my own experience with the author’s work is historically awful, I’m not 100% sure. The group’s mix of elements of motorik krautrock, psych, post-punk, and a touch of Sunbather/first-wave post-rock arrangements were stunning. Their ear for melodies is strong too. They’ve not yet released a full-length, and the lack of hi-fi edge to the Soft Monster EP probably means it won’t have the same effect on you as it did me—but I am very much looking forward to seeing where this group goes from here. Cha Cha might become my most played song of the year at the rate I’ve played it these past few days.
This is an exceptionally strong fusion jazz record out of Belgium. Bandleader Nathan Daems plays flute and saxophone here, and the resulting mix feels light, top-heavy and a bit ambient/liminal as a result. At times this sounds a bit like East Asian court music, something Arabic or otherwise close to non-Western exotica—the tags suggest Ethio jazz as the main influence—but it never feels lazy or overly appropriative. Or maybe me liking it has me waving that aspect off. It’s a good spin if you’re looking for something transportive while remaining light on bass.
Glasgow’s The Web of Lies is a new post-punk duo from scene veterans who, from the sounds of this, I should become familiar with. Dreary stuff, if you’ve spun recent dark post-punk stuff I’ve featured, you should know what this sounds like with the caveat that this is for inducing headaches or getting through one. The promo copy says it was written during hungover morning sessions—which I will consider respectfully ambitious if nothing else—and it certainly did make some recent mornings working through nonsense at the emails factory more bearable. Having friends and kindred spirits along for the ride, like the numerous contributors to this record, certainly helps.
Despite falling a bit more than my usual behind on New Yorker issues, there’s been plenty of good reading recently:
-Buzzfeed News’s Sarah Emerson took a look into the arrival of a cryptocurrency mine in Denton, TX, promising a solution and tax revenue after last year’s ice storm and power outage left the town with a 9-figure debt. I like Denton, it’s a cool place, and this is an intriguing piece on environmental progressivism vs. crypto’s promise, and influencing change from the outside vs. inside.
-Jamie Brooks, who you might know from Elite Gymnastics and Default Genders, penned this piece for The New Inquiry on the last period of internet music scenes prior to streaming’s dominance, and the implications that has had for music cultural scenes in general. It’s a nice personal reflection of sorts to Ted Gioia’s recent piece on old music and streaming.
-Speaking of Gioia, he presided at the birth of Google and raises some interesting philosophical questions of Google vs. a life dedicated to classic literature.
From The New Yorker, Abe Streep looks into the world of shed hunters—that is, the Jackson Hole, WY, centered community of folks who forage for antlers shed from deer and elk. It’s a fascinating piece on a culture I never would have imagined existed.
-I’m not much of a linguistics person—the subject has always felt too abstract and disconnected from useful meaning for this English monoglot—but Indignity’s conversation on a peculiarly Baltimorean/Philadelphian phrase was a delightful read.
-Proving there is always more music to go deeper into, especially in areas not fully on your radar, Dhruva Balram looks at the Sri Lankan underground for Crack Magazine, how it has developed and responded to the pandemic. The general economic situation itself is quite concerning, per Balram.
Despite the odds stacked against it, the underground Iranian electronic scene continues releasing impressive material, continuing the country’s cultural legacy into the present day. Ata ‘Sote’ Ebtekar, in his third decade of work at this point, remains pivotal to this scene. The title of his most recent album is quite on the nose, but how else should one characterize the one-two punch of Life/Arcane Existence? Give it a spin yourself to hear the majestic, rotten beauty of it all.
Jamaican producer Time Cow, part of Equiknoxx and, I should admit, a recent Twitter mutual follower, and Bristol’s Ossia recently split a pair of remixes from Jabu’s 2020 album Sweet Company. Time Cow’s contribution is my highlight, taking things slow before starting an exceptional buildup on the latter half where most others might start winding things down. Ossia takes things even slower and more deconstructed on his contribution.
Queens indie rock trio UV-TV—whose members are Rose, Ian and … Ian Rose, I recently learned—strongly impressed me with last year’s Always Something. I still find myself spinning that more frequently than one might expect, and I still think it’s Rose’s melodic singing that differentiates it from similar records. For last Bandcamp Friday they put out an EP of demos from those sessions. The quality of these demos is quite high, on first listen I immediately thought they could work as official releases on a more lo-fi label. Worth it just to be reminded again of Always Something.
The sounds of juke and footwork remain strongly rooted on the south side of Chicago, though the internet has been instrumental in spreading the sound worldwide and drawing others in. Scenes are present in many spots—Poland and Japan both come to mind as prominent points—and this 59-track compilation from a netlabel in the latter caught my ear. A couple producers—CRZKNY and DJ Fulltono—are familiar but the vast majority are not. If my memory serves me correct WDNK’s 2 tracks in the middle were initial highlights.
A couple weeks ago I had a likely legitimate ‘scaring the hoes’ moment at 3AM in smartbar when I managed to ID Silent Servant playing Factory Floor’s 2013 track Fall Back in the club, which caused my drunkeness level to kick up ~50%. I relistened to that full album the next day and it holds up—just my opinion, but more groups should use drum machines to mark time then have an analog drummer go to town on fills and counterrhythmics.
Slow moving, cold and moody synthwave out of Germany that doesn’t necessarily feel like that timewise. The first record from the project in 7-8 years. Perhaps this might be what HTRK would sound like with Broadcast’s passion for vintage gear?
Ok I didn’t think I’d get to this before I finished up the rest of the issue, but relistening to this EP from mononymous German producer Edward, sure I can throw it in. Pleasantly sunny club tracks with some interesting bird noises and namesake effects throughout.
Berlin’s Ziúr released this short EP of a pair of dance floor tracks. It is the first in a series, it seems, and assuming the rest are like this, I’ll be happy to see them keep coming.
This Iceland-heavy charity compilation of artists covering songs which impacted them during childhood, whether sung to them by their parents or just in general. Lily Koningsberg was the only familiar name to me coming into this, but the highlight is the closing cover of Joanna Newsom’s ’81 by Ísadóra Bjarkardóttir Barney. If that name sounds like you should know it or that you’re parsing it correctly, that’s your future self trying to tell you that yes, it’s her.
Alright, that’s the issue then. I only cut a couple of planned entries for this issue—it can get up to 50% of the releases I’ve noted for other issues—and there hasn’t been too much in the past week that I’ve enjoyed. Probably a sign of stress between the job, personal life and state of the world. We should be able to get through this in due course though, I reckon. In the meantime, be sure to take care of yourself and the people around you that you care about. If you’ve read that, thank you for getting to this point in Crow’s Nest, I hope you found something within you enjoyed. Until next time, see you at the show(s).