Bandcamp is an online music platform used largely by independent artists and record labels to stream songs and sell merchandise. It’s also a vibrant virtual community teeming with interesting sounds just waiting to be discovered. Each week, I’ll highlight three releases available on the site that are well worth your time and attention. If you find something you dig, please consider supporting the artist with a purchase.
At this point, there are dozens if not hundreds of examples of a modern record label unearthing a wonderful old album by a forgotten and/or enigmatic songwriter from the 20th century and giving it the full, fancy reissue treatment. Of all of these, one of the very best is Luaka Bop’s 2014 resurrection of Nigerian funk giant William Onyeabor, who “self-released eight albums between 1977 and 1985 and then became a born-again Christian, refusing to ever speak about himself or his music again.” Before he peaced out, he made a whole bunch of psychedelic, synth-heavy electro-funk and Afrobeat music that still sounds ahead of its time, decades later.
Like William Onyeabor (see the previous blurb, if you haven’t already), jazz guitarist Sonny Sharrock seemed like he would be lost to time. After recording a few albums in the late ’60s and early ’70s, Sharrock — an adventurous jazz guitarist from New York — retired and spent the late ’70s working regular, non-music jobs. But influential avant-garde musician Bill Laswell coaxed him out of retirement, and Sharrock made the best music of his career in the late ’80s. This run culminated with 1991’s “Ask the Ages,” which featured legendary saxophonist Pharoah Sanders and drummer Elvin Jones and brought together the classic jazz sound of the ’60s and the modern energy and attitude of rock in a way that’s vibrant, uncommon and beautiful.
Kareem Ali is one of the coolest cats making music right now. And boy does he make a lot of it. His Bandcamp page has 54 releases on it dating back just four years, and while some of them are single tracks, many are EPs or full-length albums. You could drop in just about anywhere and get a good idea of what Ali is all about, but “Quantum Blackness” — released in May — is probably the best place to start. It’s 24 tracks long, so you get a sustained exposure to Ali’s aesthetic: electronic music (specifically deep house music), jazz, space-age sounds, Black liberation. The man takes it all and turns it into something that’s endlessly listenable.
Ben Salmon is a Bend-based music journalist and host of Left Of The Dial, which airs 8-10 p.m. Thursdays on KPOV, 88.9 FM and streams at kpov.org. You can find him on Bandcamp and Twitter at @bcsalmon.