Bandcamp is a wonderful platform. Not only is it free for fans and artists, but it’s also one of the least greedy large platforms, taking only 15% off of music sales from the artist, whereas iTunes takes about 30%. I can only think of CD Baby that has a lower revenue share, at 9%, but their website is definitely not meant for the same thing; on one hand CD Baby requires artists to pay fees in order to sell their music, and it’s impossible to allow a pay what you want pricing, something Bandcamp have become renowned for.
On top of that, Bandcamp’s tags can lead to many surprising and interesting discoveries. More so than anywhere else, perhaps, given the gratuitous nature of the website. So, after I stumbled on ART the Band’s page on Bandcamp, I decided to give a look at what other albums were labeled “jazzcore”. Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, there weren’t many. The only one that struck a chord with me was Globetrotter‘s Fibonacci (more on that later). This led me to click the “math rock” tag, and I was gone for many hours mining the results pages and finding gem after gem.
This is why I’m starting this new series. Whenever I – or any other author on the blog – feel like going through a thorough tag research on bandcamp, we’ll display our discoveries and specimens in a post like this. Tags are not always totally accurate – and they sometimes are completely wrong, since the artist or label can enter anything they want -, but they often are representative of a band’s influences or of a part of their sound, crossbred with other genres. Today’s tag, if you haven’t noticed already, will be math rock. But first, let me talk to you about the band who got me into this!
Italian band Globetrotter is really at the crossroads between jazzrock and math rock, and that’s how I met them. A bit less than two years ago, they released Fibonacci, an instrumental mathcore album defiled by the uncanny influence of jazz, which is more noticeable once past Taurina, the opening track. Aggression comes in varying degrees of intensity on the record, but the songs are written and played with the same degrees of expertise from beginning to end. For such an album to have absolutely no supporter on bandcamp is quite astounding, especially since it’s almost two years old now! According to the band’s facebook page, they are working on a new album this year, so it’s pretty much the best time to get into them!
Okay, now let’s dive into that math rock tag, shall we? Of course, it’s not an exhaustive list of all the great math rock albums there are on bandcamp – the subjective nature of such a list means you must do it for yourself -, but here is a selection of great underground math rock albums!
Our journey begins in France, particularly Clermont-Ferrand, a region that hosts many great musicians and explorative bands! Today’s discovery is the sludge post-math rock of Format, on their latest EP, Empyrée, which came out earlier this year, on April 30. Right with the first song, you’re familiarized with the sludgy riffs that transport a melancholic vibe. They quickly move out of the way for a more math rock section – with hand claps on top of that! -, that’s imbued with post-rock. “Papillom” brings along some stoner vibes that never really leave afterwards, and “Bribe(s)” is the closest to mathcore the band seems to be willing to go, and I’m perfectly fine with that. It fits the whole EP’s sound rather perfectly. Overall, it’s a fantastic discovery that’s not quite math rock per se, but that’s truly outstanding!
Second in line is joliette, from Mexico, with Atáxico. When I pressed play, I was surprised by the intense snare roll at the start, which sounded very out of place for something that I thought would be math rock. It couldn’t be more perfect for this sort of mathy post-hardcore. The whole album is relentless and unforgiving, except on the ten-minute closure, “Código”, where more atmospheric elements are brought in, which changes the mood quite drastically from the rest of Atáxico. It’s a really fortuitous discovery that has not much “math rock” left in it, but that is nonetheless exemplar!
Fret! is a strange animal. Depressive and droning chords pave the way for some contemplative post-rock, further reinforced by the use of harmonium, which sounds like an accordion. Later on, the punkish female singer joins in and delivers a poignant yet barely in tune chant, right before a harmonium (I guess?) solo that is, quite simply, on point! During that time, guitars have grown thicker and are supporting the emotional explosions of the higher registre. The other songs are all different: “Mexican Ting” sounds like a depressed Beach Boys piece, “Punch” is, to put it simply, quite aptly-named, and the fourteen-minute “Dark as a Dungeon” brings out the ambient, atmospheric, and drone influences of the band. Killing Nico was a weird experience, and I’m not sure if I like it or not.
Ourselves, Alone is a young band from Connecticut who are much closer to what I first expected with a “math rock” tag search. “Intro” is foreboding of what’s to come, but you’ll have to wait for “Pepper & Paprika” to witness it. The tapping riffs on the guitar are very characteristic of this band, as I haven’t heard anything similar to this anywhere else. In more intense passages, the bass will hit the mega fuzz pedal and almost overwhelm the rest of the band, which is something to which they should pay close attention. The remainder of the rather short Covet EP stays in the same waters, but it’s a really good release, and quite recent too: August 26! Don’t leave themselves, alone.
Here’s another oddball: Jamais, from Brazil. First of all, the production is quite horrid and almost detracts from the experience, but the riffs are intricate and interesting enough to swim through the aural mud. The two songs on this mini-EP – “Rovane” and “Umeboshi” – have their own personalities but remain close, musically speaking. This mixtape is pretty fresh too, but let’s hope to see some more material from them in the near future!
Long names, quand tu nous tiens… The Woman You Saw Is the Great City That Rules over the Kings of the Earth is an Australian post-hardcore band that also bears fragrances of mathcore and melodic hardcore. If we’re generous, we could say they kinda sound like math rock, here and there, maybe, from far away. I Will Survive Failure is a very good EP that came out… last August, yet again! Give it a try, you might like it!
Ahh… now we’re talking! Hungría is pretty much the exact kind of experimental and psychedelic math rock sound I was looking for after knowing the disbandment of Doom Salad†. Magyarország vagy halál came out earlier this year, but apparently in almost complete silence. It’s truly a shame, because this duo’s compositions are whacky, fun, yet challenging and forward-thinking. The album is quite lengthy as well, at almost seventy minutes in length. The only thing I would add, personally, is a bass player (but I’m biased, so don’t mind that), even if it’s stuck to play the role of support for the guitar, it would make the whole thing sound a bit deeper. This is but a preference of me, please consider listening this amazing album and getting it from bandcamp!
Lascavx is another Argentinian band, and their latest release, Historyboard came out on September 2! It’s a one-man project that puts a bit of hardcore into the melodic math rock recipe, with interesting results. It’s not the most absorbing listen, but I think it’s forte lies in its listenability. Maybe this can be the bridge to other math rock artists for the uninitiated. Check it out!
Here’s Odradek, from Brazil, and, from the very first notes on Sun Seeker, I knew I was on to something. While it’s technically a collaborative split with Sphaeras, their three previous EPs, the “Homúnculo” trilogy, prove they are worth something on their own as well. I think the two cooperative tracks on Sun Seeker shine the most, especially “My Wish Is Your Command” because of the amazing complementarity of vocals and guitars. Vocals which are bizarrely recalling The Mars Volta’s, most probably because of their eccentric character and glissando feel. Out of the two bands on this split, I’d favour Odradek because of their awesome singer, but Sphaeras is not too shabby either. Go and download all of their material right now!
It rarely gets as heated as it does on Britney‘s third album, Britn3y. It’s like some sort of hippie mathcore on PCP, and that somehow makes sense, musically. Making sense might be a bit of a stretch, but it’s certainly something you can enjoy, as I completely do! Britney’s avant-garde mathgrind is something very special, and you should be part of it!
Unamused Dave is a punkish math rock band from Illinois, and their newest, self-titled EP came out earlier this year, in July. It sounds a bit like 2000-era’s skate punk if they had actual talent. Maybe it wouldn’t be unfair to call this “skate math”. Yeah, I like this designation. The whole thing is easily enjoyable, relatable, and energetic, appealing to the youth! That’s what the young want, right? Do kids still do skateboarding? Ahh, whatever. Listen to this for yourself because it’s great!
And, finally, for today’s math rock tag exploration: Oranges‘ Taxonomy. It’s the band’s debut album, and it came out last year in September. Taxonomy oozes of TTNG, but with a sharper edge. It’s a great take on what sounds like alternative math rock. The compositions have that slight jazz sound to it that’s got nothing substantially jazz, it’s just aesthetic, but it’s still a nice touch, the singer fits the band flawlessly, and the riffs are sometimes really interesting! Be sure to check it out!
So, that’s it for the first expedition into Bandcamp’s Terra incognita. Tell us what tag you’d like us to explore, next time!