In the weirdest year for music any of us can remember, Bandcamp has been the undisputed champion. The monthly Bandcamp Friday offer — waiving all their fees so artists could take all the profits — was a gesture that resonated with every artist and label on the platform.
It also highlighted Bandcamp as an amazing portal for coming across independent music. The next time you think, “there’s no good music out this week”, go to Bandcamp and see the steady stream of albums being released and bought in real time.
On the final Bandcamp Friday of the year, here’s a list of 50 Irish acts to get behind in time for Christmas. I could’ve gone on and on but you gotta stop somewhere…
A Litany of Failures
Not a label as such, but a series of compilations of crucial independent and DIY Irish acts. Its started as a four-track comp in 2016, and Vol III is a double LP with 22 tracks including Rising Damp, Silverbacks, Grave Goods and The Bonk — and a zine with contributions from the artists. It was out on September 29 but hurry up, there’s only three vinyl left on the site.
All City / Allchival
The closest thing on this list to an ‘institution’, All City has been a Temple Bar hub for vinyl and graffiti and street art supplies since 2001, with a bigger focus on hip-hop and electronica. It’s also a record label and its reissue wing Allchival is a real gem, unearthing leftfield treasure from Ireland’s underground, including the compilations Quare Groove and Buntus Rince, and the reissue of Michael O’Shea’s 1982 album, which is no less than miraculous.
Alpha Chrome Yayo
Belfast electronic producer Alpha Chrome Yayo is one of the most prolific artists on Irish Bandcamp, with 24 releases in the last 18 months. Impossible to predict, his catalogue includes retro synthwave soundtrack remixes, new age ambient, a video nasty about an evil ice cream van, and a concept album a virtual golf course.
Toronto-based Dubliner Sinead Bermingham is a producer and multi-instrumentalist whose creations are teeming with organic life amid the electronics.
Through intricate programming, acoustic harp, wispy vocals and trickling water effects, she creates a psychedelic sonic world that’s not a million miles from Alexandra Drewchin’s creations as Eartheater.
Her new album is called Enchantment, and it’s a genuinely bewitching, magical left turn that fully leans into the title.
Art of Algebra
I was a bit late in catching up with electronic producer David Hallinan, until his collab with Breezy IDeyGoke, ‘Praying on a Gamble’ — one of the Irish singles of the year. The track is a reimagining of ‘Indigo’, off Art of Algebra’s 2019 debut album and after a few listens of this, it’s the definitive take, with a the MC taking it on a dubby left turn that adds to the Tricky and Massive attack vibe.
His 2019 debut album of intricate downtempo instrumentals is brilliant too, and e finished off the year with the recent EP Under a Different Light, full of introspective ambient electronica.
One of Ireland’s loudest bands have finally released their debut album Staring At Clocks, after drip-feeding singles in the absence of sweaty clubs with speakers to blow.
Staring At Clocks was out in November, and doubles down on their USP of grungy noise-rock offset by shoe- gaze/dreampop hooks. I caught up with frontwoman Lizzie Fitzpatricke here.
MC and singer Breezy IDeyGoke’s deep register is one of the most striking you’ll hear on Irish releases — somewhere between Flowdan and Roots Manuva, offset by his vivid Afrobeat-fuelled hip-hop and R&B. His collab with Art of Algebra, ‘Praying on a Gamble’, was an immense single, and he finished off 2020 with the hi-def vibrant sound of his EP i Dey, which is just about as summery as it’s possible to sound at the end of this year, above all years.
Cursed Monk Records
Galway DIY label Cursed Monk Records is a go-to hovel of weirdo heaviness — from doom metal to sludge, to ritual drone music and electrocuting noise.
The label was started in 2017 as an outlet for Irish acts, but these Cursed ones now feature acts from all over the world (“the darker, weirder and heavier the better”).
One of the most vital new voices in Irish hip-hop, Denise Chaila was a striking presence on Rusangano Family’s 2016 album Let the Dead Bury the Dead, and live features in Limerick’s underground scene. She’s been punching up through that underground in the last year or so, with her mic-drop debut single Copper Bullet, follow-ups Down and Chaila, her streamed Courage performance at the National Gallery, and her predictably awesome debut mixtape, Go Bravely.
Derek A Mc
Dublin artist Derek A Mc Donnell’s track Breathe is an impressionistic, neoclassical piece that begins with far-off crashing waves and seagulls, and builds into a nine-minute wash of strings, down-tempo electronica and echoed, trailing vocals. His take on avant-garde ambient pop nods to Clint Mansell, Kate Bush and the less harrowing aspects of post-Nite Flights Scott Walker. To be honest, he has way more tracks on Soundcloud, from psychedelic post-punk, to atmospheric ambient instrumentals, drone pieces and left-field covers including Suicide and Vangelis.
Dollar Pickle Records
The self-proclaimed “world’s biggest North Kerry noise label”, Dollar Pickle revels in an anarchic shitposting vibe, with most of their 90-odd releases on Bandcamp taking a snide swipe at crap Irish tropes and sacred cows.
So we might have bastardised versions of country & Irish, a ‘Bryan Dobson’ album called
Scumpig Fuckpocalypse featuring Dobbo’s lines through a harsh noise mincer, or a quarantine comp called Thatcher Is Still Dead. Won’t be on the jukebox in a Danny Healy-Rae pub.
Filipina-Irish rapper Don Chi apparently only picked up the mic a year ago, but she’s packed a load into her brilliant debut EP Vortex, that brings her story from a “tin hut in the Phillipines” to the seaside town of Bangor, Co Down.
She flits between a compelling, storyteller flow and Bangor accent R&B, weighing in on
whatever’s channeling through her head — whether that’s braggy bars with colloquial interjections, social media weariness, drug burnout or a harrowing recall of child abuse.
The beats are classic mid-tempo, effortless boom-bap, with the kind of soul samples you’d find in MF Doom’s record shelves.
Enter the Vortex.
Sunil Sharpe’s Earwiggle label has had a quiet enough year, after finishing up the Eel Behaviour series of 12-inches — a collection of six headbutt techno, electro and noise EPs featuring Autumns, Giant Swan, Galaxian, Jerome Hill, Mary Vello, Panmello Clarke, and loads more, including a suspiciously named Suneel Shark. He’s just announced an EP for next month — a collaboration between IMOGEN and Ben Pest. If you’ve been knocked into next week by his DJ sets or even his live Tinfoil shows with DeFeKT, you’ll know there’s no fucking about. Come for the techno bangers, stay for the lesson in marine biology — some pretty good eel names in there.
Fly High Society
If you were anywhere near social media over the summer (who wasn’t ffs), you’ll know God Knows’ Who’s Asking EP I & II has been a bit of a ‘moment’ in Irish hip-hop.
On the EP, and its following South West Allstars and East Coast remixes, the MC rounded up a hit squad of rising artists for a blitz of collabs and posse cuts, featuring Denise Chaila, his Rusangano brother MuRli, Mango, Nealo, Hazey Haze, Bella Ciao and loads more, knocked into shape with Fly High Society beats.
Founded by Bolts and Portadown producer SertOne, Fly High are all about rugged hiphop and future bass, but their latest release by Aratita Electronik Jazz Quintet goes down a spiritual jazz path — with one track on the Deosil EP called The Coltrane Prayer.
Front End Synthetics
Front End Synthetics have been unearthing leftfield electronics from their Dublin base since 2000, with a lot of activity on Bandcamp in 2020 — including new releases and digital resurrections of 12-inches, CDRs and one-off CD compilations that might not have survived the streaming arms race.
So while you can indulge in recent techno, electro, drones and outlier electronica from the likes of the Butthole Surfers-nodding Whirling Hall of Knives, Sunken Foal, Education, Spectac, Omni, Neanderthal Chum and Ordnance Survey, there’s plenty in the vaults, including their first decade round-up FES Is Ten, and the awesome 2001 Ambulance! EP.
The artwork on most of their 2020 releases seem to be Rorschach tests of sorts featuring metal implements, like extreme metal band Carcass on mushrooms. But I only see a bunch of daffodils in the new EP by Neanderthal Chum, so I’m not too worried.
They’re keeping up the eclectic and rapid release rate by putting out an epic new work by avant-garde composer, producer, and intermedia artist Daniel Figgis, Engine Detail.
Gadget and the Cloud
With a debut album called Songs For Sad People To Dance To, you’re not expecting peak time 4/4 with Cork producer Kelly Doherty’s releases.
But her introspective, impressionist ambient electronica is more suited to these times anyway — who needs panel-beating basement techno when the loudest sound you’re hearing right now is the ping of your microwave?
Most of her releases are on Bandcamp, including the glitchier lo-fi electronics of the Running Away From Ghosts EP from March this year (“cupla tunes for these trying times”).
Her latest EP, Things I’ll Never Say Now, really does nail the brief of her debut’s title —
with chime-y choral synths, a melancholy night bus vibe and in closer It Never Felt Right, a moment of sweet release.
Shannon-based MC God Knows was pretty generous with his time this year, rounding up heads from all over Ireland for collaborations, including one of the anthems of the year, Who’s Asking, which was remixed and redrafted as the posse cut that keeps giving, with sparring partners from the East and West coast. He also featured in the hands-down Irish streaming ‘moment’ of the year, Denise Chaila’s Courage performance at the National Gallery, and featured on his Rusangano partner MuRli’s solo LP. He’s hinted at a big project next year, so he’s kicking the doors in on 2021 already.
Nothing to do with Chicago’s Hausu Mountain Records, but Cork label Hausu has a
similar disregard for staying in lane when it comes to genre.
The only clue they give on their Bandcamp profile is that they deal in “pop oddity and loudness in equal measure”.
That could be lo-fi hiphop; freewhiling psychedelic electronics; outsider folk, some pretty sweet electro-pop and plenty more if you root around.
Inland Taipan live shows can be collaborative affairs, but the creative source is Co Clare-based composer, musician and sound artist Aisling Davis, who gleans as much from her surroundings as she does from her instruments and electronic processes. Davis showcased her ‘Turf’ project at Scale gallery in Liverpool last year, with fantastical sculptures of preserved bog-wood. Her latest work Fractured Lens was composed and recorded for an installation in the Burren in Co Clare, which chimes and scrapes like a more rural Koyaanisqatsi.
There’s a purity in running an extreme metal label in Ireland, sticking fingers up at any chance of really hacking up through the underground. There won’t be any morto columns wondering if we finally have a Blur vs Oasis moment if Invictus acts Head of the Demon or Grave Infestation release albums on the same day.
Invictus is based in Dublin but it has an international roster, all leaning heavily into death, doom and black metal, with releases from Ireland, Slovakia, Sweden, Peru and further afar.
Cork-based composer Karen Brown’s only work on Bandcamp is her latest album Human Nature — 18 pieces featuring one musician (presumably her) and one unprocessed field
recording, with evocative titles like Seals Off the Namibian Shipwreck Coast and Underwater Frogs of Angkar Wat.
Good headphones and a sleep mask are advised, to get the get the whole transportive experience of these one-off happenings.
Then again, a bag of cans might do the job if you’re listening to one of her pieces from
2007, Fried Rice, Curried Chip and a Diet Coke.
Extreme metal is often politically charged, especially when it comes to grindcore. But while you can unpack the underlying polemic buried under Napalm Death’s feral growls, sometimes a surface level sonic atrocity is enough.
Belfast solo artist Kim Karkrashian (10/10 for the name!) makes self-professed “angry, stupid, dissonant grindcore… laughing at anything and everyone in the process”, and his 2018 debut album was called Eternal Fuck Off.
He does have songs called ‘Jim Wells’ and ‘Arlene’, after the DUP goons, and his album Coronamania has UK health minister clown Matt Hancock on the cover, so he’s at least aiming his festering vocals and drum machine blastbeats at all the right targets. Belfast grindcore hasn’t been this much nasty craic since the mighty Lesshelp’s first tape demos in the 90s.
Hitting that sweet spot between abstract electronica, ambient and deep house, Kobina aka producer Sean Arthur is always knocking out interesting bleeps. His most recent release is the compilation For Nora, in tribute to his one-year-old niece who was diagnosed with a rare brain tumour this year, with all proceeds going to the charity Aoibheann’s Pink Tie. The comp features MuRli, Arvo Party, Jape, Kaja and loads more, for only €8.
Out of nowhere in the last week he also announced a new full-on collaboration called Ra Gerra with MC MuRli, with the ace single Terrified out now, and an album out next year.
Lunar Disko Records
The tagline on the Dublin-based electronic label simply says: “Only enjoyin’ ourselves”,
which is exactly what thousands of heads in the city have been doing for years at their club nights. Now clubbing is off-limits, flick through their catalogue for recent gems from Diamond Dagger and Cignol, and archive techno from D1 Records’ Eamon Doyle.
Mango x Mathman
2020 should’ve been Mango x Mathman’s year. They released their state of the nation debut LP Casual Work at the end of 2019 and were getting ready to throw grime and rave petrol bombs all over festival season, as well as some sure-bet gigs throughout the year. But even without the tops-aff live pit, they still got involved, with the Casual (Remix) project and plenty of reassuring updates that they’ve been saving up a lot of potential energy over the last nine months.
Meljoann / Boy Scout Audio
A fist-up protest movement against capitalism, white supremacy, office drone drudgery and self- help cult fraudsters — but make it funky. Irish producer and singer Meljoann dishes out vicious satire through electro-funk, New Jack Swing and glitchy, futurist pop, eye-rolling at all of the above in a power-dressing business suit, a Keytar and PowerPoint slides. She runs her own label Boy Scout Audio — check out Brontis and Teishi-1.
Sometimes amid the spiralling uncertainty, fatigue and claustrophobia around “these times”, you need a a music straightener.
What generally works for me is extreme noise/ metal violation or serene ambience and minimalism. Mount Alaska provided the latter in recent months.
Their prescription included new tracks Undulate and Countours, as well as a 16-track Spotify playlist of the music that’s inspired them this year — ambient, neoclassical, electronic and piano.
The new tracks are a logical follow-up to last year’s debut album Wave Atlas:
Season One, with its delicate, cloudless piano and electronic murmurs.
Last year when I heard the album I was calling for them to collaborate with Nils Frahm on a soundtrack to some new Scandi-noir drama, but head rubs like this are needed more right now.
Like his Rusangano Family brother, MC MuRli was one of Ireland’s most prominent hip-hop voices this year. His single Til the Wheels Fall Off was his most fierce political statement yet — released as the Black Lives Matter movement went global, and inspired by the visceral disgust of explicit racism at a Portuguese football match. He turned his rage into a defiant anthem, and made a striking anti-racism video at Dalymount Park with Ireland’s most socially conscious football team Bohemians. The whole Till the Wheels Fall Off EP is another zero-filler collection of Afrobeat and Highlife-fuelled goodness — and I even got some bonus tracks on the CD.
Kiev-born, Baltomore-raised and Leitrim-based artist Natalia Beylis is a musical traveller of sorts, with her releases all sonic postcards with an evocative sense of time and place.
It could be a field recordings of bird- song, a water tap in Wexford, or Antwerp Central Station, or a collection of recordings of her playing randomly-found pianos around Ireland, Holland or Morocco, but she captures the beauty in these fleeting moments.
Don’t be coming for bangers, but a sensory time-out — you know you need it.
“Everybody’s got some books that they’re meant to be reading,” offers up Dublin MC Nealo on ‘Xanax’, one of the many highlights on his debut LP highlight. There’s a nostalgic but hopeful train of thought running through ‘Xanax’ and the rest of the album, woven into soulful spiritual jazz and soulful beats by the group Innrspace. The former hardcore frontman’s reassuring flow is more wise mate than lit sesh-head — I’d say we could all do a pint with somebody like Nealo these days.
The Nook Collective
Dublin-based label The Nook Collective only formed in June this year, but they already have over 20 releases on their Bandcamp. They’re described as an “international experimental music collective”, veering between industrial noise, outsider folk, chopped & screwed lo-fi trap, dark ambient, fantasy dungeon synth, spoken word and warped retakes of Bjork, Kurt Cobain and Grouper. Start with the all-in collaborative album Antilegomena, featuring members of Swampy G, Bradford Wallsbury/Celebrimbor, The Crustacean, and Yung Boder, as well as outside collaborators alfy, Hexa and Saulė.
Patrúin is a Dublinbased eelctronic label where you’ll also find plenty of ambient balms, but also some Braindance-Rephlex experimentation.
Releases are sparse so far, but the EPs from Cool Uncle and the NIN-winking Tren Rezno come packaged with some nicely designed T-shirts and 12-inch sleeves.
New release For MASI is a charity compilation with all proceeds going to the
Movement of AsylumSeekers in Ireland, to help them end Ireland’s inhumane Direct Provision system.
You don’t throw around names like Brian Eno, Boards of Canada or Aphex Twin around
lightly, but each of the above wafted into my head listening to the new album from Derry man John McDaid aka Planting.
Coordinates shares some of the serenity of Eno’s Plateaux of Mirrors with BOC and AFX’s more refined, melancholy passages — with classical, ambient piano-led suites offset by cinematic hiphop beats.
He’s also the creative director of children’s book publishing company Dog Ears, whose book Puffin Rock has been turned into a cartoon featuring Chris O’Dowd. I reckon the kids are alright in their hands.
Post Punk Podge & the Technohippies
If you thought the Rubberbandits’ disguise of plastic bags on their heads was unique, get a load of Post Punk Podge, another Limerick head whose method of disguise is a balaclava made from an An Post padded envelope covered in PiL, Crass and Joy Division stickers.
I did actually see him without the envelope, in the jacks after a bananas, sweaty basement gig in Belfast’s McHughs last year, but we won’t be doing a tabloid unmasking here.
With tracks that veer from surrealist sesh talk to Garda hit pieces and Limerick pride, there’s also a deadly serious undertone amid the ragged electronics and lo-fi punk guitars. He’s coming for gombeen politicians, for starters, and his new track Hard Man Single is a sneer at pathetic bro violence that does actually sound like PiL through a 90s hardcore mincer.
Remote Town Records
According to their pretty short Bandcamp bio, “Remote Town Records is a new music label that releases music exclusively by artists from Co. Wicklow”, and its logo is a quaint little thatched cottage.
But don’t be cracking out the pipe and slippers and the latest issue of Ireland’s Own just
yet — there’s no wailing trad or folk here, but some deliriously deep listening electronics. The first release is the In-Flight Delights from Damien ‘Diamond Dagger’ Lynch, inspired by leaving his studio in the Wicklow hills, to “roam, wander and inter- twine with his local
surroundings”. It slips between the hazy, hypnotic house of the title track, to the propulsive Pye Corner Audio-style techno of the brilliantly named Poachers Path.
Dublin-based sound and visual artist Michelle Doyle aka Rising Damp probably released the least ‘hopeful’ Irish album during the pandemic. But anger is an energy, and her debut LP Petrol Factory throws a match over brutal policing and surveillance, through industrial post- punk, noise and electronics. It’s released on the label Where the Time Goes — keeping Ireland weird with glitchy shoegaze, experimental electronics, drones and noise and more out-there sounds.
One of Roo Honeychild’s most recent Bandcamp releases is called More Aul Shite, and it’s a gabber techno remix of Kokiri Forest from the SNES classic Zelda: The Ocarina of Time. It follows the EP Aul Shite, featuring ghetto-tech hyper bootlegs of Musical Youth’s Pass the Dutchie and Mariah Carey’s Emotions, while her latest EP October Trax is another juke/footwork energy bomb. It’s a good hint that she’s constantly sticking two fingers up at so-called dance culture norms, and a reminder that there’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure.
It’s not all high-bpm late-night nostalgia trawls, though. Roo Honeychild is all about political partying — she’s a co-founder of Dublin’s Club Comfort, a 180° sprint away from tops-aff, bro-vest clubs, with themed nights in the past such Women Loving Women, as a protest against a British trans-exclusionary group visiting the city. This year she also created a mix for Nialler9’s ‘Clubbing Is Culture’ series, weaving in speeches of people protesting the property development on the Viking settlement at Wood Quay in 1979.
But still, it is about the party at the end of the day.
Bristol-based Irish label Rua Sound puts out “high velocity electronic music aimed squarely at the dance floor”, and that velocity will hit you with all manner of time signatures.
Flitting from old skool jungle to future dub and mechanised bass music, it’s a workout for the head as well as the feet.
Latest release is Arcane’s Labyrinth EP, out today, and Rua boss Rob Flynn also has an unreal Spotify playlist called Half-time Jungle that’s he’s always updating with “bangorz”.
I don’t mean to go on a Peter Kay ‘remember this’ bender, but Sunken Foal’s recent confectionary-themed album Hexose and following EPs brought back plenty of primary
school tuck shop vibes — odes to Caramacs, Bounty bars, Kimberley Mikados in the form of velvet-whipped electronica and delicate synth soundtracks. His label Countersunk has plenty of other sweet stuff, from his Press Charges and Natural History Museum projects, the 101 Beats Per Minute compila- tions featuring a rake of electronic producers, and even (“unsanctioned”) Autechre covers.
Bandcamp Friday makes an even bigger difference when the album is a fundraiser.
TiLT (Totally Irish Live Tuesdays) is a monthly new music showcase in Dublin’s Button Factory, and it’s releasing a live compilation today to raise funds for MASI (Movement of Asylum Seekers Ireland).
TiLT The Album: Volume 1 features a track each from 23 acts who played TiLT from October 2019 to March 2020, before lockdown, including TOYGIRL, Meghan Murray, Stomptown Brass, Fynch, Sprints, Tolu Makay, Art of Algebra, Dania and Marcus Woods.“MASI is an organisation that everyone within TiLT and everyone within the Irish music scene respects, says John Barker, of TiLT and of Totally Irish on 98fm.“The work that MASI does on a daily basis to help support asylum seekers and end direct provision is essential and we as a team hope to help them continue their work by offering proceeds from this album.”
Tuuun / FLUF
Copenhagen-based Kells man Steve McEvoy seems more suited to the Outer Limits columns in Wire magazine than Ireland’s Brightest Daily, but if you’re into far-out electronic sounds, his Tuuun solo project and FLUF label are essential.
FLUF releases (many on strikingly designed cassettes) range from granular synthesis to
post-everything future dub, to poetry and the scuttling rhythms of cicada field recordings.
You never know what to expect with his Dublin Digital Radio show either — he recently broadcast two hours of gurn-schmaltz breakdowns from old Euphoria trance CDs.
I walked past a huge Vernon Jane billboard poster near my gaff in Dublin 7 for months during lockdown, amid other non-events and out-of-date films — but at least they got to play their Academy gig. And after the COVID logistical nightmare, they finally released their debut album after a delay of a few months. It was worth waiting for — a noise-rock rager in four separate acts, with Emma Jane offering spoken word passages and delicate interludes to soften the blow.
Not sure if this Belfast label is named after the Fall song, but to paraphrase the great Mark E Smith, if you’re not down with Touch Sensitive, “you are drunk or too old”. Local boy David Holmes is the biggest name on the roster, but you’ll find plenty of other fine noises in there — go for the Wacker That comp for starters.
Dublin-based singers and fiddlers Lucie Azconaga and Consuelo Nerea Breschi are French and Italian, but they’re channelling ancient Celtic spirits on their left-field take on Irish, English and Scottish trad.
It’s corner-of-the=Cobbletone magic, threaded with Lankum-style drones, the pagan psychedelia of the Wicker Man soundtrack, Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’s soundtracks and
Lisa O’Neill’s devastating storytelling.
They’re fundraising for a new album on Bandcamp now with a load of collaborators, including Junior Brother, Ian Lynch of Lankum and Anna Mieke — with songs based on all the artists’ experiences of 2020.
Any label named after Dan Akroyd’s aristocratic buffoon Louis Winthorpe III from Trading Places gets my vote from day one, so thankfully the acid, electro and techno delights here are “singularly unique and sculptured in design”.
Winthorpe’s big hitters have been cult acid hero Roy of the Ravers and Irish electro heroes Defekt and Cignol, and they’ve just announced their first comp featuring Lee Kelly, Crispy Jason, Ngoni Egan and Splitradix.
Think of early 20th century Celtic Christian art, and acid electro music doesn’t jump out at you. But Dublin producer Daniel Jacobson aka ZoID’s summer release Acid Tribute Sister Concepta was inspired by a trip to an oratory in Dun Laoghaire with detailed artworks by a nun who painted the ceiling and each wall with beautifully detailed artworks from 1920 to 1936.
This snappy 303 workout is just one of the many left turns on ZoID’s Bandcamp, which veers between jazzy techno, breaks and Rephlex-style Braindance.