Social Distanced Raving: Releases Dedicated to Coronavirus Relief

As Bandcamp waives their revenue share once again to help artists affected by COVID-19, Michael McKinney shares another list of compilations donating their proceeds to charity organizations.
By    July 3, 2020

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Clubs are in trouble. Venues, along with the DJs that play them, are reliant upon all sorts of things that are now more or less impossible: cheap air travel, packed rooms, and an unending tide of gigs. The Coronavirus hasn’t just hit clubs, of course, but they’re often resting on a razor’s edge at the best of times. When they started shutting down, though, plenty of artists and clubs took to emergency-fund compilations. Some of these are aimed towards keeping artists afloat as their gigs dry up; others, the clubs themselves. Still others have external focal points: the Red Cross, individual hospitals, individual people. (There have been plenty explicitly focused on civil rights, too.)

Nightclubs are unique and essential cultural institutions; why else would politicians and protesters alike unite to protect them? Dancefloors offer escapism, representation, and plainspoken joy to communities the world over, and many of those spaces are in serious trouble thanks to Covid-19. Direct donations are the best way to support them right now but the second best may be Bandcamp: as the site waives its share of proceeds for the fourth day this year, many charities, clubs, and producers stand to pay rent or buy another hundred masks. Selected below are several compilations showcasing the range and power of modern club music: busted bass workouts, new-school garage and house, early-morning ambient, blistering breakbeats, and a thousand shades in between. It’s all exciting material, but, more importantly, it’s all going towards vital cultural, economic, and medical work.

Bokeh Allstars – Mutual Aid 2020

Bokeh Versions is all about the alien: their NTS Radio page says the label is “all about no-world psych, swamp dub, forest noises, cyberphunk dembow and ritual industrial.” That commitment to the underground and far-left-field shows on Mutual Aid 2020, a thrilling and baffling collection of zonked-out club music. Here, though, “club” is a wide net: Roger Robinson contributes hushed dub poetry, but Tokyo’s Mars89 uses scraped metal and cragged bass to conjure chasms. Low Jack’s “Reaction” is a militaristic stomp reminiscent of his work with Atlanta’s Brodinski; Jay Glass Dubs works unidentifiable electronics and clattering percussion into a frenzy on “Song for Leslie #1.” Mutual Aid 2020 is wide-ranging, exploratory, and defiantly outré.

Proceeds from Mutual Aid 2020 will be donated in full to the artists involved “to either support them or to donate to aid programmes in their local community.”

China White – VA01

VA01 features the kind of dance music that courses through many of London’s clubs. At just forty-five minutes, it’s relatively tight for a benefit compilation, but that brevity allows it a kind of focus that a record three times its length might struggle to hold on to. Label founder Joe Corti contributes a jacking house number in “Venus 96,” all pumping kicks and playful hand-drums and Hollywood strings; the aptly named Dance System follows it up with “2 B WITH U,” taking the same winning formula but chopping things up a bit more liberally. This is house music resting at the midpoint between lo-fi YouTube cuts and classic deep-house burners. Perhaps thanks to circumstance, though, the compilation does something even more impressive: behind the snaking melodies and sizzling percussion lies a reminder of the quiet optimism to be found in a packed dancefloor.

Proceeds from VA01 will “go towards helping elderly people with deliveries of food, food banks, and loads more.”

ClubCultureCH – Make Some Room: Electronic Relief in Switzerland

The most impressive thing about Make Some Room is its aesthetic consistency. Pulling together 131 artists from a country’s electronic music scene should, on paper, be a recipe for an unmoored pile-up of club sounds; here, though, its eleven hours form a fog of bleary ambiance and alien electronics. There are some club tools here, but the chief sound is slow and quietly surreal ambient music, all clicks and whirrs and blurred synthesizer washes. Its mammoth size actually helps the effect; as one idea blurs into the next, the haze only deepens. There’s a short run of higher-energy stuff—acid techno, breaks, electro, house—but that’s the exception, not the rule. Make Some Room is quiet and reflective, a suitably stilled mirror for a club scene that’s been put on hold.

Proceeds from Make Some Room: Electronic Relief in Switzerland will be donated in full to all involved artists. 

Konstrukt – This Is Not a Drill, Vol. 1

This Is Not a Drill opens on much less world-ending terms than its title suggests. “Playful Meditation,” Rutger Miller’s contribution to the compilation, is six minutes of scattered ambiance and reverberating chimes; their effect rests somewhere between beauty and gnawing horror. The compilation slowly moves into darkened techno of all varieties: ambient vistas, lights-out club numbers, minimal and brooding, acidic and cluttered and bleary. No matter the mode, though, Drill balances dread and joy in spellbinding ways. Even the most sun-kissed numbers are often filled with melancholy, or a longing for something just out of reach; the pitch-black cuts often turn that sadness into something spikier and more menacing. After compilation fades out with several minutes of goosebump ambient, it’s that quiet fear that lingers the longest.

Proceeds from This Is Not a Drill, Vol. 1 will be donated to the Netherlands Red Cross.

Lobster Theremin – LOBSTER PLUR Volume 1, 2 & 3

Since their foundation in 2013, London’s Lobster Theremin has proven themselves to be one of contemporary dance music’s most reliably exciting names. Its long-running mix series showcases electronic music producers of all stripes, and their roster reads like a who’s-who of cult heroes: Palms Trax, Ross From Friends, Andy Garvey, Coco Bryce. LOBSTER PLUR, sitting north of four hours when totaled up, shows the label’s reach and range. There doesn’t seem to be any clear throughline, but that hardly matters when the quality is this high. TRP’s “Pony Up” opens the first volume with deeply felt and scuzzed-up house music; not long later, the release dives into acidic electro and scorching breakbeats. Each volume works like this, jumping between genres and moods but keeping the focus squarely on optimistic and powerful dance music. Sometimes, a high bar for quality and peak-time energy are more than enough.

Proceeds from LOBSTER PLUR will be donated to Mind, Shelter, and “an independent fund for a number of contributing artists to help give back to the music and wider community.”

Sirens – Sirens Scrapyard A & B 

Sirens Scrapyard takes the anything-goes energy of some great club nights and leans into it. They described Scrapyard A as “an emotionally ambient ride,” but it’s still got plenty of energy packed in: the demented reggaeton of NTFL’s “Vamo ahi,” DJ Warzone’s manic walls of noise on “Pacific Haven,” Ink Midget’s jagged and cavernous “God Save the Rave Bootleg.” The B-side—celebrating “high energy rave rhythms”—makes good on its promise and keeps it up for an hour and a half. In it, you’ll find starscraping trance, steamrolling chiptune belters, a light-speed Lil Uzi Vert edit, screaming pile-ups of breaks and bass, and plenty that goes fast and messy. Given the compilation is made up of some of Sirens’s favorite musicians their rolodex is packed full of artists that are playful, audacious, and thrilling in equal measure.

Proceeds from Sirens Scrapyard will be donated to the Artist Relief Project.

Various Artists – The Birds That Mimic Solitude – Vol. I

In the liner notes for The Birds That Mimic Solitude, Jay Duncan and Sam Purcell write that “the vision stems from bird calls, where unity incorporates different sounds that sequentially evolve.” It’s a fitting metaphor for the record, which jumps between styles but keeps to a consistent approach. Duncan turns in a piece of his own, the slow-burning techno of “Predictive Message Theory,” working in a few bird calls alongside twisted synthesizer lines and mutating drums. Jack Chrysalis takes that energy and brings it skyward, filling “Life Code” with reverb-drenched synths and distant hi-hats. Elsewhere, Andrea Ottomani’s “Le Pietre” is a paranoid pile of breaks, vocal chops, and fidgety snares, and Bianca Scout’s “Monks Orchard” is its inverse: deep-sigh drones and distant vocals turned into an impenetrable fog. Like the release as a whole, each track on Birds seems to be in a state of constant evolution, moving between genres and moods without fraying any sonic threads.

Proceeds from The Birds That Mimic Solitude – Vol I will be donated to the National Emergencies Trust and “other charitable causes.”

Various Artists – Together – Local Artists x Local Heroes Volume 1 & 2

Taste Rec.’s two-part fundraiser for Milan’s Sacco hospital is fittingly named. The compilations, showcasing nearly four hours of tunes from just under forty musicians, allude towards a number of communities: the intimacy tied into the work of health care, the should-be throngs of people at temporarily shuttered nightclubs, the message boards and email chains that spread genre around the world. Both halves play like soundtracks for an open-roof party as it moves from dusk to midnight. Volume 1, accordingly, is stuffed with simmering nu-jazz workouts, lo-fi house thumpers, and rough-hewn club fillers: Nobel’s vocal-chop exercise “Not 4 Real” on one side of the coin, SofaTalk’s slow-and-loose jam-band session “Suspense” on the other. Volume 2 takes that mixture and tilts it a bit more towards the dancefloor, replacing the red-orange sunlight with a pumping strobe. Slowly, it moves towards the elation that accompanies an excellent night out. Together, both in mission and sound, focuses on these communal experiences.

Proceeds from Together will be donated to Milan’s Luigi Sacco University Hospital.

Various Artists – WorldWideWindow

WorldWideWindow, Italy’s Neel asked nearly sixty artists to make music which reflected “this time we were living in.” Given the compilation came out once social distancing became the norm but before protests lit up streets across the world, the mood is suitably downcast and isolated; nearly every track covers its percussion with a thick blanket. Adiel’s “In the End” sets the tone early, all straight-ahead kicks and otherworldly vocals alongside a piano played from miles away. It’s both danceable and distant, filled with both a deep sense of groove and a beguiling beauty. Much of WorldWideWindow leans more into the left-field and stilled side of dance music, to frequently beautiful effect. Cuna’s “1,5 m” is all slippery hi-hats and shuffling kicks, Laertes’s “Carbero” features synthesizers orbiting a few bass drums, and TM404’s “Covid” is spacious drones surrounding a far-away satellite. Ask the right kind of raver and a washed-out kick drum turns to a skeleton key. On WorldWideWindow, that nocturnal and distant vision of dance music is made into something powerful, eerie, and beautiful. 

Proceeds from WorldWideWindow will be donated to The Red Cross.

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