Portals: The Bandcamp Ambient Compilation


Music platforms are consistently reinventing music listening and purchasing behavior. My experience with music discovery began with P2P sharing platforms such as Soulseek, evolving into the discovery-era of Pandora and Last.fm, and the playlist era of 8tracks, Spotify and Apple Music. But one platform reigns supreme when it comes to independent music discovery... Bandcamp.

This isn't a moment to talk about how great Bandcamp is. Instead, I wanted to focus on just one of the behaviors the platform has enabled, that isn't really possible anywhere else. The notion of like-minded individuals and labels coming together to create music compilations to purchase, and in many instances, for the benefit of a greater cause. Along with donating profits in aid of global movements, Bandcamp has inadvertently enabled an easy way to spread music for the greater good.

Sure, you can create playlists as compilations, but you risk seeing no profit (and it's streaming...). You can create physical releases, but then you have to overcome the barriers of production and distribution. Or, in the many instances we see, you can create a Bandcamp compilation, with high-quality downloads, fan feedback, added discovery mechanisms, and likely, a better return than anywhere else. This approach is a shining light in a world where the debate rages over the monopolization of playlists, underpaid artist royalties and, "The problem with Muzak". 

Whilst I'm sure this isn't a genre-specific behavior on Bandcamp it seems there's a good amount of compilations focused on ambient and electronic music. They're often established as reactions to political or natural disasters, self-sustained labels who solely operate to donate to charity, or they're quite simply, just an excuse to pull together a few like-minded friends and get some good music out into the world. 

Below I've pulled together a list of my favorite ambient/electronic compilations that aim to raise money for a cause through Bandcamp. As with all of the Portals features, the main objective is to help you discover even more great music, and this time you can do it knowing you're supporting something greater. Lastly, by a very rough count, you can spend less than $100 supporting the below 8 compilations and charities, and be 350+ tracks better off...

Disquiet Series [Buy on Bandcamp]
Purpose: for charity (multiple)
Keith Kenniff is a brilliant ambient and classical musician in his own right, but for the Disquiet series of compilations (we're on #2 as of July 2017), he teams up with his wife, Hollie, to curate some of the most essential ambient, neoclassical and experimental music one can need. Ben Lukas Boysen, Eluvium, Julia Kent, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Windy & Carl, Hammock... the list goes on. 

This isn't Keith's first venture into compilations for good either, as his, For Nihon release in aid of the Japan Earthquake is one of the best ambient compilations of recent years, charity or not.  

Dronarivm - Illuminations [Buy on Bandcamp]
Purpose: for charity (4 Paws For Ability)
Home to Olan Mill, Offthesky, Dag Rosenqvist, Segue, Pleq, Sven Laux and many more, the Dronarivm label is one of the most consistent outputs amongst the ambient genre, and with its now yearly Illuminations compilations, it's creating yet another reason to pay close attention to the busy roster of emerging musicians. After its 2017 edition, the 2018 release featured many of the labels own great artists alongside, Loscil, Ludvig Cimbrelius, Jacaszek and more, all available for a minimum 1-Euro payment. 

Memories Overlooked: A Tribute To The Caretaker [Buy on Bandcamp]
Purpose: for charity (Alzheimers Association)
Leyland Kirby's infamous project, The Caretaker is currently in the midst of a special concept based on dementia.  His latest release, Everywhere at the end of time "is a new and finite series exploring dementia, its advance and its totality". As if these melancholic and introspective productions weren't enough, this charity compilation reimagines 100 of The Caretaker's works to fuel the generosity and further raise awareness of the disease.

"In proper fashion, this compilation was diagnosed with having early onset dementia, and is mixed and arranged in accordance with the advancement of the disease. Every passing hour, to quote Mr. Kirby in regards to his 'Everywhere At The End Of Time' series, "will reveal new points of progression, loss and disintegration".

Headphone Commute ...and darkness came [Buy on Bandcamp]
Purpose: for charity (Hurricane Sandy)
87-tracks curated by one of the finest ambient, modern-classical and experimental blogs out there, means you know you're in for quality and quantity. A fine place to start or get lost in, with inclusions from the 'pop-stars' of the genre, Nils Frahm and Olafur Arnalds, alongside many other HC friends, favorites and talented artists that deserve your ears just as much as anyone else on the track list. 

Composure - Ambient Techno for Japan [Buy on Bandcamp]
Purpose: for charity (Japan Earthquake)
This compilation started as a CD, but was then placed on Bandcamp to further aid its good cause, so it's still worth a mention based on how defining this compilation has become. It could be argued this compilation single-handedly opened up a world of ambient music lovers to a new breed of 'ambient techno' emerging from Japan's Mindgames camp, and similarly introduced a mellowed take on techno to the dance-floor savvy. It's the one place to start if you have any interest in the ambient and techno spectrum, featuring producers such as Donato Dozzy, Rod Modell (Deepchord), Donnacha Costello, Minilogue and many others.  

Touched Music (various) [Buy on Bandcamp]
Purpose: for charity (Macmillan Cancer Relief)
Curated by Martin Boulton, this UK-based label is synonymous with not only a series of epic charity compilations, but the ability to present releases by many classic, favorite and sometimes forgotten electronic musicians such as Autechre, Plaid and Future Sound of London. Touched's latest compilation, Found Sound, features unreleased material from John Tejada, FSOL and Milieu to name just a few of my muses, and I'm pretty certain the collection of tracks on the anonymous Covert compilations feature even bigger names in the electronic genre, albeit incognito. 

Grenzwellen Eins [Buy on Bandcamp]
Purpose: Radio Compilation
Curated by Ecki Stieg, host of Hannover Radio station show, "Grenzwellen", Ecki promotes a refined selection of electronic music and this recent compilation was created to raise money for the station upkeep. Ecki has pulled many of his favorite artists together for the cause, with the likes of Ulrich Schnauss, Hecq, Hotel Neon, and Arovane, featuring alongside lesser-known artists for you to dig your discovery hungry teeth into. 

Lost In The Humming Air (Music inspired by Harold Budd) [Buy on Bandcamp]
Purpose: for charity (Unknown)
Ambient pioneer Harold Budd is reinterpreted by a new school of ambient producers, including bvdub, Biosphere, Loscil, Taylor Deupree and Deaf Center. Released in the 50th anniversary-year of Budd's career, the compilation was conceived and curated by Marsen Jules and Rafael Anton IrisarriBudd's works are legendary and this compilation does many of them justice.