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, 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. 


#NoBanNoWall Bandcamp recommends


Today, Bandcamp are donating all of their profits from sales to ACLU. Read more about this great initiative here. To help with your splurge, here's 10 recommends you can purchase to contribute to the greater cause. 

Touched - Covert II EP (Touched)

Do double good in the world, by grabbing Touched's latest mysteriously produced IDM monster. The producers behind these records remain anonymous - but if it was Plaid, BoC or Aphex, I wouldn't be surprised. Proceeds from Touched go toward Macmillan Cancer Relief. See past Touched reviews here.

Jonathan Fitoussi - Imaginary lines (Further Records)

One of my favorite records from the always dependable Further Records, also donating their profits. Some great melodic, analogue wizardry - and two LP's remaining at the time of writing. 

Specta Ciera - Signal Return (Energostatic)

This album's set as name your price, so don't go entering '0' - in fact, you never should, as it doesn't add an album to your Bandcamp collection for other people to explore. So find some $ for this great dub-techno album by Specta Ciera.

Faru - Through Darkness Comes Light (Silent Season)

Buy it, if nothing, for its optimistic title in times of darkness. But hey, if you're not superstitious, you'll love the depth of this debut from Faru on our friends Silent Season. I fell asleep to this album last night and 'Sunrise At Bratan' should be enough to persuade you.

Crisopa - Transhumante (Self)

Crisopa  (n5MD alumn) hasn't popped up on these pages for a while now, but his new album dropped just this week. Don't let the artwork fool you into thinking this is anything other than some unique, melodic and intelligent electronica we've come to love - start with 'I am the lord of these ruins'.  Again, name your price, so be kind.

Ben Woods - A World Without Color (Self)

Ben's been creating the kind of emotional, modern-classical/ambient/post-rock music that the likes of Helios, Hammock, Rhian Sheehan etc have made very popular. Ben's latest release is much more raw than many, more instrumental and attached, perfect for daydreaming and window watching. 'Endless Lines of Infinite Light' is my fav from the album. Name your price so be kind. 

1-Mile North - Awakened By Decay (Self)

If you like your guitars and lean more into the post-rock side of ambient music a-la Explosions In The Sky, this album may be your cup of tea. There's also a lovely 2xLP up for grabs. 

Steve Roach - The Early Years (Soundquest Music)

This has been on high rotation for me in recent weeks. This digital-only bonus, entitled The Early Years, features two amazing long-form sequencer pieces circa 1982. Steve Roach's music is a rabbit-hole of original synthesizer work, and this is as good a place as any to start. Name your price, so be kind.

Fourtet - Randoms (Self)

You're a fan of Fourtet in one way or another, even if you don't know it. Not only did he create a 'Banned country' playlist, but he's embraced Bandcamp like no other, and whilst also giving away profits, homes exclusive albums like 'Randoms' on Bandcamp. People like him help get efforts like this off the ground. And that 'Gillie Amma I Love You' track is just magical. 

Composure - Ambient Techno For Japan (Labyrinth)

Lastly, this compilation is from 2011, and was originally set up for the Japan quake-relief. However, it's one of those gems that needs to be in any ambient/techno fans collection, and probably just sits in your wish-list right now, waiting for when you've got a spare $20 to drop... change that and buy it. The CD is folklore, but the digital is here just for you...

If none of those got your cash out, then check out my full collection on Bandcamp here.


Anonymous Various Artists - Covert


Martin Boulton, the man behind the label, Touched, is doing the music world a favor in every sense of the word. Not only is he dedicating his label and any profits to a good cause, but he's also enlisting help from some of the best electronic musicians in the world along the way.

Past Touched compilations have featured everyone from Arovane, Autechre, Ulrich Schnauss, 808 State, Bibio, Christ, Loscil, FSOL, U-ziq, Hecq and Orbital to name just a few recognizable faces. So you'd be forgiven for getting extremely annoyed at the latest Touch release as this time, contributors have been kept a purposeful secret...

What does that leave us with? Well, it's an IDM/electronica affair. A sincerely great one, at that. The compilation is quickly becoming a guessing game amongst the die-hard and various names from IDM/electronica eras of great are being thrown out for consideration. Christ, Aphex, Boards of Canada, Mike Paradinas, Plaid, Autechre ... you name them, there's a sound, synth, analog glitch or ghostly drum pattern in here that will make you dig through your late 90's, early 00's CD's to try match the signature sounds.

It's hard to pick a favorite from such a solid bunch. The breaks of Streetscape sent me rocking. Charm, sent me back to the hey-days of the many big-beat Orbital parties I went to. Doloxan, Northwest Territories and Even If I Lose Everything made me revisit BoC's 'Tomorrow's Harvest' once again for a dark, nostalgic trip. 

Whether it's imitators of the real-thing, names shouldn't matter at this point. It's some of the best electronica you'll be hearing for a while. 

CD+ Digital available on Bandcamp.


Touched. Macmillan Cancer Support Compilation

123 tracks curated for a very good cause. Not just your ordinary curation though. This features an absolutely outstanding lineup of electronic artists from past and present. 808 State, Future Sound of London, Anders Ilar, Arovane, Bengalfuel, Brothomstates, Christian Kleine, Christ, Datasette, Digitonal, Goldmund, Ishq, Kettel, Maps & Diagrams, Marsen Jules, Milieu, Ochre, Olan Mill, Pub, Segue & Pleq, Sun Glitters, Ten & Tracer and Vector Lovers to name but a few familiars.

To name a any favourites at this stage would be unfair as i’ve barely made it all the way through, but needless to say there’s something in here for everyone. And at a minimum price of £6, even if you can’t stump up a little bit more to show your gratitude, it’s worth every penny. I’m looking forward to exploring many new artists and revisiting a few lost classics over the next few days.

Congratulations to curator Martin Boulton for an outsanding effort all for a very good cause – a great way to end the year.

Available on Bandcamp.