On Tuesday, Bandcamp founder and CEO Ethan Diamond announced that the service will donate 100 percent of the money it makes from music sales this Friday, February 3, to the American Civil Liberties Union. Diamond wrote on Bandcamp’s blog that he chose to act in response to Trump’s executive order banning people from seven mostly Muslim countries from entering the U.S. for the next 90 days. But even before Diamond made the announcement, Bandcamp was a magnet for musicians hoping to resist Trump’s toxic policies through their work, donating the proceeds from new cassettes, digital-only EPs, and other releases to nonprofits working to help the new administration’s victims (and its likely future targets).
This is the first installment in a series covering new music from Chicago labels or artists with similar agendas. Plenty of locals got started even before Trump took office—Trouble in Mind, for example, donated the profits from their Web sales on election day to the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center. I should say up front that I’m not going to include benefit shows, even though I see several every week—there’s one at Constellation on Thursday, February 2, called “Art, Now. Act, Now: A Night of Art and Action for Refugee One.” I’d prefer to focus on releases, since more people in more places can take advantage of them. This post covers music that came out in January.
Various artists, Chicago Artists Against Trump (released January 20)
The brand-new Static Switch Records dropped its first release on inauguration day, and its Facebook page appears to have launched the day after the election. This eclectic compilation skews toward bands with guitars but isn’t confined to any one genre; it features political art-punk iconoclasts Ono, experimental musician and performance artist Jill Flanagan (aka Forced Into Femininity), and rapper JahRa. I’m partial to Not For You’s allegorical shoegaze number “Big Pharma,” which originally appeared on the band’s 2016 album, Flood. All proceeds from this pay-what-you-want download go to Illinois nonprofit Rape Victim Advocates.
M. Sage, “Values (Not Vaults)” (released January 20)
Experimentalist Matthew Sage, who runs microlabel Patient Sounds, sampled the inauguration broadcast for this ominous drone track. A deep airplane-engine hum courses through “Values (Not Vaults),” curdled with feedback that keeps it from becoming soporific, and Sage distorts samples of speech till they sound eerily like maniacal laughter. All the money he earns from the $5 release will go to the ACLU.
Soft Fuck, So Woke (released January 20)
If you’re reading this at work, I wouldn’t recommend googling this experimental project. The seven tracks on So Woke aren’t consistently good—the meandering “Refrain,” a collage of field recordings and samples from TV shows, is likely to test your patience. But when they’re good, they’re powerfully good. The post-industrial surge of “The Wall,” which samples Trump’s campaign rants about a border wall with Mexico, captures the sick, sinking feeling of seeing crowds of people cheer for xenophobic lies. So Woke is priced at $9.11 (yep), and all proceeds benefit the ACLU.
Brandon Hurtado, Buried in Rain (released January 24)
Lillerne Tapes is donating 100 percent of the proceeds from all digital and physical sales to the ACLU and the National Immigration Law Center till the end of February. The Chicago cassette label’s newest release, Buried in Rain, is from Brandon Hurtado, who lives in Richmond, Virginia, and makes aching ambient music. He whispers and gently plucks his guitar strings, playing so quietly that even a thin layer of feedback can nearly drown him out. “Extend Your Hand (Disappear)” begins with restless, foreboding guitar that’s saturated in reverb, so that when his voice enters, his words are a comfort despite being largely incomprehensible.
Various artists, Is There Another Language? (released January 20)
When Tennessee label Gezellig Records dropped this benefit compilation, the song that got all the attention was Mount Eerie’s “Crow,” not only because Phil Elverum’s project is the biggest name involved but also because the track was previously unreleased. But assuming you care about more than who’s most famous, you’ll also find two songs by Chicago postpunk acts—Ganser‘s “Strategies for Living” and No Men‘s “Model Citizen,” both of which originally came out last year. The comp includes liner notes that thoughtfully criticize the Trump administration and its nominee for U.S. attorney general, Jeff Sessions (the downloadable version comes with a PDF). All proceeds go to the ACLU.
Elliot K., Something (released January 18)
This odds-and-ends compilation by shambolic bedroom project Elliot K. mixes messy emo and lo-fi electronica. According to Elliot K.’s Facebook page, all the money they make from their merchandise (including this pay-what-you-want release) is currently going to Planned Parenthood.
Other releases of note: Roommate front man Kent Lambert recently uploaded a 2011 cover of the Cure’s “A Night Like This” to the group’s Bandcamp page; Roommate will donate all proceeds from Bandcamp sales through the end of February to the National Immigration Law Center and Soup & Bread. (Lambert says he’ll pick new beneficiaries after that.) Post-industrial pop group Go Fight dropped the anti-Trump two-song single Pussy on January 20; the release announcement on Facebook urged fans to donate to the ACLU, but didn’t say whether the pay-what-you-want download would benefit the organization.
Are you a Chicago artist or label planning to release music benefiting an organization that’s fighting the Trump administration? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.