The month in Bandcamp: Dear God, 2017 is making us Physically Sick
Every month Miles Bowe rounds up the best of Bandcamp, unearthing the finest, freshest and weirdest releases the burgeoning DIY platform has to offer.
Tomorrow (February 3), Bandcamp will donate 100% of its profits to the American Civil Liberties Union, an organisation that has never needed your help more than it does right now. We’ve recommended 33 classic Bandcamp albums to add your shopping list, but this rundown is all about brand new releases that are just as worthy of your attention.
This edition also marks my two-year anniversary of writing The Best Of Bandcamp, and looking back at so many favorites really shows how much the site’s community has grown. The releases this month don’t have much in common, but that only makes it more exciting — so join me for another tumble down Bandcamp’s rabbit hole.
Bandcamp Release Of The Month:
Boston-based producer Sae Heum Han makes a haunting impression on Dear God, an EP that shuffles creepy industrial atmospheres, primal techno and IDM glitches with expert sleight-of-hand. ‘Sun God’ is a chilling introduction, painting eerie images with its dripping synths and creaky metallic samples. Yet it lives up to the title, thawing out in the second half with rushing synths and a piano melody dappled with chimes and birdsong.
Elsehwere, ‘Facade’ builds tension with spine-chilling percussion and strings until the EP explodes into its first storm of noise and bass. It’s one of many examples of how well mmph sets careful trajectories over the entirety of Dear God, bringing to mind sonic puzzlemakers like Oneohtrix Point Never and Arca. The delicate bridge of ‘Past Lives’ channels R + 7 with blurred whispers and zero-gravity synths while the deceptively pretty closer ‘Blossom’ sounds like Arca’s molecular mutations unleashed on a Disney movie.
In fact, Dear God can conjure a seemingly contradictory series of influences at any moment: nimble melodies indebted to PC Music, Jlin’s sinister romanticism and Nicolas Jaar’s ornate sense of space. It makes sense – Han’s a young producer, but he’s too talented to let that overwhelm his vision.
You’ll either play Reflection for a couple minutes and tune out, or fall completely in love with the locked groove obsessions of 아버지 (Father). It’s an album-length stutter in the spirit of CD-skipping bliss outs like Fennesz’s ‘Before I Leave’ and Oval’s ‘Shop In Store’, where each track traps a few seconds of audio in stasis to create subtle kaleidoscopic manipulations. The tracks only gain power when played in succession, but if you need a hook, the penultimate ‘Tomorrow’ is Reflection’s transcendent peak.
Using a shard of vocal you could almost imagine on an Avalanches album if it was allowed to play out (it never is), the track soars and wanders for 11 graceful minutes. Like the rest of the album, ‘Tomorrow’ never reaches its destination, but Reflection shows the journey itself is just as important.
As the title suggests, the Allergy Season label may have been inspired (not to mention disgusted) by the awful political climate for this charity compilation – but it has never sounded to strong. The label teams up with Discwoman on Physically Sick to wrangle 42 tracks from some very pissed off and talented people, including familiar names such as Umfang, Octo Octa, Max McFerren, label owner Physical Therapy and his former ‘Drone On’ collaborator James K.
The compilation also provides a platform for some lesser known artists to present some of their best work. Boston acid techno producer Isabella expands on last year’s Best Of Bandcamp-featured Viscous Positions with the unrelenting ‘Dying And Denying’ while Vancouver producer Yu Su offers a moody slow burner on ‘Tales’ which will satisfy fans of her excellent 1080p album in the duo You’re Me. It’s available as “name your price”, but with all the release’s profits going to support charities such as the ACLU, the National Immigration Law Center and Planned Parenthood, consider naming one other than “free”.
Wakesleep, Datavis, BassTechCustom™ — they’re all Robin Burnett, the Austin-based producer who introduced many to vaporwave with a genre-defining run of albums as Internet Club. Since then, Burnett’s work has only grown more abstract and sensual, never more so than 2015’s excellent Three Thousand Flora.
On CORE GENESIS, Burnett adapts wonderfully to long-form drone with two glitchy synth epics, ‘Gay Bass Hologram’ and ‘NEXT GENESIS’, that deliver plenty of the promised low-end rumble. The former follows a gently building path for 11 minutes, while the latter spends more than twice moving through carefully placed peaks and valleys. It’s too dynamic to be called “ambient”, but that won’t stop you from losing yourself in its hypnotic surges.
Intersections and Variations
Performance artist Muyassar Kurdi sings like an interpretive dancer moves on Intersections and Variations, an album that uses silence as an effective voice of its own. With occasional accents from gong and cello (the latter provided by Nicholas Jozwiak, who also contributes vocals), Kurdi draws a worthy comparison to her former teacher, experimental vocalist Meredith Monk, while crafting something markedly personal.
From its tributes to unity (the lengthy, transporting ‘Companions’) and declarations of individuality (the persistent ‘Alone’), Intersections… captures a unique voice in more ways than one.
Returned To Earth
On this lovingly crafted twofer, harpist Mary Lattimore delivers a tribute to a man’s journey in space and is then joined by tape-noise composer Jefre Cantu-Ledesma for a track that feels like you’re floating in it.
Lattimore had been following astronaut Scott Kelly’s transmissions from the International Space Station when she broke her jaw in a fall. After spending the winter with her jaw wired up to heal, she got better just in time for his descent, when she recorded ‘For Scott Kelly, Returned to Earth.’ Her spritely harp buzzes with a renewing energy, which is balanced on the second half by the more reflective improvisation of ‘Borrego Springs’ with Cantu-Ledesma.
The release comes through new tape label Soap Library, who package each cassette with a small object, in this case a packet of orange zinnia seeds — Captain Kelly’s favorite.
This short collection was meant to be part of a larger, now-abandoned project from Melbourne-based artist Deku, but what’s left leaves fascinating impressions. ‘Marie’ floats on warm organ passages reminiscent of early Microphones before resting on a weary-but-not-defeated monologue rejecting suicide (“Just gotta keep on staying alive and hope that things are better, so yeah…”) while the highlight ‘Dominic DeNucci’ lays out a gentle duet between acoustic guitar and stormy drones of static.
But after finishing on the uplifting, beat-driven ‘Trash Trio’ it suggests an unexplored range and thoughts at what could have been. Unfinished, yes — but undeniably worth your time.
Read next: The 20 best Bandcamp releases of 2016