Every month Miles Bowe rounds up the best of Bandcamp, unearthing the finest, freshest and weirdest releases the burgeoning DIY platform has to offer.
If you need any further convincing of Bandcamp’s ever-growing strength, look no further than The New York Times’s profile this month. The paper took a deep look inside the site’s workings and its impact on independent music (along with a very appreciated shout-out to FACT and yours truly). It’s another leap forward for Bandcamp and even before that, this was already an incredible month.
There’s the unexpected rebirth of Hype Williams (whatever the hell it is now), a touching goodbye note from Krill, a year after their breakup, and Vektroid’s latest stylistic leap. Add the satisfying progression of Katie Dey and Segue and throw in some promising new artists and you have another stellar month.
Katie Dey went from the Bandcamp new releases section to the front page of music blogs so fast she must have whiplash. That’s no accident: asdfasdf is a bedroom pop jewel and was one of the strongest debuts of 2015. Of course, with great enthusiasm often comes destructive pressure, so it’s a relief that Dey sounds stronger and more open than ever on Flood Network.
You can hear anxiety in the interludes that Dey has peppered between each song, allowing you to take a breath between emotionally gripping gems like ‘Frailty’ and ‘Fake Health’. It’s a testament to Dey’s scope that the former sounds like she could hang with the PC Music crew just as the latter’s rawness makes me wish she was touring with Hop Along. There aren’t many artists right now who can pull off that kind of range, but to Dey it just feels natural. This friction gives the album the charming, focused diversity her debut lacked and it only grows more confident by the time she delivers ‘Fear O The Light’. The track is a sequel of sorts to asdfasdf’s ‘Fear O The Dark’ and perhaps an comment on the sudden attention her work’s received. Dey doesn’t shy away and delivers one of her clearest, most touching vocal performances yet.
In the album’s second half, Dey gets even stronger. The harp-led majesty of ‘So You Pick Yourself Up’ informs the chip-tune tumble of ‘Only To Trip And Fall Down’ and even the interludes evolve from distorted 30-second transitions to full songs by the end. It all moves with intent, leaving us with instrumental ‘It’s Simpler To Make Home On The Ground’, a track that brings to mind Dirty Beaches’ Love Is The Devil with its balance of the atmospheric and heart-wrenching.
Like its predecessor, Flood Network includes a picture of Dey distorted by color and digital processing. It’s a fitting image: on Flood Network she’s a little easier to see. I’m excited for the picture to get even clearer, because there’s an unbelievable talent underneath.
Over The Mountains
Vancouver’s Jordan Sauer was really onto something when he released 2013’s sparkling Pacifica. Similar to Kompakt boss Wolfgang Voigt (aka Gas), Segue wandered from his dub techno roots into a dense forest of ambience. On that album, Segue’s already hypnotic grooves were smeared by warmth like sunshine breaking through crowded leaves. While Pacifica resembled the serene aquatic bliss of its cover, its long-awaited successor does the same with a foggy mountain range.
Over The Mountains continues Segue’s somnambulant journey but hovers between warm and cool like an Indian summer. ‘Sunshine Coast’ is as vividly transporting as Pacifica’s opener ‘Westcoast Trail,’ but while that that threw us into midday brightness, Mountains starts with a burning sunset. It builds to a gentle peak with sharp drum hits before a glowing synth melody eventually cuts through like lens flare.
While tracks like ‘Deep Valley’ and the 10-minute ‘Celestial’ provide plenty of slow burn, Sauer still finds room for livelier moments. There’s the twinkling, percussive shake of ‘Alpenglow’ and the maze-like epic ‘Exposure’, where birdsong and rainfall dapple the ever-evolving synths. As Mountains ends on the appropriately-titled ‘Aurora’, it’s clear that while Sauer has moved into darker, deeper territory, the colorful details that made Segue so special remain as clear as day.
When Vektroid’s 9-minute colossus ‘Enemy’ pummeled Singles Club recently, I was struck by one writer’s wish to hear the Portland producer try her hand working with a rapper. Long-in-the-making collaborative mixtape Midnight Run is just that. Coming from the weird-shit-on-the-internet beat, I’d be curious to hear what rap critics think of it, because the album is like nothing I’ve ever heard in the genre before.
Siddiq floats through Vektroid’s familiar disorienting, zero-G atmospheres, but never loses his way. It’s a testament to how long they must have worked on finding an even balance; Siddiq fluidly shifts from upfront, center-stage verses to the kind of background mantras that become just another texture in Vektroid’s web. In those moments, it sounds almost like two collaborators trading verses, even when one remains silent. After a long silence, Vektroid has suddenly become one of the year’s most prolific artists, but while she’s reinforced her experimental roots, Midnight Run’s unexpected leaps show how exciting this return really is.
Talk to anyone in the Brooklyn indie rock scene and Krill will probably come up sooner or later. With their third album, A Distant Fist Unclenching, we said goodbye to one of the most beloved rock bands in the city. It was a bittersweet farewell to a group that examined existential paralysis with a sensitivity, humor and sincerity that will influence the scene for years to come. And now they’ve returned with one posthumous release, a 25-minute EP recorded in the band’s final days.
There are brief rock songs like ‘Happy’, which shows Aaron Ratoff’s knack for writing breathless guitar rushes that match Jonah Furman’s lyrical panic attacks (“And your presence is violence / But your absence is cowardice”). And there are also longer, sprawling beauties like ‘The Void’ and closer ‘Billy’ which build off Distant Fist’s epic centerpiece ‘Tiger’.
All in all, Krill is a wonderful postscript to a band that was bursting at the seams with creativity until they actually popped. It’s a very Krill move to make use of an introductory, eponymous title (typically used in debuts) as swan song, but it makes sense. From Krill’s music to its wistful cover (the band proudly smiling after their goodbye show) the EP shows that even until the very end, they never lost sight of who they were.
[photo by Stephanie Griffin]
Water From Your Eyes
Water From Your Eyes
There’s not a lot online about Chicago duo Water From Your Eyes, but you get all you need to know from their dazzling debut. They’re clearly fans of Stereolab and Broadcast, channeling those bands’ respective metronomic pulse and haunted, prickly synths on ‘Give Me Up’, but there’s more to Water From Your Eyes than pastiche.
Most of all, they know how to carve peaks and valleys into rushing pop songs like ‘Can’t/Won’t’, which finds singer Rachel Brown’s lonely vocals drifting over a bursting drum beat that only tops itself a minute in. Nate Amos is credited with the instrumentation, that adds lively, twisting bass lines to the drum-and-synth-heavy production (opener ‘I Am Barely A Shadow’ brings to mind Josh Fauver’s menacing, hypnotic basslines on Deerhunter’s Cryptograms). It’s a debut worth your time, and considering the band is selling cassettes stained with tears, it’s surely worth $5 too.
Mary Lattimore & Maxwell August Croy
Constellation Tatsu is one of my very favorite labels on Bandcamp and usually appears in this column with electronic and often psychedelic releases. Terelan Canyon is entirely different: a live recording of harpist Mary Lattimore and koto player Maxwell August Croy, who weave their delicate strings over seven tracks.
The release is mastered by the great drone artist Sean McCann and is easy to lose yourself in, but never directionless. On each track, Croy and Lattimore’s strings pull you down spiraling pathways and enormously beautiful passages. It’s exactly the kind of thing I’ve come to expect from Constellation Tatsu, delivered in the most unexpected way.
Who is Hype Williams? What’s going on? Where are Dean and Inga? What are we left with? Who made this? Why does it still sound like the Hype Williams we knew if the Hype Williams we knew is allegedly dead? Were there musicians we didn’t know about the first time around? Who is Denna Frances Glass? Who is Father Red Krayola? Why have these names surfaced again and again and again for years without answers? Is this truly a “relay project” that gets passed on to new carriers every three years? How were they chosen? Who was chosen? Why 10/10? What is supposed to happen in 2023? What’s in the piñata? Where are Dean and Inga? What is coming next? Who is Hype Williams? Why?
Miles Bowe is on Twitter