Beat’s best of Bandcamp featuring Melbourne label and DIY enthusiasts, Efficient Space

Beat’s best of Bandcamp featuring Melbourne label and DIY enthusiasts, Efficient Space

Words by Tom Walters

Welcome to Beat’s best of Bandcamp, a fortnightly roundup of the best new Melbourne/Naarm bands and artists making waves on the internet’s most indispensable music platform. 

Bandcamp has been incredibly supportive of artists during the COVID-19 crisis with its Bandcamp Fridays initiative, where for 24 hours, the site takes no fee and 100 per cent of profits go directly to artists. Bandcamp Fridays are back in 2021, with the next one taking place on March 5.

If you’ve been meaning to buy some new music, are a seasoned Bandcamp veteran looking for something fresh, or are simply intrigued at what Bandcamp has to offer, then this column will have you covered with Victoria’s finest every fortnight. 

This week, we got in touch with the DIY enthusiasts at Melbourne label Efficient Space, who are releasing Oz Echoes: DIY Cassettes and Archives 1980​-​1989 on March 26. 

Efficient Space

Bandcamp is a goldmine for crate diggers. The perfect platform for oddities, eccentricities and rarities, the site has shone a light on labels that are bringing these presumed lost gems to a wider audience, with the Adelaide-based Isle of Jura and Edinburgh’s Athens of the North being prime examples.

While those labels are focused on unearthing long lost disco and soul, Melbourne’s Efficient Space are bringing the weird and wonderful underground sounds of the ‘80s back with Oz Echoes: DIY Cassettes and Archives 1980​-​1989.

The release is a sequel of sorts to a previous compilation, Oz Waves, which saw eclectic deep-diver Steele Bonus compile ten cuts of experimental music that received small pressings – editions as low as five, in some cases – and often from private archives.

Oz Echoes continues where Oz Waves left off, with Steele returning on compilation duties and righteously selecting a fascinating mix of synth excursions, lo-fi dub and twitchy drone pop.

We spoke to label head Michael Kucyk about how a compilation like this gets made, how this particular ‘80s era has echoed through Aussie music, and what Bandcamp means to a label like Efficient Space.

Oz Echoes picks up where Oz Waves left off, digging deeper into the ‘80s Australian DIY scene. How did the idea for a sequel come about? 

I guess we never stopped searching and before we knew it, there was another compilation that we just had to do.

The compilation is put together by Steele Bonus. As a label, how involved do you get with the curation, and what’s your working process like with Steele?

Ultimately Steele selects and sequences the tracklisting and takes care of all the visuals as Efficient Space’s art director. He’s continually sending me local odd wave links and curious tape rips. How he discovers all this while currently living abroad in Amsterdam is beyond me. Even with a finalised comp, he’s still finding new material for an NTS radio promo mix.

Considering the music is so unknown and rare, what do you have to consider from a licensing perspective, and how do you go with tracking down the original artists and musicians? Do you have any interesting anecdotes to share? 

Thanks to the wonders of the internet and social media, they’re easily reachable – you just have to know who you are looking for. A lot of the artists still make music, have recently uploaded to Bandcamp or Youtube or are active score composers/sound designers.  

The best scoop was liaising with staff at Adelaide’s Three D Radio who gave us access to their vaults of live-to-air recordings and aspiring demo submissions. Through them, we recruited three previously unreleased tracks from The Frenzied Bricks, Aeroplane Footsteps and Les Trois Etrangers. They were even able to recall band members’ names from 40 years ago – half the work!

How do you think this particular era of music has influenced what we’re hearing in today’s Aussie sounds? 

I wouldn’t say the influence is direct, but I listen to artists that follow the same DIY immediacy. YL Hooi, the many aliases of Tarquin Manek, Troth, Blue Chemise and Exek come to mind.

Finally, what is the importance of a service like Bandcamp to you? Feel free to give some examples of how it works for Efficient Space, and what you think it means for the Australian music industry.

It really empowers labels and artists to be as self-sufficient as possible. Everytime I get served a mastering, pressing or artwork bill, there’s a magic fund to pull from. My favourite part of the day is boxing up orders for our supporters – they really keep us going.

For more from Efficient Space, visit their Bandcamp