For the next instalment of Beat’s best of Bandcamp, we spotlight four of the best releases to emerge on the platform in 2020.
Hello and 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.
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 every two weeks with Victoria’s finest.
For the final column of the year, we round up the Bandcamp releases that have made 2020 a lot more bearable.
Katie Dey – mydata
Katie Dey’s mydata came like a much-needed warm blanket in the depths of lockdown in July. Those who know Dey’s music will know that her explorations of isolation, heartbreak and loneliness are some of the most cathartic takes on such subjects available, and the fact that she chose to open up further on mydata was a beautiful coincidence for the year that was.
While her previous releases have been shrouded in digital manipulation and sonic glitches, on mydata, Dey puts her voice front-and-centre over soothing strings and satisfyingly-straightforward melodies. There is an ethereal brightness that flows through mydata’s 12 tracks, each one progressively providing more of an audio head massage than the last.
‘happiness’ is a particular highlight. Despite its classical piano and sweeping orchestrals, it remains distinctly Katie Dey in the best way – all chopped and stuttering, experimental without being dramatically esoteric. “Happiness, nurturing/Understanding, holding, touching/I want life, while I’m alive/I’m not lying, not this time/I want life with less pain,” she sings, speaking for us all as we search for glimmers of hope in this wretched year.
mydata is out now on Bandcamp.
DJ Plead – Going For It
DJ Plead might not have been able to light up any dancefloors this year, but no quarantine party would have been complete without the pummels of his forward-thinking percussive tracks. The Melbourne producer started the year releasing three-track EP Massari for Relief — in which the Sumac label founder released three bangers whose profits went towards bushfire relief efforts — and ended it with Going For It, a four-track EP on Livity Sound.
And does Going For It ever go for it. Plead has become a pioneer of contemporary club music in Melbourne, taking influences from all over the globe – from the Eastern Mediterranean to the UK – to create all-encompassing floor-fillers.
If Going For It didn’t suit your lockdown playlist, then it’s certainly going to be a staple on your future nights on the dancefloor. The title track is hard-hitting and humid, pairing wonky synth lines with Plead’s now-trademark percussion, while ‘Espresso’ provides a mid-sesh caffeine hit with oscillating vocal cries and head-nodding rhythms. The whole collection is undoubtedly the best from a Melbourne producer this year, and is set to be a common sound as we ease our way back into clubs in 2021.
Going For It is out now on Bandcamp.
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Live In San Francisco ‘16 / Live In Asheville ‘19 / Demos Vol. 1 + Vol. 2
If there’s one thing we’ve missed in 2020, it’s been live music, and there’s no better reminder of just how magical it is than the pair of live albums King Gizz released this year – Live In Asheville ‘19 and Live In San Francisco ‘16.
With the situation dire around the globe, the live album has become a bit of a staple release for many acts, some being simple cash-in jobs while others being more thoughtful and well-produced releases. Luckily for K.G. fans, these pair of records fall into the latter category. Both are remarkably well-sounding live releases, lovingly mixed and mastered and both capturing distinct periods in the band’s history.
The difference in listening to the shows three years apart is remarkable – Live In San Francisco ‘16 was recorded in a 500-cap venue but shows the ferocity and energy that the band played with as they were gaining plaudits around the world, riding the same high that followed the release of Nonagon Infinity, which makes up most of the setlist.
On the other hand, Live In Asheville ‘19 finds them playing harder and looser – the band’s metal phase coming into its own in the live setting. If you need to convince someone of the band’s prowess live, then the 14-minute rendition of ‘The Bitter Boogie’ here will do the trick.
Never a group to do things in half measures, the guys also treated fans to a collection of demos and outtakes in the package Demos Vol. 1 + Vol. 2. The ideal Bandcamp release, these 28 previously-unreleased demos and sketches give an insight into the technical musicianship and songwriting process of the band – like peeking into the window of a rehearsal set and witnessing magic happen in front of your eyes.
Check out each of the records at King Gizzard’s Bandcamp page.
Gordon Koang – Unity
When things have gotten more than a bit much this year, Gordon Koang’s Unity has been a beaming beacon of hope and joy. Originating from the Nile Valley in what is now South Sudan, Koang was born blind and began playing music from an early age, busking on the streets of Juba and producing his own self-released CDs and cassettes. In 2019, after six years of waiting, Koang was finally granted asylum in Australia, with Unity being completed just weeks before his permanent residency was granted.
It is an unabashedly joyous and positive record, each song more uplifting than the last. Across it, Koang approaches the subjects of asylum seeking, his home place of South Sudan and the power of community spirit with a courageous amount of optimism and gusto.
Unity is a gift of a record, one that continues to give whenever you’re in need of it, and cements Koang as one of Melbourne’s most treasured musicians – long may he be.
Unity is out now on Bandcamp.
Check out last fortnight’s column here, featuring Cool Sounds, Ruby Gill, Pop Filter and Dannika.
Never miss a story. Sign up to Beat’s newsletter and you’ll be served fresh music, arts, food and culture stories three times a week.