Between releases of LPs, EPs, mixtapes, compilations, and singles through physical, digital, and streamable mediums published by labels or independently uploaded by artists on digital sharing outlets like Bandcamp, Soundcloud, or YouTube, it is probable that we have reached the age in which sheer volume of output has eclipsed one’s ability to engage with even a fraction of the whole. It may even be so that the sum length of all musical releases in 2016 would outlast the average human’s lifespan. Total speculation to be sure, but the fact remains: the modern musical landscape is as incomprehensibly massive as it has ever been. How many Denver-based grindcore metal bands have recently uploaded an album onto Bandcamp? 44. How many Minneapolis experimental drone albums have recently been uploaded? 50. And while the average musician now suddenly has direct access to a potential listening base, the floodgates have opened for anyone (and everyone) at once. The romance of "authentic" discovery has entirely shifted. Instead of praying the right figure clicks your tape into their tour van’s cassette player, the distance between the next genius of this generation and those who propel them to a status of recognition is just a click away. Though, to be seen is to catch a lucky break among thousands of fellow musicians, and as a listener hungry for discovery - well, you may just turn to a blog that does the work for you.
Enter The Muq. Here, we shed light on releases from rising, independent, and/or undiscovered artists in nice, tight packages, while ridding ourselves of a critical lens – just posting the good stuff...or at least the provocative stuff. For this first issue we’re taking it easy, scratching the surface; this is the front door after all. So join us as we wander deeper and deeper through passages of the strange to discover the truly awesome, unique, and…well, strange. Gather with us in the muq.
Saturation by Brockhampton
Let’s start with this addicting mixtape by Los Angeles rap-collective/I-guess-boy-band Brockhampton. The wily crew, which includes rising rappers Kevin Abstract and Matt Champion, maintain an infectious freneticism across the tapes’ duration and will draw comparisons to their undoubted predecessors Odd Future. Like that other L.A.-based crew, Brockhampton launch into each track with a youthful energy bursting at the seams with rebel vision. But unlike that crew, posse cuts are evenly matched as members amplify one another’s unique styles: there are at least six tracks here that are better than any posse cut Odd Future ever produced. While Brockhampton doesn’t seem to contain the freshness of a radical personality like Tyler or prophetic wordsmith like Earl, something tells me the collective’s ability to pull off consistently startling chemistry and lightning in a bottle controlled chaos will launch them into the stratosphere of prominence soon.
Saturation is streaming all over the place.
Taxonomy by Faux Furrs
Next, I gotta say, good timing Faux Furrs. The Chicago-based quartet’s easy breezy, fuzzy, cuddly, indie-rock debut album Taxonomy has been released just as this claustrophobic humidity has begun to seep into the Midwestern psyche. While Taxonomy won’t strengthen my Kentucky heat wave-induced slippery grip on reality during these summer months, it may alleviate some of the crabbiness associated with it. Also, are we now reaching the point where the bygone sounds of early-2000s indie rock can suddenly smack of nostalgia? Sure, Faux Furrs’ blend of twangy psychedelia builds from its influences more than mimics them, but when so many contemporary indie bands seem terrified at the prospect of an infectious hook for the sake of an infectious hook, it’s refreshing to hear a band embrace the sweetness of yesteryear. Taxonomy is this scorching summer’s tall glass of pink lemonade.
Known Unknowns by Billy Woods
Let's call this a full on promotion of New York-based underground rapper (and one half of duo Armand Hammer) Billy Woods. If you have not yet heard his brand of perfectly out of fashion hip-hop, listening to any of Woods' efforts should immediately indicate he's a lyric-centric old head; bars are the main appeal here. On Known Unknowns Woods pairs with producer Blockhead to meet listeners halfway - densely packed lyricism backed by dope production. It doesn't hurt that Woods manages to somehow limit the tape's radio-pop appeal while still keeping things compelling for 56 minutes. Definitely check out "Wonderful" and "Police Came To My Show".
"U.R.S.U.L.A. ∞ Mythomalia Mix"
For every day throughout the month of May, warped, weirdo electronic-pop label PC Music released something on their YouTube page. On May 18 they unleashed their best effort, a track straying from the shiny plasticity of much of their output while evoking the creepy underbelly that has been deceptively lurking within their work since the beginning. Of course, once “U.R.S.U.L.A.” reaches just past the 6-minute mark and the remixed nature of the track removes its cloak, that signature “bubblegum pop concrete” touchstone kicks in. For a while PC Music has been circling around a specific, intentionally sanitized artistic angle - which has certainly been intriguing. But with this one, it’s nice to see them throw gasoline on everything.
Type A by Bloodrave
Y'know, with that moniker "Bloodrave" and that EP cover artwork of a low-bit lizard demon wielding both a fencing sword AND trident ready to engage in a boss battle for the ages (or at least for the next 7-8 minutes), it's hard to imagine the music contained within as anything other than exactly what it is: Type A is pulsing, aggressive, and yes, recalls the too-fucking-impossible arcade romps of the past filtered through a high-definition scope for the future. While it might knock hard enough to kick your ass, it's alluring enough that perhaps just one more quarter will do it... and then the beast mutates and "A - Negative" kicks in. You know you're screwed.
Nextcentury by Peace Forever Eternal
I can’t really begin a series which delves into the wide net of independently uploaded music without covering the latest release from an artist who effectively invented one of the more derided sub-genres of the decade by breaking through on bandcamp. Vektroid's Nextcentury serves as the premiere release for the Peace Forever Eternal series and it strays from the druggy, 90s-nostalgia-drenched, public-access-television-smooth-jazz-but-pitched-down approach of breakthrough Macintosh Plus release Floral Shoppe - that vaporwave (blurgh!) album. Her latest project is also sample based, but more jarringly arrhythmic and engaging than previous releases which appeared to respond more heavily to nostalgia toward the musical landscape than reflecting any tangible reality. Fittingly Vektroid notes, “Nextcentury instead deals with being in a state of static; dealing with extreme sameness--seclusion & delirium." But really it's the sound of insomnia, too much internet, and the avant-garde approach to sound design employed by artists like Oneohtrix Point Never. Now please pop a zolpidem and close your laptop.
Amore Per Tutti by Tredici Bacci
No. No no no that's enough. Go to bed.