Underground music column: Khaki Blazer and Vorvaň are among this week’s most exciting underground releases
So much music is readily available that it’s just as easy to miss out on new music as it is to discover it. This regular series aims to help remedy that by recommending five superb releases in hip hop, metal, punk, indie and the avant-garde that likely flew under the radar of many. Whether you’re feeling overwhelmed by the amount of music the internet allows access to or simply looking for something new that has not been buzzed about, allow these lists to make choosing what to listen to an easier process.
L’Orange & Mr. Lif : “The Life & Death of Scenery”
Only five years into his career, L’Orange has more than proven himself as a force to be reckoned with in the hip-hop underground. Shortly after providing beats for the legendary Kool Keith on their 2015 collaborative album “Time? Astonishing!” the North Carolina-based producer has now teamed up with yet another innovative rapper, Boston’s Mr. Lif. As always, L’Orange’s dusty, suave and sparse take on boom bap and jazz-rap beats is irresistibly cool. Though “The Life & Death of Scenery” is a short listen at 22 minutes, the infectious hooks and interesting concept about a dystopian world both warrant repeated listens. Above all, it is great to hear Lif rap over the production style that suits him the most following his long break from releasing music.
The Well: “Pagan Science”
With the exhausting amount of contemporary doom metal artists that simply sound like Black Sabbath cover bands, the genre has lately become more stagnant than it has ever been. Thankfully, Texas band The Well is back with “Pagan Science,” a new album containing its fresh and unique take on a genre that desperately needs some fresh air. While the band’s debut album, “Samsara,” put its traditional doom metal leanings at the forefront of the songs, “Pagan Science” balances meaty and bludgeoning guitar distortion with the tight rhythms of stoner-metal. In addition, it manages to incorporate a dimension of psychedelia, while still retaining its overall heaviness.
Vorvaň: “Once Love Was Lost”
2016 has been a bountiful year for hardcore punk that tackles more extreme styles of music. Moscow-based quartet Vorvaň is no exception, seeking to further blur the line between punk and metal with their debut album “Once Love Was Lost.” At its core, this is a furiously political punk record, but not one that flies by at blistering speed. There are certainly grindcore aesthetics at play, but the album is much more consciously paced than your average modern hardcore punk album. Some of the longer tracks, such as the 10 minute “Celestine,” display complex and technical structures reminiscent of sludge metal and crust punk in how they alternate between rapid shredding and slowly chugging riffs.
Sybarite: “Waver the Absolute”
It has been an entire decade since multi-instrumentalist Xian Hawkins last released music under the moniker of Sybarite. Now, seemingly out of the blue, the genre-bending electronic artist has quietly put out an album as Sybarite entitled “Waver the Absolute.” While “Waver the Absolute” does not make any drastic changes to Sybarite’s sound, it does attempt to incorporate subtle shifts in the directions he has taken before. Like on past releases, the sound here can generally be described as folktronica, but what truly makes this album impressive is that even after putting the project on hold for 10 years, Hawkins is still as determined as ever to expand his sound into genres that do not easily meld together, such as IDM and downtempo, or post-rock and glitch.
Khaki Blazer: “Coca Nara Deezer”
Hailing from Ohio, avant-garde producer Khaki Blazer has been crafting incredibly dense and discordant sound collages since 2014. His most recent album, “Coca Nara Deezer,” features collages comprised of nonsensical, incoherent and near-atonal rhythms and patterns. Glitch music also plays a key role in these compositions, as the erratic and spontaneous nature of the genre is typically utilized throughout these songs as a foundation for Khaki Blazer to build his improvisations upon. As a genre, sound collage never really found a following or niche culture in the underground like other types of music, but it is quite possible that the ideas explored on “Coca Nara Deezer” have the potential to reinvigorate interest in the form.
Alexander Beebe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.