Underground Music Spotlight: January 2016.

By Alexander Beebe

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(The Zender Agenda/Flickr)

(The Zender Agenda/Flickr)

So much music is readily available to us that it’s just as easy to miss out on new music as it is to discover it. This weekly 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 feel overwhelmed by the amount of music the internet allows you to access, or you are simply looking for something new that has not been buzzed about, allow these lists to make choosing what to listen to an easier process.

Ape Cave – “Pillars of Evolution”

Hailing from Portland, Oregon, stoner doom band Ape Cave exploded onto the underground metal circuit this past New Year’s Day with its pulverizing debut album, “Pillars of Evolution.” Every track demonstrates a foreword-thinking brand of stoner metal that is still very much rooted in massively thick and sludgy riffs, but does not fall victim to the generic trappings of occult doom metal’s lethargic distortion. Instead it opts to incorporate the technical soloing and tightly knotted grooves of progressive death metal to make the music all the more pummeling and set Ape Cave apart from the legions of High on Fire clones. Traditionalists of the style should fear not, however, as like most stoner metal bands, desert imagery does of course play a vital part in the aesthetic here. The Ancient Egyptian themes found on “Pillars of Evolution” efficiently deliver the scorching aural sensation of blistering ambient interludes before the riffs maul listeners like a club-wielding Neanderthal.

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Ka – “The Superfly Single”

After teaming up with producer, Preservation, to put out a hypnotic and unnerving loose-concept album under the moniker Dr. Yen Lo, veteran New York rapper Ka takes a step back from any abstract territory and returns to the east coast rap basics on the two tracks that make up his latest EP, “The Superfly Single.” Accompanied by a smooth and nostalgic beat produced by long-time friend and collaborator Roc Marciano, “30 Keys” sees a jaded and tired Ka contemplating his history of selling coke. Once portraying himself solely as an uncompromisingly cold character in hip hop, Ka shows new-found vulnerability on this track by openly expressing the reluctance and guilt he has felt over his involvement in the drug trade with lines such as, “If you doin’ it to eat is it still a sin?” At the same time he honestly admits the inevitability of him continuing to be a dealer because it has become so ingrained into his lifestyle.

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Black Moth Super Rainbow – “SeeFu Lilac”

Always a band to do things in an off-kilter fashion, indie freaks of nature Black Moth Super Rainbow decided to release an EP of “outtakes” from its upcoming sixth album that it claims is not yet completed. The songs are short and to the point and the band’s psychedelic indietronica paired with the chunky 8-bit synthesizers as well as the heavily processed effects piled onto the vocals achieve a sort of neo-psychedelic interpretation of the chiptune genre that sounds like a surrealistic retro video game score that ranges from blissful to harrowing as the music alternates from blasts of shimmering noise to pleasant vibes.

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Immune – “Breathless”

Next to black metal, vaporwave music can be argued as having one of the most abundant release outputs in comparison to most underground music scenes. Dream Catalogue, the label that future funk producer Immune is a part of, released four other albums the same day that Immune’s “Breathless” was released to the legions of cassette tape collecting, aesthetic-obsessed members of the vaporwave cult following. Vaporwave has changed so much in such a short amount of time that the name itself has practically gone from a joke to a legitimate and prolific subgenre of plunderphonics in only a few years. “Breathless” continues the evolution of the genre by honing in on ambient techno and house influences to achieve the genre’s distinctly dreamy and ethereal qualities through approaches that differ from the genre’s previous reliance on chopped and screwed remixing techniques.

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Jesu/Sun Kil Moon – “Jesu/Sun Kil Moon”

Despite Justin Broadrick specializing in industrial metal with Godflesh, gargantuan shoegaze compositions with Jesu and Mark Kozelek’s approach to music with the folk of Sun Kil Moon and the slowcore of Red House Painters barely sharing any common traits, Broadrick and Kozelek are miraculously good friends and fans of each other’s work. This friendship led to a collaborative album of sorts. Broadrick composes the music while Kozelek sings and provides his unmistakable lyrics. This album basically sounds like a very lengthy Jesu album matched with Sun Kil Moon acappella tracks. Kozelek’s snarky and sarcastic demeanor sounds especially comedic over the hulking and repetitious post-metal guitar chords put forth by Broadrick in the first tracks of the album. As the joint record nears the end of its 80-minute running time, the quality of the album soars dramatically as Kozelek puts his ironic storytelling chops to rest when the album winds down musically with a truly heart-warming spoken word piece where he reminisces about a series of good days delivered over a gorgeous and lush ambient soundscape.

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Alexander Beebe can be reached at [email protected]