Underground music spotlight: Ashley Shadow, Primitive Weapons Raise the Bar

By Alexander Beebe

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Official Mr. Lif Facebook Page)

(Official Mr. Lif Facebook Page)

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 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.

Howls of Ebb — “Cursus Impasse: The Pendlomic Vows”

Following up on its promising 2015 EP, “The Marrow Veil,” the sophomore album, “Cursus Impasse: The Pendlomic Vows,” Howls of Ebb makes a serious case for the San Francisco-based band being the new leading authority in avant-garde metal. While the sound of the album strikes an incendiary balance between black metal and death metal, unusual structural elements appear at jarring intervals to produce experimental flair, and the cavernous atmosphere of death doom metal is dabbled in during abyss-like ambient sections. The result overall is more grounded than traditional black metal, but grander than standard death metal, and made more evil by the vocals.
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Mr. Lif — “Don’t Look Down”

Despite now having only released four albums since he came onto Boston’s underground hip hop scene in 1998, former Def Jux signee Mr. Lif is a veteran of abstract and experimental hip hop in every sense of the word. The fourth and latest of these efforts, “Don’t Look Down,” comes a long seven years after his 2009 outing, “I Heard it Today,” but being the professional that he is, sounding rusty is out of the question. Short– at 36 minutes– and packed with features from the likes of “Del the Funky Homosapien”, the album showcases Lif’s talent for refreshingly conscious lyricism delivered with a boom bap-informed flow.
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Primitive Weapons — “The Future of Death”

With blistering performances and a taste for the vicious, the sophomore outing from Brooklyn’s Primitive Weapons, “The Future of Death,” sees the band attempting to bring post-hardcore back to its more ferocious and extreme roots. Unlike the majority of the current post-hardcore scene, the music on “The Future of Death” shares much in common with the general heaviness and experimentation that the genre was known for in the late ’90s and early 2000s, such as the mathcore of acts like Botch and Converge. This album is absolutely pulverizing nonstop from start to finish with sludgy guitar, grinding bass and petrifying screamed vocals.
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Ashley Shadow — “Ashley Shadow”

The self-titled debut solo album from Vancouver artist Ashley Webber under the moniker “Ashley Shadow,” serves not only as her first record, but also as the first music Webber has had a hand in creating since the 2006 disbanding of the post-punk revival band for which she played bass, “The Organ.” Jumping from bass duties to a solo career is no small feat, and it is evident that Webber must have spent the past decade in preparation, as Webber pulls off this transition from contributing factor of jangly post-punk to leading creative director of stripped-down indie folk with remarkable ease.
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Logan Takahashi — “NoGeo”

His first album outside of his partnership in the deep house duo Teengirl Fantasy, “NoGeo” displays more active and vigorous electronic music from Logan Takahashi in comparison to his offerings prior to going solo. The music on “NoGeo” goes in the opposite direction of the sweeping, dreamlike atmospheric pieces that became commonplace among the discography of Teengirl Fantasy. Takahashi scales things back to hone in on the minimalistic properties of progressive techno for his rhythms, and while it is not quite the neo-psychedelia of some Teengirl Fantasy cuts, the album retains some lush and entrancing qualities at the same time.
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Alexander Beebe can be reached at [email protected]