Underground music spotlight: Street Sects and Helen Money offer one-of-a-kind sounds

By Alexander Beebe

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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 issue 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.

Street Sects: “End Position

With noise music slowly but surely gaining traction in indie hype circles after remaining in its niche community for decades, the time is right for the Austin-based Street Sects to deafen the masses with their hazardous brew of power electronics and noisecore. Their debut record, “End Position,” plays like corrosive hardcore that has had its guitars forcefully extracted and replaced with turbulent and dissonant synths. Vocally, the album brings to mind the wayward tantrums heard in noise rock bands making “End Position” a successfully unique debut album due to their ability to weave together genres such as electro-industrial and noise rock while still maintaining an overall punk aesthetic.

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Max Wonders: “Hues to Blame”

Vulnerability is definitely a rarity among the new wave of Chicago trap rappers, but at the young age of 19, Max Wonders is not afraid to bare his soul and get incredibly personal with listeners on his new album, “Hues to Blame.” Released on his birthday, Wonders’ lyrics see him reminiscing on youth and reflecting on how it can be difficult for one to know exactly what they want in life at a young age. The lyrics of most of his contemporaries deal in either violent braggadocio or abstract stoner musings, so it’s very refreshing to hear such open and introspective lyrics from Wonders. Further complementing the album’s breezy and sentimental tone is the atmospheric production and psychedelic-influenced beats in the vein of fellow Chicago natives Kembe X and Alex Wiley.

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Lotus Thief: “Gramarye”

It seems as though black metal has been somehow incorporated into almost every genre at this point, but clean, classic rock-influenced female vocals over a monolithic hybrid of black metal and post-metal guitars comes across as an intriguingly unfamiliar concept. The sophomore record of this trio out of San Francisco, “Gramarye,” is comprised of long and winding compositions that implement inspirations commonly found within doom metal rather than black metal, such as space rock, psychedelic rock and dark ambient. Lotus Thief replaces what would typically be sludgy riffs with incendiary strumming of distorted chords, balancing it all out with ethereal post-rock sequences to create their own relatively complex vision of the blackgaze movement.

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Negative Thought Process: “Methylene Butterfly”

Brand new on the scene and already decimating everything in their path, U.K. grindcore band Negative Thought Process has kicked off what is sure to be a long and intense career with one of the most aggressive and angry debut albums in recent memory and possibly the heaviest crust punk album of the year. “Methylene Butterfly” may not look the part based on its admittedly tacky cover, but rest assured, this album is 21 minutes of punishingly breakneck power, violence and extremely dense grind. However, for all of its unrelenting harshness, “Methylene Butterfly” is very much a downright vile punk record at heart. It signifies the possible arrival of a new wave of bands that can build upon this highly set bar of brutality.

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Helen Money : Become Zero

In a career spanning over 20 years, Alison Chesley (known here by her stage name Helen Money) has more than proven herself to be one of the most inspiring and innovative cellists in the entire music industry. Having worked as a session musician with countless names in punk, metal and experimental music, it comes as no surprise that these experiences would be a prevailing influence in her solo work. While her past solo albums have showcased her utilization of the cello to make an original sound akin to drone metal, with influences from bands she has previously worked with, that is all stripped away on her latest album, “Become Zero.” Chesley uses her cello on this album as a device to make more soaring post-rock-esque crescendos rather than dirge-laden drones. The resulting product is a combination of menace and elegance that is gorgeous beyond description.

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Alexander Beebe can be reached at [email protected].