Underground music spotlight: Blu and Brain Tentacles break down conventions

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 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.

Blu & Fa†e: Open Your Optics to Optimism”

Thirteen years into his career, Blu is likely the most underappreciated rapper in the entire underground. Though he has never been big in the public eye, Blu is constantly offering his rapping and production talents in collaborations with innovative rappers and beat-makers alike. His latest project with producer Fa†e shows his continued interest in working with up-and-coming artists. “Open Your Optics to Optimism” is a shorter effort than usual for Blu, and serves more as a conceptual EP than an album. The central theme appears to be the history of the earth and humanity. Blu’s alternations between spoken word and rapped deliveries are complemented in subject matter by the spacey, almost freeform ambient production by Fa†e.

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Brain Tentacles: Brain Tentacles

Jazz has a fascinating history with metal. The drummers of many prominent technical, avant-garde and progressive metal bands have commonly listed jazz drummers as their main source of rhythmic and groove-based inspiration, but little to no metal music is actually made with the instruments typically associated with jazz. Enter Brain Tentacles, a new breed of metal band with one of the most original sounds in recent memory that recreates the pummeling and colossal sounds of bands like Neurosis and Gorguts with trumpets and saxophones as opposed to guitars. What is most impressive here is the sheer extent of creativity, as the chaotic improvisation of the brass section works in both a rabid pacing and slow, apocalyptic breakdowns.

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Cocaine Piss: The Dancer”

Noise rock legend Steve Albini recorded and mixed the most recent album from the Belgium-based queercore group Cocaine Piss. “The Dancer” borrows from a diverse range of punk subgenres and shows a great deal of potential for this emerging group. The guitars are sludgy, noisy and mostly informed by crust punk, but the frantic and hysterical yelping of the vocals seem to take more after post-punk and riot grrrl. This makes the album a brief yet brisk trip through all of the heavy, playful and bizarre corners of punk in under half an hour. Vocally delirious and instrumentally wonky, Cocaine Piss are another impressive outfit bringing the raw social consciousness of queercore back to the forefront of punk.

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Hypoluxo: If Language”

Hypoluxo is a band out of Brooklyn that composes light, dreamy shoegaze with a beach-oriented aesthetic. The vocals are deeper and more audible in the mix in comparison to the distorted higher registers of other shoegaze vocalists, giving the vocals a low and droning vibe not unlike gothic rock. In a time where shoegaze is becoming the go-to genre for newly-formed indie bands across the globe, it is nice to see a new band that experiments with different vocal and production styles to carve out its own sense of identity.

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Banabila & Machinefabriek: Macrocosms

The prolific Dutch composer of musical scores, Banabila, has once again paired up with frequent collaborator Machinefabriek to craft a fourth album of immersive sonic terrain. While their previous efforts were lengthy concentrations on dissonance, the cleverly titled “Macrocosms” takes a more ambient and minimalistic direction. The duo stated that “Macrocosms” is inspired by the idea that we feel small and insignificant when we are zoomed out, but intricate and special when zoomed in. This idea is effectively presented through the incorporation of insect field recordings and world beat rhythms that symbolically highlight the contrast between the smaller and bigger worlds inside the music.

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Alexander Beebe can be reached at [email protected]