A revolution has been coming for a long while, everything has a life cycle and this extends into the foregrounds of music where even the most experimental of albums have a lifeline. A place where geniuses are forgotten about, a place where a sound can be replicated a million times and never be remembered, a place where a single changing distinction can redirect the boundaries of music; this is a place where Swedish Metal became a frontrunner of 1970’s-1980’s of the continuing sound for decades to come, with Bathory at the helm. One of the first artists to create a “Black Metal” sound of low-budget, junky, and absolutely filthy recording style, Bathory was an artist that made a continuous shakedown of an industry and revolutionized on the noise that would come from Sweden, and from the rest of the neighboring world even today.
An instant classic album is hard to create, even harder to replicate, but impossible to eliminate. Bathory’s self-titled debut record Bathory has become a staple in hardcore for being a seasoned veteran of the surviving trends. The album is timeless and shows a distinction of being something captured in the spirit of hardcore at that time, and with only two functioning musicians; it is incredible to see exactly what Bathory became. Quorthon, who is the multi-instrumentalist behind the vocals, guitars, songwriting, and atmosphere, but he also worked with Stefan Larsson who handled the percussive aspect on Bathory and while the album itself has withstood the test of time, the true fact behind Bathory was that Quorthon was only eighteen-years old when this album would be released on Black Mark Production. A truly premature mastermind of his craft; Bathory adapted a harshness behind it, making it one of the first punishing records to grace across the Northern Skies
From the beginning of church bells and thunderous crashes, to the eventual pounding of the feverous percussion swelling guitar, Bathory makes quick moves and shows a destructive prowess. Like a recreation of a Stefan Eggeler painting, Bathory uses the shadows to its advantage and summons a shroud of darkness around themselves. There are moments of sudden jumps and punches through the silence that make Bathory seem almost terrifying in instances, but this terror is then brought back into the inevitable silence and mix-ups of atmospheric tracks that overlay throughout Bathory’s debut. Even their short-lived intermissions, Bathory still seems relentless in becoming crushing and showing a distinct, instantly recognizable sound; a sound that would carry on for years after the initial release.
Black Marble could have survived in the early 80’s, among the racks of VHS, Laser Discs, and Cassette Tapes; Black Marble is a wonderful piece by piece look into the past, while keeping a progressive forward-thinking future in mind. It is most easily described by Ghostly International, a record company that houses Black Marble, “Black Marble formed in 2012 as an artistic extension of Chris Stewart’s collection of songs and ideas.” Not only does Black Marble become both a minimalistic sense of gentleness, but it also becomes a contrasting, deeply-layered adventure of dashing percussion, grinding guitars, and buzzing amplifiers that carry Stewart’s voice into what feels like another generation.
The latest project, It’s Immaterial has a lightweight, laid-back, but never careless sense of feeling behind it. From the very beginning, it is apparent that Chris Stewart has an incredible amount of technicality behind his work and shines through. From the “flurry of ideas floating around him”, to the singular style of production, Stewart breaks through the mold of lo-fi, a term that seems almost oversaturated at this point, but becomes a stronger, more adaptable breed of animal. The tracks are mostly straight-forward; they do not make sudden changes or create loops for the listener, instead Stewart uses loops of percussion, synthesizers, and guitar to create a steady wave for the listener to happily follow along. From his beginning tracks where cheerful rock music can be echoed throughout, to the later songs where the more subtle tracks where Stewart is so incredibly soft-spoken that he is almost inaudible, Black Marble is truly a force of beauty that embodies sunshine on a rainy day.
His opening track, “Interdiction” is comprised of all synthetic sounds and samples with arpeggiator chords, creating this waving motion of patterns that coexist within themselves. It is almost horrific in motions and is fantastically unparalleled when compared to the rest of It’s Immaterial. The first track and the rest of the record are polar opposites and the sound is soon abandoned to then become the standard sound that Black Marble so wonderfully produces. The following track, “Iron Lung” is rather faint and while it contains a large amount of sound, it is actually quite gentle and leaves room for the guitars and percussion to take the spotlight while the ambient bells and background noise lay the backing of the track. Stewart does an outstanding job of mixing and mastering all the sounds together to create a well-rounded exhibition of noise.
Even much later into the near forty-minute performance, Black Marble still manages to create a memorable style and way of progression within his tracks. The track, “Self Guided Tours” is one that sticks out as it uses more electronic percussion than most of the other previous tracks and each instrument feels like a major piece of one giant puzzle. From the synths to the guitar, back down to the percussion and the chimes, every segment is impactful and eye-catching. While none of the instruments over-power each other, or create a distance, they actually bring each other together and are incredibly harmonious. The true amount of beauty that follows Black Marble’s sound is awe-inspiring, there is not a single track that feels like a filler or something out of place. Even as Black Marble reaches the final moments of It’s Immaterial, Black Marble winds down and creates the perfect closer to an already near-perfect journey.
“Collene” feels like a step in the time machine for one last ride, the last side of the vinyl, and the last play on cassette Side B; a blissful ending to a joyous journey. Every fantastic album needs a closer that makes the journey want to be repeated over and over again and with “Collene”, Black Marble makes sure that no stone is left unturned in a last effort to bring the final act of lo-fi loveliness together. Stewart’s masterpiece is a few steps in, with multiple releases, but it is It’s Immaterial that truly creates a monument in stone or in the marble slab in this case, forever encasing a past look within a future idea. The wave of the 80’s may have ended, but to Stewart and Black Marble, the past looks incredibly bright.
The legacy of punk music is a vast and extensive list of aggression, community-based organizations, and a focus on originality and identification. Minor Threat is not just another addition to the vast majority, they are one of the corner marks of music and there can not be a conversation about punk music without bringing up Minor Threat. Their influence not just scratches the surface of other hardcore musicians, but also spans a way of life through present musicians of varying genres that take what Minor Threat did in such a short span into consideration. Changing the game is not easy, but it was Minor Threat that really took the mold and made it their own through using complete and total control of emotions in their music to make one of the best compilations of songs known to a generation, and even to man today.
Minor Threat’s First Two Seven Inches or rather, First Two 7” came along with an inspiration to make a record that wanted to be made. It was the lovechild of explosive energy and a lust to step away from the mainstream, making their own path in the incredible world that is the music industry. With Ian MacKaye on the lead vocals, Brian Baker on the bass, Jeff Nelson on the percussion, and Lyle Preslar on guitar, Minor Threat became both iconic and synonymous with the hardcore movement that spanned in the 1980’s. By seemingly becoming a movement overnight, Minor Threat basked in the glory; making a historical chip in both the movement of hardcore and in music history. With crushing tracks of relentless force, “Small Man, Big Mouth”, “In My Eyes”, and “Guilty of Being White” became incredible stepping stones and while the album never graced any billboard charts, it did not have to as it became a legend around punk fans and was respected by all.
From the start, Minor Threat is violent and takes a stand-offish approach. Only after truly reading into the lyrics and starting to understand what Ian MacKaye was trying to convey with his words, is it then realized that Minor Threat was about expression to a group that had no expression. The first tracks and the entire record of First Two 7” is about giving the voiceless a voice and truly managing to change a generations’ way of thinking. Minor Threat did not force their ideals, but they wanted to make them known and did that simply by making as much noise as possible. From the track, “Out of Step” where Minor Threat expresses their disapproval of doing what was surrounding them at the time, MacKaye angrily explains, “I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I don’t fuck, at least I can fucking think. I can’t keep up, can’t keep up, can’t keep up, Out of step, with the world.” Minor Threat’s aggression is one of the catalysts for their wonderful sound, but is also the abrasive distinction in all their lyrics. Punk rock’s lyrical style is usually angry and guided at the wrong of the world, Minor Threat takes this mantra and makes it their own.
Even through covering a track on First Two 7”, Minor Threat takes their own spin on “Steppin’ Stone” and brings the Paul Revere & the Raiders’ track into a modern age. They use blinding percussion, raging strings, and screams to illustrate one of the best anthems that would eventually reign as a punk symbol of honor. From Minor Threat’s abrasive sound to their callous outlook on the world, they still are one of the supreme leaders of punk and have spawned more than just a minor movement with their music.
Subtly is an important factor when building intrigue and mystery behind a piece of music. Some artists can struggle with this key component and thus their music has no real flare or true depth. Loss is a band that transcends against the grain and builds an entire album on both the fact that their music is mostly slow-builds, gentle breaks, and an indefinite theme of struggle within their lyrics. Their newest record, Horizonless is a profound look into just how creeping beauty can clash with swift speed and use duality to the highest advantage. Loss builds an atmosphere with their music, a broken down, sluggish monument that eventually gains its footing and begins moving with impeccable timing. Loss can not only build upon the atmosphere, but they can crush what is around it and truly become a punishing force of ruin.
While nine tracks, Loss’ Horizonless stretches into the one-hour mark and it is a complete rollercoaster of emotion through in and through out. The opening sporadic drum pounds from Jay LeMaire are an indication of what kind of hell is coming to pay. Then as the other instrumentalists, an incoming hydra of Timothei Lewis on guitar, John Anderson on bass, and Mike Meacham on both the guitar and vocal aspects. These four instrumentalists are the catalyst for becoming both the harbingers of impending doom, and are the heralds of immense beauty that is instantly present on the first track, “The Joy of All Who Sorrow”. From the wicked guitar that seems to howl to the subtle style of playing that acts like waves in the ocean, both Meacham and Lewis are incredible in their craft and make for a truly wonderful experience on the strings. Anderson also supports Lewis and Meacham with crushing grooves and truly punishing strength that shines through when paired with Anderson’s smashing crash cymbals and ride cymbal. Loss is a rare breed of band that can work well with each other, creating an instantly recognizable chemistry and a serious threat that rides in fours.
The following track, “I.O.” is an atmospheric track that relies on the clicking of what feels similar to a type-writer and the use of ethereal vocals that work to the likeness of a horror film. The guitar featured relates to a music box and is then the seguing motion into “All Grows on Tears”, a track that proceeds back into the longwinded sagas that Loss masterfully creates. The lyrical style of Meacham is truly depressing and works well in agony, he begins, “I’ve sunken to that place again, where the sun only throws shadows and the stars have all burned out. Bury me in a lonely place and plant thorns on my grave, I wonder as to what nourishment those roots must be suckling from that tomb?”. His lyrical approach is fitting with the style of music that Loss produces and feels from a place of personal anguish. The concurrent theme of both the appeal of death, and the morosity of life are given vitality through his growls and the subtle building of the pounding instruments behind him. Loss works as a single entity to bring the idea of eternal agony and the everlasting end to the forefront of their music and is able to capitalize their sound in a colossal manner.
Loss can also work to make a feeling of dread become almost sudden like on the track, “The End Steps Forth” where the piano and guitar combination are simply one of the more beautiful mixtures of both an authentic and a synthetic style of instrument. Then almost as suddenly as the two begin, a grim voice comes like a powerhouse that brings a pipe organ and unforeseen percussion, shifting the entire mood to an almost cult-esque side. This is why Loss is such an impactful band as they can completely shift everything within a matter of mere seconds. From the abrasive to the subtle, from the thunderous to the faint, Loss can manage almost anything and creates new worlds within their sound.
The self-titled track comes into frame, “Horizonless” and is a prime example of how Loss can switch their sound, maintain a level of energy in both aspects, and wreck anything that surrounds them. As Loss begins to become larger with their overbearing sound, they still managed to keep a solid mold of both the vocals and instruments that work incredibly well together. From the gentleness to the pounding near war-like music that follows, Horizonless is a constant mix of non-complacency that never fully relaxes, never gives the listener a full second to breathe, and manages to become more of a journey than a simple record. Loss’ Horizonless is a rare-breed that can conquer, but can also become a tender ally of sound that is inviting and is a gradual process that becomes corrosive.
Staying available and accessible to an audience is never easy, but Loss does a fantastic job of keeping a constant theme of despair with a pretty packaging. They move almost effortlessly and create one of the best records to come from Profound Lore this year. The clashing tides of neutrality, the overbearing sound, and the final nails in the coffin of Horizonless, Loss is an act of nature that not only creates wreckage, but also rebuilds and shows the beauty in despair.
If the 90’s could be reimagined and repackaged through a modern age, Javed would come the closest to making a time machine of sound and one of the dopest records to come out of hip-hop in a long time. The level of class that Javed reinvigorates into his music and which then, in turn creates a new contemporary level flow and style that is impossible to replicate, and even better to hear first hand.
His project Window II Your Soul is like jumping right back into the golden era of hip-hop where boom-bap reigned supreme and was the king of sound. Not only does Javed adapt this subsection to be his own, but he dominates the court and is a step above the competition. From the first opening self-titled track “Window II Your Soul” to the playful “N64(No Games),” Javed uses witty wordplay, clapping bass lines, and a focus on making each instrument feel unique and stand alone in the crowd of sound. While the first track is a sample of Madvillain, Javed still uses the instrumental to begin a hyping and uses a seguing motion into the first authentic track of Window II Your Soul, “Blindest Eyes.” Javed makes hip-hop approachable and something that anyone could hear and fall in love with. It was a style that seemed to almost disappear, but Javed makes sure that it stays better than ever.
Even moving on into the later tracks of Window II Your Soul, Javed continues with the same level of energy and classic style that he began with. Not only does Javed create a world of sound, but he invites the listener in and has authenticity behind his voice. As one of the later tracks, “Sweater” is a perfect example of being able to feel every lyric behind Javed and truly make Window II Your Soul transcend just being a collection of tracks but to actually feel like a journey through sound. Javed is a visionary in the craft and Window II Your Soul is a buried diamond in a rough of hip-hop.
The final track “Deadly Sins,” while short, is a strong personal recollection of his past life and what he can see in his future. Hip-hop is a universal bonding movement and Javed is a local leader of Pittsburgh but has the potential to branch out and make the United States his home. From his lyrical style, boom-bap revival, and prowess to succeed, Javed is an artist that needs to be under the spotlight.
From humble beginnings, Caleb Coradi jumps into a different atmosphere with his newest record, The Getaway. Disassociating himself with the materialistic style of rhyming, Coradi instead adapts a more down-to-Earth nature and proves himself as a natural lyricist and as a producer as well. From his earliest tracks to his debut projects, Caleb Coradi has made a name for himself and is slowly on his way up to being a real name in the local music scene of Pittsburgh, as well as progressing onto a more global sound.
Subtly is the catalyst to Coradi’s beginning track, “Trees” where Coradi explains, “Let’s go to a place where we got no service, where they can’t disturb us. We’ll be all alone, looking at the trees far from home,” before launching into a mix of slapping 808 percussion and warping synths that act sporadically for a moment before falling back into a soft-spoken rephrase of the chorus. The track itself shows signs of a jungled-style of music with tribal-esque percussion while keeping a modern twist and the following track, “Oasis” takes this modern twist and completely makes it the theme of the track. It uses rising synths and sudden bursts of 808’s with different modulations on Coradi’s voice that adds an additional layer of depth behind the production. “Oasis” has some of the tightest production on The Getaway and it is easily approachable, but the different styles of depth make the track feel more packed down than at first glance. Caleb Coradi is not just going to rap on The Getaway, he also does singing over acoustic tracks and this mix-up keeps a fresh style and the consistency is going to be broken up through both a solid mix of over-productive rap tracks with synthetic percussion and flashy instrumentals; to the acoustic tracks that focus on piano and guitar with a more subtle approach to the lyrical style as well.
Coradi shows that he is more than just a rapper, more than just a singer, but he is actually a versatile artist that is cheerful in his approaches to tracks and manages to let the twelve-track album never feel stale or that it drags on. With his feature list that adds more creative minds to the mix, to the sudden switches of style, Coradi is a display of courage within his music. He shows the necessary risks to succeed and shows just how bright his future is for his own personal getaway.
To be a man of many genres takes impeccable skill and a prowess on music that most would not be able to comprehend. Isaiah Small is a young, fresh, and up-and-coming artist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania that taps into the specialty of funk music, but also pours his heart and soul into making an incredible rap, jazz fusion style that he can call his own. His style is unique and his newest release, Colour could just be your new favorite piece of independent sound.
Small is a prolific keyboard player at heart, but can also rock with percussion, bass, guitar, and even lays down his own vocals which is not only intriguing to hear, but it is also impressive to witness first hand. Colour is an EP of sorts; lasting only slightly over the thirteen-minute mark, but is substantial enough to bring a listener back continually to discover all the additional layers of depth that Small creates in his music. From the growing beauty that is the opening track, “Radiohead Kid” where Small fades the instruments and gives a wonderful first insight to what is to come on Colour. His voice is light on the ears and the gorgeous piano work continues to be the highlight of Small’s sound and is what keeps an attachment on the listener after hundreds of listens. To one of the following tracks, “Ayite” where the theme of beauty on the ivories continues, but this time includes outstanding chord progression that truly makes “Ayite” feel like it was created by a team of a thousand people and not just a single person. The vibraphones that subtly lead into the main portion of spaced-out vocalization and an eventual build-up with every instrument becoming more fleshed out and with a larger focus on breaking each instrument down to its core mechanics. Just as the vibraphones lead in the track, “Ayite” finishes with seeing the vibraphones subtly leading out the instrumental and leads into another section where Isaiah Small breaks down the walls of genre, spawning a new level of love to music.
“Sunshine” is a cheerful track that features another unlisted vocalist who acts as a rapper behind the funky and percussive heavy instrumental that holds Isaiah Small as a background vocalist who lays down the chorus, “So you can be my sunshine, see I can be the light right in your eye. So you can be my apple pie, see I just want to dance with you one night.” Small’s approach is light-hearted and the cascading piano riffs that splice with sporadic playing on the hi-hat makes for one of the best instrumentals coming from the Minnesota-grown, Pittsburgh-player, soon to be global artist, Isaiah Small.
Skeletonized is indeed a rare breed of musical style that branches out from the gutters of Pittsburgh to bring an aggressive twist on the one-man band show. Drummer Matt Rappa combines both the authenticity of raw percussion work and various samples and electronics to create an unholy triple threat of emotion, confusion, and intrigue. Throughout his work, Rappa works in both the sporadic movement of jazz, to the complex cadences of heavy bass focused tracks with grooving snare rolls and freeform flow that is impossible to replicate and comes strongly on the ears.
As Self-Titled Cassette Excerpt opens, it is greeted with the simply titled “Side A Excerpt” that begins with near math-rock proportions of wailing horns, pounding percussion, and an assault of noise that floods to the listener and is reminiscing of an unfiltered and never calm style. The random flow, while incredibly un-fabricated and seemingly without direction shows a sincere sense of creating a completely new idea. While taking elements from other sections and genres of music, Skeletonized is able finally wind down and eventually leave the sporadic playing for more of a groove on the second half of “Side A Excerpt.” This is where the sections begin to connect and show a more distinct sense of direction. Even as the second half slowly falls in and out of these sporadic moments, Rappa is still able to bring back the reigns and really hunker down behind the cracks of both the snare and the Morse code like noises that play behind him. Finally, “Side A Excerpt” lets the dust settle with a large amount of feedback and silence before launching back into another glimpse into the pseudo-future of both animalistic unpredictability, and sheer ferocity.
Launching back into the undefined style, “Side B Excerpt” puts an immensely large focus on combining both the horns and percussion, but in a way that lets both instruments have their own spotlight. As the horns continue to wail and what sounds like a saxophone plays through both low grumbles and increasingly bravado style blurts, the percussion follows behind with continuing rolls and smacks on the cymbal domes to give off a complementary feeling between the powerhouse of instruments. Then as the percussion gradually takes the lead, the horns dial back and are instead replaced with these strange and unruly synths that take the backseat to the thunderous bass drums. Skeletonized is more of an experience and the Self-Titled Cassette Excerpt while only a small look into the future of Skeletonized, is still large enough to get a taste of something more.