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Mutual Support and Passionate Anger: Screamo in the Balkans

Malisa Bahat

Malisa Bahat.

“I started getting into screamo when I was 17, thanks to a bootleg compilation called Death To False Screamo, where I first heard bands like Orchid and Saetia,” recalls Dimitar Raykov, who grew up writing and collecting fanzines in Central Bulgaria. These says, Raykov runs DIY Conspiracy, a web magazine about punk, hardcore, and emo in the Balkans, where he reviews and interviews groups from around the world, with a particular focus on lesser-known acts from southeastern Europe.

Back in the ’80s, Yugoslavia and Greece already had fertile punk and new wave scenes, and the number of punk and hardcore acts in the area has remained high since then. “There were a lot of good bands and venues,” says Mišo Ljuboje, who comes from Split—a city on the Croatian coast—but now lives in Vienna, where he books shows and runs a DIY label called Hardcore for the Losers. “The zine circuit was developed and there were enough connections,” Ljuboje says. “I think we’ve had quite a decent scene overall.”

Ljuboje got into emo and screamo by listening to political French DIY bands from the ’90s and early 2000s—artists like Amanda Woodward, Peu Être, and The Flying Worker—and by participating in the rising emo scene in Slovenia and Croatia. At the turn of the century, bands like the Zagreb-based Nikad were playing the same brand of aggressive screamo as American acts like Orchid and Yaphet Kotto, and were among the first to deliver an uncompromised mix of powerviolence and emocore. While Nikad were never internationally famous, they were certainly noticed by the most attentive and dedicated fans of the genre—like Kent McClard, the owner of the California label Ebullition Records. McClard once described Nikad as “the best band you’ve never heard of” in his zine HeartattaCk, which published from 1994 to 2006 and was, for many, a sort of emotional hardcore Bible.

Other great bands from that ere were The Farewell Reason (’90s emo from Čakovec in Croatia), With Engine Heart (raucous screamo from Celje in Slovenia), and Analena, whose members were spread among the two northern countries of former Yugoslavia, and were probably the best-known band from the region. Active since 1997, Analena were one of the few DIY acts from the Balkans who managed to tour Europe with any level of consistency, playing important hardcore festivals and self-releasing memorable records rich with crisp and energetic post-hardcore anthems.

Right now, screamo might not feel as exciting and new as it felt back then, but there are still a handful of active bands who have released a series of outstanding albums over the last few years. From the “futurist hardcore” of Greece’s Ruined Families to the uncontainable emoviolence (with 8-bit inserts!) of Serbia’s Eaglehaslanded, Balkan screamo is a beautifully diverse niche that has created a network of connections that extend beyond regional borders.

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The Best New Halftime Drum & Bass On Bandcamp

drum-bass-600

From jungle to jump-up—by way of neuro, liquid, deep, pop, ambient, intelligent, soulful, drumstep, skullstep, and techstep—drum & bass has morphed and mutated into more sub-styles and categories than any other genre of electronic music. But few of those are as exciting or reinvigorating as the increasingly popular style that’s become known as “halftime.”

The recipe is simple: Halve the tempo, double the fun. Halftime tracks flex around the 80-85 BPM region (a tempo most commonly associated with hip-hop) rather than drum & bass’s traditional double-time, white knuckle 160/170 BPM framework.

Early sightings of half-tempo drum & bass can be traced back as early as 1992, with tracks such as DJ Phantasy & DJ Gemini’s “Switch To 33.” Pioneering producers Digital and Amit have been experimenting with sparse kick drum arrangements since 1999 and the sound, as it exists today, has been developing momentum in earnest since dBridge & Instra:Mental launched their game-changing duo project, Autonomic, in 2009. In the last few years, halftime has become even more prominent, not just as a subgenre itself, but as a style and rhythm arrangement across all drum & bass subgenres.

Much of this is in keeping with drum & bass’s oldest tradition: the breakbeat melting pot where the 170 BPM breaks framework is used as a blank canvas to portray the artist’s own culture and roots. While the genre’s original pioneers were using the soul, reggae, hip-hop, dub, and rare groove records they’d grown up with as keystones, newer producers are reflecting their own inspirations such as techno, trap, grime, dubstep, and hip-hop.

The sounds, dynamics, references, and spacious aesthetics of this new breakbeat melting pot resonate with what’s happening under the wider bass umbrella in other genres that cherish the halftime break: the L.A. beats scene, London’s instrumental grime sound, Chicago’s juke and footwork movement. Halving the tempo of drum & bass means it’s only 10 BPM away from these kindred styles, rather than the double-time, uniquely fast-tempo it’s largely been all these years. This has created a lot more interchange and dialogue between drum & bass and the wider musical world.

This, in turn, has accelerated creativity and opened up new possibilities. Drum & bass DJ sets are much wider and more dynamic in tempo and energy thanks to halftime tracks. Rhythmically, productions have become more varied and unpredictable, as more artists are looking beyond drum & bass’s typical two-step or “amen” drum arrangements. There are vast caverns of space that provide room for new polyrhythms and percussion dynamics—a growing community of high-level and technically-astute exponents such as Noisia, Ivy Lab, dBridge, Alix Perez, Mefjus, Fracture, and Kasra are all pushing the sound into bold new directions. Halftime isn’t just reinvigorating the genre, it’s one of the most full-flavored dishes on drum & bass’s dizzying subgenre menu.

Boasting artists and labels from the Czech Republic to New Zealand, as well as the bass universe (from house to garage to trap to hip-hop), these new releases on Bandcamp are a succinct snapshot of halftime, right now.

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Seven French Artists Putting a New Spin On Yé-Yé

Laure Briard

Laure Briard

For a long time, hip French musicians steered clear from yé-yé and variété—two home-grown genres that dominated the charts and airwaves in the 1960s-1970s and 1990s, respectively. The first came about when the French music industry put its own spin on the burgeoning American and British pop and rock of the Beatles, Motown, etc., spawning stars such as France Gall, Sylvie Vartan, Françoise Hardy and even Serge Gainsbourg (who made fun of the yé-yés, yet wrote quite a few hits for them) The most adaptable of the bunch were able to continue their careers in what became known as variété, an amorphous genre more easily defined by what it’s not—ie: rock. They were joined by a new generation of performers and singer-songwriters like Michel Berger and Véronique Sanson.

Now, a new generation of French acts is reclaiming this heritage, often filtering it through another influence, that of 1980s French synth-pop (most notably the seminal duo Elli et Jacno). What transcends the years is a very careful—very French—attention to melody and arrangements, as well as notably deft lyrics.

Don’t expect pure nostalgia from the acts below, though. Their sound is very now—they just position themselves in a great tradition of French pop music.

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Superkicks and Songwriting: Artists at the Intersection of Music and Wrestling

Sam Mickens

Sam Mickens

Ever since Gorgeous George convinced an arena’s organist to play “Pomp and Circumstance” as he walked to the ring (possibly before that, depending on which version of wrestling history you believe), professional wrestling and music have been inextricably linked. It’s hard to imagine a wrestler without theme music now, whether it’s something written specifically for them or a pre-existing song that perfectly sums up the character. Sometimes, the first note of a song—maybe even less than that—is enough to let fans know who’s about to come through the curtain. But the wrestling-and-music relationship is a two-way street. Wrestlers are still using music as part of their art, but now there’s no shortage of musicians using wrestling as part of theirs.

Whether you’re traveling to Florida for the corporate spectacle of WWE’s Wrestlemania 33 or just driving down the road to an armory or high school gym to see your local favorites, here’s a list of wrestling-inspired music to listen to on the way.

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On the Come Up in Music City: Rising Rap and Soul in Nashville

Rising Rap and Soul in Nashville

Jota Ese, Saaneah, & Kyshona Armstrong. Illustrations by Brandon Celi.

Though it’s historically well-known for its country music scene, Nashville, Tennessee isn’t just the town of honky-tonks and the Grand Ole Opry. With indie labels like Infinity Cat and Nervous Nelly Records providing a showcase for punk and rock, and with Americana and folk lining the rosters of Jack White’s Third Man Records and Dualtone, Nashville these days is truly Music City, writ large. Pop aficionados can also find a place here, as well as anyone interested in hip-hop and R&B. It’s those last two genres that have seen the biggest growth lately, as former residents of LA and NYC flock to the city, and established locals can finally find both collaborators and an audience to help support their craft.

Growing up with gospel music in the church, DeRobert Adams, of the G.E.D. Soul Records band DeRobert & The Half-Truths, moved to Nashville’s sister city Murfreesboro in 2000, home of MTSU, where he joined his first band. He’s been making music ever since. G.E.D. Soul has been one of the hardest-working labels in Nashville for the last decade, producing, recording, and distributing funk, soul, and R&B tracks, mostly via the label’s Poor Man Studios in north Nashville. Boasting what the label calls an “analog aesthetic,” the records feel like lost gems dug out of a dusty stack of retired jukebox 45s. Label owner Nicholas DeVan says “Country is still the main attraction, but there’s always been an enormous amount of non-country music being recorded and performed here. I would say that we are seeing a different type of person being in the music scene here, lots of LA folks and musicians from other cities. I feel like Nashville has always been a destination for musicians that need a more low key city than LA or New York; people come here to lose the big city vibe.”

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