If you need new bands to listen to, look no further than Samuel Provost-Walker’s recommendations
Finding new music in 2015 can feel pretty overwhelming. As we slowly embrace our impending all-digital future, discovering new artists has become increasingly difficult to prioritize, with many smaller, weirder gems falling through the cracks. For some, digging is the fun part; for others, it’s grunt work. In an effort to save time and energy, here are five lesser-known artists and groups of various countries and genres to look out for! Happy listening!
Hailing from the small town of Kaustinen near the western reaches of Finland, Kairon; IRSE! are anything but slight; A heavenly cross between the noisy, textured theatrics of early 90’s shoegaze acts (My Bloody Valentine for one); the crescendo-based tension and release of post-rock and the dense; psychedelic atmosphere found on early Spacemen 3 records; the results of this massive concoction are nothing short of spectacular. Though their 2011 debut didn’t make much of a splash upon release, 2014’s Ujubasajuba was a late year discovery that forced many music blogs to reconsider their year-end lists. With haunting, timid vocals reminiscent of Sigur Rós’ Jónsi laid atop a dynamic wall of wailing guitars and powerful, walloping drums, Ujubasajuba deftly balances the cosmic and the cacophonic to deliver a potent and incredibly consistent dose of reverb-drenched chaos. Without sacrificing cohesion, Kairon; IRSE! have successfully distilled their influences into a massive, cathartic sound, providing a thrilling example of shoegaze done right.
Trial track: “Tzar Morei” from Ujubasajuba (2014)
Can someone please explain to me how in the hell Zürich-based blackened death metal band Bölzer are a duo? Sounding like Beelzebub himself rising from the ground, the duo has a real knack for crafting absolutely immense-sounding death metal with just enough black metal to lend their music a thick, billowing atmosphere. The duo themselves have likened their name to “a powerful force or blow or strike that has no regard for the consequences or repercussions.” Armed with a 10-string B.C. Rich Bitch electric guitar, a drum set and a mixture of low gutturals and tortured howls, the duo explore a myriad of pagan and occult themes while creating some of the most distinctive and atmospheric metal of its kind. Though their catalog isn’t exactly sprawling, with only three short EPs under their belt, all of it is deliciously frenzied and massive, their 2013 sophomore Aura being a personal favorite. With a full-length reportedly in the pipeline, Bölzer are well on their way to becoming a staple of their respective genre.
Trial track: “Entranced by the Wolfshook” from Aura (2013)
Ever wondered what it would be like to spend an hour inside the mind of singer/songwriter Scott Walker circa 1995 onwards? Look no further than Sweden’s experimental big band group Fire! Orchestra. Pushing the big band model to its most deconstructed, nightmarish extreme while throwing in a smattering of free jazz dissonance and the feverish vocal performance of one Mariam Wallentin for good measure, the aptly-titled 28-musician ensemble present a wild, uncompromising vision as gritty as it is rewarding. With the push of a sole, mesmerizing bass line, the band clash zealously with a myriad of sharp sounds and increasingly unruly tones before reaching a screeching fever pitch and collapsing into themselves. In fact, many of the band’s song structures share more in common with Krautrock than anything else, crafting a hypnotic backbone for the orchestra to battle over. By no means “easy listening,” Fire! Orchestra are about as challenging as they are fascinating, showcasing the raw power of free jazz through pristine, vintage production and spellbinding arrangements.
Trial track: “Part One” from Exit (2013)
Though they’ve recently experienced tragedy and been forced to go on hiatus indefinitely, New Jersey’s GridLink have amassed what might be the single most consistent and uniformly impressive catalogue in grindcore. Assembled from the ashes of seminal grindcore band Discordance Axis, and featuring Mortalized’s Takafumi Matsubara laying down some absolutely blistering guitar riffs without ever catching a break, GridLink dare you to take a breather. Without wasting a second, the band delivers a veritable onslaught of blast beats and violent percussion, incredibly precise buzzsaw-like licks and the inhuman shrieking of singer Jon Chang in a matter of seconds. Only four songs in GridLink’s entire catalog live past the two-minute mark. Bringing Discordance Axis’ anime and science-fiction themes to a more abstracted extreme, GridLink masterfully blend ferocity and unbridled, manic energy with a surprisingly melodic and even emotional core. Though their recording career may be over, their legacy has only just begun.
Trial track: “Look to Windward” from Longhena (2014)
Taking the popular Bossa Nova and Samba-inspired sounds of Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil that have come to define popular Brazilian music and stripping them entirely of their percussive elements, Juçara Marçal has truly gone the distance on her solo debut. A Brazilian-born singer-songwriter and lead singer of acclaimed experimental group Metá Metá, Marçal is no stranger to tackling the most traditional of music through unconventional means; her 2008 collaborative album with Kiko Dinucci, Padê, was as danceable as it was forward-thinking. Encarnado, her solo debut, is an entirely different beast altogether, sharing more in common with contemporary math rock bands than the likes of Jorge Ben or Tom Zé. By eliminating all percussion and highlighting the tinny, brittle guitars and their angular rhythms, the songs take on an alien form while somehow feeling much larger than the sum of their parts. If that’s not enticing enough, the entire album is available as a free download on her official website. While the avant-garde music movement of 1980’s Brazil wasn’t exactly a commercial storm, it’s nonetheless reassuring to see it live on over 30 years later.
Trial track: “Damião” from Encarnado (2014)