Friday, July 12, 2013

TOP TWENTY MOST UNDERGROUND, UNDERRATED OR UNKNOWN ARTISTS IN NEW ENGLAND


I've been a part of the underground music house show/noise show or whatever scene for ten years now either as a performer, show attendee or venue runner.  During that time I've seen some really great stuff come and go, some of it gaining a modicum of national exposure, but much of it remaining woefully obscure to all but the very lucky few.  This post is an attempt to highlight some of the best acts from my adopted home of jolly olde New England that you may not have heard before.  Initially, one of my selection criteria was lack of web presence, but it's harder and harder to find a band who doesn't put themselves out there in some way these days.  The list is by no means complete and is somewhat of a contradiction of terms.  Clearly the truly "most undergroundest" artists are ones I or no one else has ever heard of.  So please don't take the title too seriously. The list in some sort of rough order that is a combination of how much I like the artist v.s. relative level of obscurity...plus mysterious factors.

Skimask
20. Skimask - I feel kind of funny putting these guys on the list because they're so well liked in Boston. But when you release your first LP and you don't put the name of your band anywhere on it, well that's definitely a nod in the direction of obscurity.  This trio sounds kind of like a somewhat standard (but great) noise rock band, but all the "guitar" and "bass" parts are made by one dude with a mic and a table of pedals.  There's also a more traditional singer, a real fine upstanding citizen and a powerhouse drummer who's in tons of New England punk bands.  Adding to the aura of mystery around these guys is the fact that they cancelled what would have been their first big tour out of the region, only to appear again unannounced at some local dives a few months later.  Hey, I guess they have a website though: http://skimaskboston.com/

19. Peace, Loving - Another one that I wasn't sure belonged on the list at first.  Adam Kohl and Kate Lee (who are soon to be expecting their first child) are founding members of the Whitehaus collective in Boston, a house/venue that has hosted hundreds upon hundreds of touring bands for the last 5 or 6 years.  While many people are aware of their efforts in the DIY community, I think their strange and prolific musical output is often neglected.  From their one of a kind live performance events that feature a mix of music concrete, folk and poetry, to their micro-edition releases, Peace, Loving is one of the most unique groups from New England.
http://www.travelingband.org/

18. Nathan Ventura - Travelling dude and sometimes Boston resident who produces quite a lot of music, but has only played live a handful of times.  A debut LP on Anonymous Dog Records doesn't seem to be doing much to spread the word on this guy, and that's a shame.  Maybe cause you can't even buy it from the website of the label that put it out (!!!), but I swear his record exists. I have one!  True outsider one-man-band fucked up folk noise. Hear much sound on bandcamp: http://nathanventura.bandcamp.com/

Horse Spirit Penetrates
17. Horse Spirit Penetrates - A Western Mass band who seems to play about once a year and has maybe put out 3 or 4 tapes or CD-rs over the last decade. Here's what I said on Cassette Gods three years ago:  The wigged out almost-moog-toned guitaring generally maintains a permanent tonal fantasy, while the drums are a constant swirl of never-dying fire with free-jazz-mannerisms in tow. It's loud and it hurts, but it achieves a mythic greatness.  Some old music on myspace: https://myspace.com/horsespiritpenetrates


Clare Hubbard
16. Clare Hubbard (Caethua/Ancestral Diet/Sports). I think Clare lived in New England long enough to make it on this list...though she might have left for greener pastures by now.  Whether it's the gloomy folk of Caethua, the industrial goth noise of Ancestral Diet or the totally thrilling and even more refined solo jams of Sports, Hubbard has been a guiding light in underground music to lucky few who get to hear her play or grab one of her totally underrated records.  www.saxwand.com

15. Visitations, et al. - This mysterious psych folk group from Portland Maine was active for a few years in the mid 2000s and did have a relatively well received full length LP on Time-Lag (again, a case where the band's name appeared nowhere on the physical release), but there's something about their personas that always kept them a secret from the world at large.  They don't play (much? at all?) together anymore but you should try to catch a solo set or hear a release from the three members' current projets: Janane Tripp plays solo under her own name and Chris Livengood and Brendan Evans  perform as a duo called Video Nasties.  Brendan also has a solo record on Don't Trust the Ruin as B.R. Garm.  This is the only band on the list that I would call "collectible" in anyway.  For the most part I've tried to stray from artists whose releases fetch higher than list price on the internet (thus the lack of Josh Burkett on this list, one of my absolute favorite New England musicians (sorry but I just can't afford a vinyl copy of Gold Cosmos or Where's My Hat...plus the dude's got too many fans in Europe).  Check out one track off the Visitations self-titled LP here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jaoZHhgOgc4

Shea Mowat
14. Shea Mowat - This Maine/Massachusetts resident has been continuing some sort of avant-garde performance-as-composition trend that draws parallels to Paul McCarthy, Robert Ashley, Alvin Lucier, Walter Marchetti and, you know, all those dudes. This video is pretty intense: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ng-BPdN5DxQ.  This one is more musical:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHhTpbbCRr4

13. Astral Plane Junkies - Very confusing and completely unheard of performative noise/metal with psycho undertones.  Check out this rare set captured on camera a few years back: http://youtu.be/dA7WVTZSn5Y

12. Dark Rodeo - Some of the bleakest of the bleak here.  Truly fucked up lyrical content that sometimes borders on criminality, pornography and other such subject matters, but always maintains a somber and captivating tone. Some of it is folk music, some of it is tidal, elegiac rock.  Maybe two highly limited physical releases on cassette, but some more material on bandcamp: http://darkrodeo.bandcamp.com/

11. Martin Chartrand - I'm basing this one on the strength of a single performance at the Frantasia Festival in Livermore Falls, Maine during the summer of 2009.  I find it hard to describe what made it so captivating, but it's a set that I will never forget as long as I live.  Chartrand sang male/female songs in two different voices in a way that completely floored me.  He was backed up by an out of tune "jazz fusion" bassist and an overweight Native American woman on handdrum.  Had to be there.  He's got a CD-r or two out there and was a member of a collective band which I've since forgotten the name of.  I've honestly been afraid to listen to any of his music since that night...Trying to keep the dream alive.

Ruth Garbus
10. Ruth Garbus - Ruth might be one of the most well known people on this list, but it's been more for her membership in other groups than for her gorgeous solo work.  She first came to my attention as a member of Vermont's Feathers in 2004 or 2005.  She was also the drummer in the short lived rock group Happy Birthday (with Feathers alum Kyle Thomas on guitar and vocals & Chris Weisman on bass).  Plus, here sister is pretty well known for making music as Tuneyards.  So yeah, she's been on the edges of some stuff that is approaching the mainstream, but I think that's all the more reason to include her on this list as I feel like her solo acoustic music is very little heard or discussed. Some oldish tracks on myspace: https://myspace.com/ruthgarbus

9. Altered Gee - A new group of two just barely twentysomethings from Portland Maine.  These guys make chillout keyboard and drum machine jams that are great for making babies to and don't really fall into any kind of trend. Hear ten minutes of their debut LP here: https://soundcloud.com/lanimaux-tryst/sets/altered-gee-rise-from-yr-grave

Glade Swope
8. Glade Swope - Another Mainer, Glade has been making his bizarre brand of psychedelic christian metal since the late 1980s and he's still going strong.  There's somewhat of a learning curve to this stuff, but there should be enough assorted sound, text and image on his website for you to get the picture.  "I've seen it through my own three eyes."  http://www.gladeswope.com/

7. Bryan Gillig - This guy is pretty much known only to me and a few lucky others.  A songwriter who I would say is as good as Warren Zevon, but he works in the produce department of the co-op in a little college town in the hills.  Bryan's singing and performance style might take you a minute to appreciate, but his lyrics are at the absolute top of the heap.  He's got his first band together after many years of playing around campfires.  They're called Loudville, and hopefully you'll be hearing something from them soon.    http://bryangillig.bandcamp.com/

Bengeorge7
6. Bengeorge7 - One of the funniest acts I've ever seen play live. Period.  This is a duo of Ben Hersey and George William Myers, two good friends from Western Massachusetts who blend Dada, slapstick and noise in a way that always brings a smile to my face.  Don't expect much in the way of releases though as these guys have probably been around ten years and I don't know if they've put out a full length, and who can blame them? The physicality of their performance is what makes it so truly special.  Check out this youtube video of what I think was the most recent set they've played: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-Kt8vn4p6s.  Also see their spiritual brother: Anthro Rex.

5. Edith Bunker's Demonized Vomit Insurance - Another guy who's been at it for along time.  Edith Bunker is the pseudonym of crazed New Hampshire loner Brent Field, who is sort of like a one man Sun City Girls or Caroliner.  Someone told me he's from the same town the Shaggs were from but I'm not sure if that's true.  Used to have a confusing myspace page, but I'm sure all the html has been stripped by fascism long ago.  Do a google search maybe? I dare you...

4. ANTi - Perhaps the most undeservedly unknown artist on the list, ANTi is a bassist and vocalist from Martha's Vineyard who is kind of like a one-man No Trend, Kilslug or Flipper.  Scott Seward, who owns John Doe Jr. Books and Records in Greenfield, MA showed me this guys music and I've been obsessed with it since day one.  So cruel sounding, so personal.  Check out this sick song "Sacrifice" on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHkQuPW8RHk, but really any of the 92 videos on his channel will do.  Many of them have under 30 views!  He's also got a soundcloud: soundcloud.com/antibassmetal

3. Moscow Mule - This duo of then teenagers could be found rocking shows in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts from time to time in the mid 2000s.  My favorite part of a Mule show was the subtle slide from set-up, to tuning, to banter, to technical difficulties, to half-song noodles, to full frontal shit rock and finally to complete and utter collapse, all in the course of about 25 minutes.  Cory Matthews (drums) and Coco Schachtl (vocals, bass) were probably majorly influenced by Lightning Bolt and their ilk, but the humor and total unrehearsedness gave them a real edge for me.  They only recorded 5 songs to my knowledge, all of which were released on a split tape with Laudable Pus on Breaking world records. You can still hear some of that music on an old myspace page: https://myspace.com/moscowmule

2. Taboo - Unlike most of the artists on this list, this trio from rural Maine has actually toured all the way across the United States (though I think they've had shows cancelled due to lazy hippie west coast bookers' concerns with the group's "image").  Also, they've got three full length vinyl out too, which makes them un unlikely pick so high up on the list...but there's something truly frightening about this band of true pagan blood sacrifice freaks that will make it so they absolutely never achieve any kind of real acceptance, even in self proclaimed underground communities.  I think it's better that way because Taboo are true dark sorcerers whose magick should not be taken lightly.  They tour with their own soundsystem in order to create punishingly loud psychedelic rock onslaught, but clean up pretty nicely on record.  When I say 'clean up,' I'm probably envisioning a handsome man in drag mopping up a pool of blood.  One of my favorite bands in America right now. http://taboomaine.blogspot.com/

Jeremy Latch
1. Jeremy Latch - Who's this guy? What, never heard of him? Exactly!  Jeremy has been one of the most consistently inspiring musicians to me, mostly based on the strength of one cassette collection of songs and tape collages entitled "Love Letters to Everybody" (yeay! tapes 2007), but also just from knowing the dude and being able to hear him sing from time to time.  I've been told that he was friends with Devendra Banhart before the more popular (and more hirsute) folk singer stole Latch's bag of tricks and blocked all his calls.  Whether or not I heard correctly is unimportant (and who the fuck is Devendra Banhart anyway?), this is some real stuff right here.  Find that tape at all costs.

Honorable Mentions - 

Chris Dooley (Holyoke, MA area show booker extraordinaire and secret genius of horrifyingly loud noises)
The Terribles (Worcester punk band with amazing licks and 15 years of playing together)
Jow Jow the Death Knell Rung (psychedelic jam supergroup with revolving membership)
Turtlecat Symphony (perplexing tiny noises made by a half-deaf woman)
Grey Skull (these guys have toured and released lots of stuff, but they are still criminally under appreciated. Probably because they sound like they don't know what they're doing, but trust me, they do.)
Barn Owl (that is the original spazz noise Barn Owl of Chris Cooper, Andy Crespo & Matt Weston, not the currently semi-popular Barn Owl from SF)
Belltonesuicide (one man noise machine with probably 100 releases and very little exposure)
Pine Tree State Mind Control (patience trying conceptual noise)
Radioactive Prostitute (long running Nirvana inspired rock cum destructive performance art unit)
Codeine Schoolboy (this chick is completely on her own wavelength)
Mystic Out-Bop Review (high quality acoustic free jazz trio from Portland, ME)
Tumble Cat Poof Poofy Poof (profoundly strange costumed performance and tape music, plus the dude is a great visual artist)
Foom (Triple 7" on Stomach Ache came out in the 90s and then only a few CD-rs here and there.  Currently doing super chill turntable sets and working in "the music industry")
Sound of Pot (solo project of Conrad Capistran of Sunburned and Tarp.  Big man with beard makes movie soundtrack miniatures with an SK-1 and Kaoss Pad)
Andrea Pensado (maybe she's well enough known know, but this miniature Argentinian woman who lives in Boston is one of the best screamers and computer noise artists I've ever seen live. I think she's finally got some tapes and records coming out)
Extreme Beer Trio (cracked out comedy-noise-metal-rock.  They also have a recording of them singing fucked up songs while riding on freight train. so unknown...)
Family Pet (another group of weirdos from rural Maine. They did finally make a terrible LP that I'm sure no one would ever want to hear, but the recordings on their myspace used to be so fucking evil. Sounds of metal scraping and saxophone/groaning)
Dan Knudson very unique and subtly bizarre savant pop from Portland, Maine.


Special Mention - Flaming Dragons of Middle Earth.  I can't fairly rank this group because I've been one of the members for 5 out of the 7 years of it's existence.  I can say however, that we are one of the most unpopular bands in existence.  FDOME has played countless shows to crowds of 15 or less from Portland, Maine to Harrisonburg, VA.  I think people think we're some kind of sick joke, ya know? "Throw the kid in the wheelchair up on the stage in drag" and all that.  Couldn't be further from the truth.  Front man Danny Cruz is one of the most charismatic, entertaining and spiritual singers I've ever seen perform or had the pleasure to play with.  He's the creative force that has drawn over 20 deep-weirdoes into his orbit (some of whom appear on the list above) and I urge you all to become inspired by his muse: http://flamingdragonsofmiddleearth.blogspot.com/.

Okay, that's all for now. This has been fun.


5 comments:

  1. Nice, man. Flaming Dragons are my jam; had no idea you were a member.

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  2. 3 bands and a solo project, over 10 years of performing, 2 records, 5 tapes and tons of cdrs,and i never get any credit!

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  3. I vote Diagram A.

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  4. 15 people is a lot of people for some "noise" shows.

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  5. I guess Diagram A seems more well known to me, but you're right, he's pretty shadowed.

    Sorry for excluding Vanessa Brewster, who made a lot of awesome CDrs in the mid 2000s either by herself or with Jessica Rylan or Jeremy Harris (jeez, should he be on the list or don't you know about Lazy Magnet yet???). Vanessa's new band Strange Men with members of Sore Eros and Local Gyro is an acid flashback and a half!!!!

    THE LIST IS BY NO MEANS COMPLETE

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