Anywhere from 250 to 1,000 new songs, mixes, EPs and albums are uploaded to Bandcamp every day. Investigate the tag "Houston" on the site alone, and the numbers are likewise staggering.
With so many musicians from Hustletown attempting to plant their flag in the 713, discerning good from bad becomes increasingly difficult. In the past, listeners too often relied on corporate imprinting, music journalism and word of mouth to declare a band worthy of 30 to 60 minutes of our lives. But today we no longer have to rely on limited resources and self-professed experts to choose what to listen to.
Here is this month's batch of (almost) random selections from Houston artists on the verge of emerging from Bandcamp's virtual black hole.
Moreno feat. King, "Anaconda" It's not what you think. This track neither resembles Nicki Minaj's summer jam sonically nor does it possess its sexually playful dynamics. Moreno's bravado centers around claiming a place at hip-hop's table, not waiting for the genre to send an invitation. Not tossing around typical Houston tropes, including references to syrup and swangers, he focuses on how other MCs should beware of him and not the other way around.
The stripped-down production gives way to the trap hats and tight verses. At the end of the track, Moreno asks, rhetorically,"What are they going to do without me?" A perfect way to introduce yourself to a new audience: leave it up to us to decide with you are a formidable MC or not.
Chinook, "Perspective" "Perspective" embraces many of EDM and dubstep's musical characteristics. Layered with a plethora of ADHD moments -- sudden yet purposeful glitches, gates and oscillations that pan left and right in milliseconds -- the track orbits within the program's limited framework.
Moreover, one underlying problem with music released by EDM artists today is identity. To distinguish between Chinook and the many nameless similar artists becomes difficult to do without establishing nuanced sounds and humanizing details. Confined by the music program's framework, "Perspective" becomes indistinctive like so many satellites orbiting our earth today. [Note: this article has been altered after publication to correct the artist's name.]
I'm Alone, "Reentry" Loneliness is a characteristic many Houstonians must adjust to, but it can be temporarily removed in the city's infinite bars and restaurants where words mean less than the sounds emitting from the conversants. The warmth of sounds, not words, replaces the solitary confinement many of us impose on ourselves.
"Reentry" articulates its benefits. The downtempo beats and reflective tones linger in between seconds when time comes to a complete standstill. Minimalist by design, the song's atmospheric composition causes the notes to blend together. "Reentry" fills in the spaces where thoughts trail off and disappear before we can locate them again.
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Popskyy, "Peanut Butter Squares" Chiptunes, the soundtracks to '80s and '90s adolescents, featured 8- and 16-bit compositions that acted more as movie scores than songs. This song's introduction, reminiscent of Pac-Man's demise, generates images of quarters waiting on the video game's marquee that were lined with quarters indicating who's next to play. The sample laments the impatience to consume a peanut-butter square before it cools down, and the kid's voice sounds determined to indulge despite the risk.
Like so many issues currently plaguing modern electronic music, "Peanut Butter Squares" loses its novelty quickly. On the other hand, dismissing gaming soundtracks' influence on today's musicians and composers is like disregarding the influence of the blues on the entirety of rock and roll.
Silent Star, "Raket (Live)" Agitated yet discreet, the opening to Silent Star's "Raket" projects cinematic images of anticipated violence. Like a poorly-timed revelation, the song keeps its secret with its emphasis on atmosphere and delayed guitar effects reminiscent of Daniel Ash.
What emerges from the wake of prog-rock's heady past is the implementation of programming and electronic textures to paint these indistinct realms. Spoiler Alert: after listening to the entire album, Houstonians have their very own version of Fripp and Eno. With songwriting unencumbered by the genre's requirement for masterful musicianship, Silent Star instead dismisses these preconceived notions as irrelevant.
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