B L A C K I E gets down at the Moon Tower Inn, April 2015
B L A C K I E gets down at the Moon Tower Inn, April 2015
Stephan Wyatt

HPMA 2016 Spotlight: Best Mad Genius

Judging from the driving we see in Houston traffic on a day-to-day basis, we all surely know that at least half this city is downright certifiable. It’s only logical to assume that among this group are a handful of musical geniuses. This year, the Houston Press Music Awards has chosen to shine a spotlight on some of these cacophonous wackos. Get to know some of these artists before they’re carted away for letting their wild creations get out of control, and vote in this year's HPMA poll here.

B L A C K I E

The Mad Part: This rapper/producer/multi-instrumentalist/performance artist may wear many proverbial hats, but he often performs in merely a pair of cut-off shorts. Sometimes with his back to the crowd, sometimes surrounded by it. Always amidst an aggressive texture of industrial-grade musical machinery.

The Genius Part: B L A C K I E all caps with spaces is a boundary-pushing noise artist through and through. His blend of hip-hop, punk and whatever else pops into his mind is wholly original — the product of an artist intent on making something entirely new every time he creates.

MAXO KREAM

The Mad Part: Merely taking on an opening slot on Danny Brown’s current Exhibition tour takes a certain amount of screws loose.

The Genius Part: Maxo’s rhymes represent the cold, hard facts that represent a young life of drug-fueled crime. Backed by the sparse, dark beats to match, Kream joins a rich pedigree of hip-hop artists examining social issues from the street level.

CHASE DEMASTER

The Mad Part: Chase divides his time between fronting two successful acts (Children of Pop and Get a Life) and running management and PR for several local bands as #VeryJazzed. Out of sheer love for the scene and boundless creativity, he is creating an empire for himself.

The Genius Part: The deftness with which he can transition between the lush electronic compositions of Children of Pop and the early-'90s alt-rock slackerjams Get a Life is known for suggests a deeper talent beneath the wild ambition.

MUZAK JOHN

The Mad Part: John is most often seen kneeling in front of a feeding-back amplifier, shouting into a microphone and twisting knobs on a tiny keyboard. The racket can border on unlistenable until he abruptly switches gears, when it starts all over again. This is all part of the experience.

The Genius Part: Muzak’s righteous noise assault has far more in common with the work of Jackson Pollock or Arto Lindsay than the notorious easy-listening music of his namesake. The discipline behind this wall of abrasive sound is detectable if it's given a very open-hearted listen.

PFAFF PFAFFENBERG

The Mad Part: Seeing Pfaff hauling Eurorack synth modules, patch cables, analog glory and all into Notsuoh merely cracks the surface of his madness. Once he starts plugging in wires and fiddling with synth parameters, you can practically see lab goggles and gravity-defying white hair form around his intent face.

The Genius Part: Improvising with traditional instruments is hard, but at least there’s a specific path there. Improvising with a makeshift array of various electronic noisemakers, and mixing it all into something people can actually dance to, is much harder than Pfaff Pfaffenberg makes it look.

THE WIGGINS

The Mad Part: Jonathan Read’s multitude of quirks begins with his stage name, The Wiggins, conjuring an image of three to five folks onstage. There may be this many personalities at play, but only one body. Employing drum machines and loopers to fill out his sound, Jon is free to thrash about and give his all during performances.

The Genius Part: Mastering these gadgets, do-dads and instruments enough to perform wildly onstage takes a whole bundle of time, courage and talent. And hell, if that’s not enough, he does his own visual art to go with it.

TWISTED WIRES

The Mad Part: Not much is known about Twisted Wires. It’s either a single person named Richard Durham who wants to make people dance occasionally, or a group of people separated by Arizona, New Mexico and most of Texas who don’t get together enough to release regularly. Their only social-media presence to speak of is on Myspace — the sheer mystery of it all is palpable.

The Genius Part: The dark dance-pop that is available on behalf of Twisted Wires is exactingly produced, forward-pushing-yet-80s-retro, and downright danceable. There’s certainly something to holding out and having the patience to release tracks when and only when they are perfect.

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