Greetings and salutations, friends. On the chance that there are some of you unacquainted with your Esteemed Professor, you will come to notice very rapidly that I am a major proponent of musical artists who give away their work for free. In part, this is because I am extremely frugal, but more than anything, I find myself drawn to these artists because they are motivated by something more than simply financial gain. Many of these artists are creating their music for art’s sake, a notion seemingly forgotten during the music industry’s heyday, but it is an unfortunate fact that most musicians in the modern era will never be able to earn a living from their creations, and so their focus changes.
It is this motivation that draws me in, and that is why I feel compelled to continuously bring up these artists, some of whom create music of quality exceeding the major label artists in spite of a lack of funding, equipment, and production crew. There are far too many exemplars of this quality for me to mention in this space all at once, so it is a necessity that I focus on only a few. Thus, today I shall be discussing a triptych of brilliant works from The Sequence Of Prime, Tetrafusion, and Busdriver.
The Sequence Of Prime is one of many faces worn by an absurdly gifted gentlemen best known as Brandon Duncan. Monsieur Duncan is a talented graphic artist and animator (see his work at Expiring Sun and, indeed, the Oculus Infernus logo seen in the banner above), but he also creates and performs, in its entirety, the music found on a number of releases under the names The Sequence Of Prime and Inchoate. Naturally, in addition to making the music, he creates his own album art and packaging, proving to be a DIY artist of unparalleled skill.
His most recent release, Inter-, is a concept album loosely wrapped around the subject matter of black holes and travel through space, time, and dimensional barriers. As I mentioned in my review of this album, “There is a certain madness to his lyrics, the mad scratchings of one who has journeyed beyond our plane of existence and viewed terrible and incomprehensible things, and it is this madness that draws you in. It is the lure of the unknown, the lure of knowledge forbidden, the lure of passing through the barrier between worlds and between existences.”
This madness is conveyed by the album’s sound and pace, a frenetic blurring of the lines between black metal, thrash, industrial, and grindcore, eschewing traditional song structures in favour of more open-ended explorations. The breakneck speed of the album makes its already-brief 25-minute run time seem even shorter, but there is an exhilaration to it that would be lost over a more extended run time. It is this unrelenting sensation of hurtling through a black hole, entirely out of control, that makes Inter- one of the year’s finest unheralded releases, and the fact that it is available entirely free means that there is no reason to not investigate this release further.
Where The Sequence Of Prime deal with alternate realities and a lack of control, Shreveport’s Tetrafusion tackle the same subject with razor-sharp precision. Although the band had a pair of previous releases, Horizons was my first encounter with the group, and it took very little time for me to become completely enamoured with their sound. The simplest comparison for their music is to liken them to a mix of Between The Buried And Me and Cynic, and indeed the EP was produced, mixed, and mastered by Jamie King, best known for his production work with Between The Buried And Me, but such a comparison fails to truly encompass the breadth and depth of Tetrafusion‘s work.
It is notable that the band utilizes solely clean vocals, distinctively provided by keyboardist Gary Tubbs, and it is his vocals that truly set this release apart. The rest of the band (guitarist Brooks Tarkington, bassist Mark Mitchell, and drummer J.C. Bryant) acquit themselves like seasoned veterans, providing an ever-shifting background of intricate, technical metal that manages to maintain an impressive amount of melody while avoiding the chaotic morass that other bands of this ilk struggle to avoid. Each time I listen to Horizons, I find myself amazed by the way that the instruments play off one another; this sort of interplay is the hallmark of a strong bond between musicians, and it bodes extremely well for the band’s future output, I should think.
It is thus, then, that if you are even remotely interested in Between The Buried And Me or Cynic, you should at least listen to Horizons. The melodies crafted here are sublime, the musicianship top-notch, and with the EP available gratis, the only investment needed is a half hour of your time. If you are lucky, like myself, you may find this worthy of more of your time.
I shall conclude this column with a massive left turn from the music previously covered. As you may well know, I have been delving deeper into the depths of the hip-hop underground recently, spurred forward in no small part by the mention of the inimitable Busdriver by Mr. Brent A Petrie some time ago. I immediately became enamoured with Busdriver‘s natural flair for tongue-twisting rhymes, presented with a lyrical dexterity uncommon in most rap music, and set to devouring his back catalogue as ably as I could. In many ways, Busdriver‘s music inspired me to dig a bit deeper into his genre, and while I feel that I am still only scratching the surface, this particular journey down the rabbit hole has been enjoyable thus far.
Busdriver has already released a full-length album this year, the offbeat synth-pop infused, Beau$Eros, and although it is not a bad album, I found myself somewhat disappointed. The release found Busdriver exploring his arty side, singing a great deal and delving into a more pop-oriented sound, and unfortunately it featured little of the high-speed vocal delivery that had drawn me in initially. I was pleasantly surprised, then, to discover that Busdriver was releasing a free EP entitled Arguments With Dreams, and I was even more pleasantly surprised to discover that the rapping had returned with a vengeance. Musically, however, this is perhaps one of the most unconventional rap records I have ever heard. It is entirely possible that Death Grips has influenced this particular release in some way; musically, Arguments With Dreams shares a lot of the near-industrial abrasiveness that characterizes the former’s music. The beats present are beyond unconventional, at times seeming as though they would be all but impossible to effectively rap over.
And yet, Busdriver does exactly this, displaying the sort of panache I have come to expect even while pushing his delivery into suitably abstract directions. His lyrics here are more coherent than your average Aesop Rock song, but it is fair to say that the release’s title is fitting. This is some of the most unusual, experimental material ever released by an artist who specializes in the unusual and the experimental. With regard to the rap mainstream, Arguments With Dreams is about as far from it as one can be while still being considered rap music. It is certainly not for everyone, but it is a wholly rewarding experience for those who can appreciate it.