New Album Review

Fax Gang & Parannoul’s “Scattersun” Embodies the Zoomer Indie Spirit

Listen. I understand if you, a Parannoul fan in this hypothetical scenario, saw that there was a new album and then was really confused when you listened to it and it was only kind of shoegaze. But as a Fax Gang fan? This is everything I’ve ever wanted.

Concert Review

Talking About Vaporwave: i2K Electronic Music Festival

This past weekend, I took a drive out to Richmond, Virginia to go experience what is likely the most surreal concert (or festival) I’ll ever attend.

Around the beginning of the year, prominent vaporwave artists V4NGOE and Roge Corp conspired to create the VaporVA collective as a means of bringing more vapor related events to Virginia. The i2K festival would serve as the very first live event they would organize, being hosted at the Ember Music Hall in downtown Richmond.

I can’t exactly recall how I had heard of the event initially, I just remember seeing a collection of some of the most well-known vaporwave artists all coming together in one place. The festival gathered 12 artists in one night for about thirty dollars, so it just seemed economical to go, honestly. With that said, I did hesitate for a while to get a ticket as I couldn’t find someone to go with. I was eventually able to convince a friend of mine who flaked on me prior to go with me though, so I wasn’t alone this time.

The event was centered around the artstyles and vibes of the late 1990s and early 2000s, as is visible on the artwork of the promotional flier. In an effort to play along with this, I tried to dress the part as well, wearing a t-shirt with a faded print of the mythical Pokémon Mew. In all seriousness though, the theming around the event did play a big role in my overall experience thanks to the visuals that were provided, which I’ll discuss in it’s own paragraph.

The drive up to Richmond could likely be it’s own story in and of itself, solely based off the conversations you’re more or less forced to have when starting at nothing but open road for a hundred miles. The same held true for the ride back, but with a few extra steps. I tried to prepare a playlist for both trips containing my favorite songs from around the early 2000s as well as plenty of vaporwave. I especially remember VAPERROR being cued a good number of times, as he was likely the one I was most excited to see on the lineup.

After a two and half hour journey, we arrived in Richmond a bit before the venue’s doors opened. Upon opening, we were greeted by a bunch of vendor’s tables from the various artists who were performing in addition to some labels. As a token of appreciation for my driving, my friend who I was with got some merch for me, including a secondhand cassette copy of “Night Coverage” by Meteorological Agency, a solid signalwave album. Aside from the merch, a couple of vendors had some CRT TVs set up with game consoles, which may or may not have distracted us through some of the first set.

We would eventually make our way to the stage after perusing around for enough time. The first artist we saw in full would be that of Heaven Sample, who played a variety of electronica during their set. While it didn’t exactly appeal to me, I came to respect them more when I heard them accompany several of the following artists with live drumming.

During much of Heaven Sample’s set, I found myself moreso distracted by the visuals that had been set up both behind the stage and on a large screen off to the side. I might have the mind of a toddler, but it was just something about those displays that felt hypnotizing. The overly saturated colors, the flashing text, the mirrored and manipulated clips of old commercials, it was all just enamoring. It was honestly my favorite aspect of the whole concert, and it weirdly kept me both distracted from and focused on the music, it’s hard to explain.

The next artist to play was that of BECAREFUL, who played a set of deep house remixes of some familiar 2000s hits. Their set felt most in character for the event when you only really focused on the music. It was relaxing and chilled out, but quite danceable too, as deep house sets usually go. The energy honestly felt a little scattered, and I wasn’t sure what to expect from taking a genre like vaporwave and putting it into a live format.

The next artist to come out, That’s Matt, would do the job of exciting the crowd some more with a set of some future funk tracks. Nothing exactly remarkable as the set wasn’t very long, just some fun tunes and a fun stage personality, rocking a rhinestone cowboy hat. Definitely got me ready for the next set.

I guess it’s understandable that the person hosting the event would want to hype everyone up as much as possible, and they definitely succeeded. V4NGOE’s set started out with a more hypnogogic sound, with trippy vocals similar to that of George Clanton. Funnily enough, his set somewhat mirrored that of the George Clanton concert that took place this past October. The energy kept gradually increasing until he quite literally just jumped into the crowd, causing a moshpit to start. Interestingly, I believe that V4NGOE was the only artist in the lineup that stuck to their artist persona. This is something I noticed as in some prior vaporwave events, many of the artists in the scene would choose to keep their identities hidden. It’s something that became a key aspect of the genre to a degree, so it was just curious to me. Regardless, their set ticked all the boxes for me, and it alone made me feel that it was definitely worth coming out here.

The next artist to perform, FrankJavCee, was one that I really don’t know how to describe. FrankJavCee used to be a content creator on YouTube some time ago, being most prevalent around 2016. I had spent a lot of time watching his videos that would comedically teach you how to create a certain genre of “internet” music. Of course, vaporwave and it’s subgenres were heavily discussed. If I recall correctly, he’s since ceased to upload onto his channel and has mostly minimized his social media presence. So, yeah, it felt strange to see one of my favorite content creators from eight years ago to come out on stage and start shredding a saxophone. Still though, it was a great set and a nice change of pace.

Perhaps YouTubers are going to become a theme here, with the next artist, Whitewoods, who isn’t exactly a YouTuber themselves, but gained a lot of traction due to their song Beach Walk being used in a good number of videos and being remixed several times. It could be said their music helped to bring vaporwave out of the niche esoteric corner of the internet it developed from. Their set was more stripped down as compared to the others, but felt easier to vibe to. It’s a different type of feeling to hear a song you’ve listened to for years and years be played live in front of you by the person who made it.

After Whitewoods’ set, it was time for VAPERROR to come out, and as I stated prior, I was more excited for him out of everybody. I genuinely would’ve payed to just see him alone. Around the time we got into the venue, I had spoken to him briefly about basic things like how much I appreciate his music, how much I play him on my sets, how he needs to re-issue some albums, stuff like that. His set was pretty much everything I had hoped for, consisting of tracks from all throughout his discography. I’d say the highlights were some of the remixes from his collaborations with vaporwave giant Telepath. Overall, very bouncy, I was indeed bouncing. However, before his set came to a close, he broke out a couple of unreleased hardcore tracks with artist Sage Hardware, and I never would’ve expected that one of the most intense moshpits I’ve ever been in would come from a vaporwave concert. My friend who I was with nearly had to sit the rest of the festival out in the aftermath of it. When all was said and done though, we both agreed that that set alone made this one of the greatest nights of our lives.

We both needed to take a breather, so we missed a bit of the next artist, Trapcry, who was the most hip-hop and trap adjacent of the lineup. My friend didn’t exactly feel like moving all that much more, understandably, but I decided to hop back in the crowd and get hype one more time before the festival started to slow down. I’d say Trapcry also had one of the best stage personalities out of the lineup, and just brought non-stop energy for what I was able to enjoy.

With the both of us still extremely tired from the pit, we decided to watch the next set, which was Fake Fever, from a distance. He brought in a more ambient sound, which sent me into a trance as I watched corrupted footage of Halo 2 gameplay on the side screen. I do have to say that that pit absolutely did a number on both of us, who were majorly starved and dehydrated, and who also agreed to get food after the festival was over with.

The last artist that I wanted to see perform would be that of FM Skyline, who provided the perfect score for an end to my night. My friend decided to head back to my car early, but I stayed through the majority of his set, thankfully being able to hear my favorite songs from him. I would almost describe his sound as the tunes of a jukebox from a far future cyberpunk bar that’s attempting to mimic the styles of the 80s and 90s. I was aware that there were a couple more DJ sets to be played after him, but I decided to call it for the night, heading back to the car.

We began our drive back exhausted and beat up, but moreso ready for that 2 a.m. Cookout to hit. It definitely did hit. I got back home at about 5 a.m. and instantly whisked myself to bed and decided to let the signalwave tunes carry me to sleep that night.

I’m very excited to see the future events that VaporVA has in store, and while it could be a bit closer to Raleigh, I’m grateful that live vaporwave is starting to grow more and more, and it’s good to have some kind of “guide” for the east coast.

Classic Album Review

The Summer-y Sounds of Tuesday Faust

Whimsical and sweet, the first time I heard “Paul” by Tuesday Faust, I was transported far, far away back to my elementary school field trips to the state fair and family summer vacations roaming the beach boardwalk carnival, watching the bright lights and listening to the lilting calypso themes emanating from various cash-grab rides.

Weekly Charts

Chainsaw Charts 6/10/24

Chainsaw Charts

1DISSIMULATORLower Form Resistance20 Buck Spin
2NECROFIERBurning Shadows In The Southern NightSeason Of Mist
5APE VERMINAndromedas ColossusSelf-Released
6BLACKBRAIDBlackbraid IISelf-Released
7BRODEQUINHarbinger of WoeSeason of Mist
9KNOCKED LOOSEYou Won’t Go Before You’re Supposed ToPure Noise
10NIMBIFERDer böse GeistVendetta

Weekly Charts

Afterhours Charts 6/10/24

Afterhours Charts

4PEPPERWOOD ENSEMBLE AND ATPTrain Of ThoughtMakeyourowndontbiteme
5KISS CARE AND PARFan Club [EP]Poclanos
6LIP CRITICHex DealerPartisan
7MUDDYOUSHThird From The SunSelf-Released
9CIGAR CIGARETTENatural History [EP]Trash Casual
10FLOATING POINTS“Del Oro” [Single]Ninja Tune

Afterhours Adds

1PEPPERWOOD ENSEMBLE AND ATPTrain Of ThoughtMakeyourowndontbiteme
3KISS CARE AND PARFan Club [EP]Poclanos
4CIGAR CIGARETTENatural History [EP]Trash Casual
5FLOATING POINTS“Del Oro” [Single]Ninja Tune
Miscellaneous New Album Review

Two Incredibly Creative Rock EPs Made for Summer

As summer’s warm and enthralling climate draws people outside, so does their willingness to switch up our habits. One thing I like to switch up is my music, saying goodbye to The Moon & Antarctica and hello to Sunbather.

Today, I present to you two of my favorite lighting-in-a-bottle rock projects released over the past months that I will definitely be having in my rotation this summer. Both of these projects expand out rock genre in ways I would have never imagined, and they do it with ease.

“Connla’s Well” by Maruja

Over the past year, Manchester post-punk band Maruja have made themselves ever present in the underground music scene with their debut EP, “Knocknarea”. With their tight, abrasive and poetic sound, the band has taken over Brixton’s rock scene at the Windmill. “Connla’s Well” is a second out-of-the-park home run for the group.

“Connla’s Well” feels like an extremely intense massage. Each aggressive drum hit or intense saxophone lick feels like a hot stone, gaining satisfaction through the pain. The soaring vocals cut through the mix, beating muscles and cartilage into a pulp. By the end, it might be the most relaxed you could ever feel.

One thing that I absolutely love about “Connla’s Well” and Maruja as a band is how much they play with momentum in a song. Through carefully layering their vibrating guitar and saxophone like they do on “The Invisible Man”, they can seamlessly make their riffs grow into a flaming asteroid hurling across the galaxy at breakneck speeds.

Maruja’s Alto Saxophonist, Joe Carroll, stated an interview by God Is In The TV, that their sound is influenced a lot by the freedom of funk, reggae, and jazz. And even through the thick and tortured sound, you can definitely make out a lot of that beauty. This is wildly apparent in the closer “Resisting Resistance”.

Overall, “Connla’s Well” is a heavy, brutal, yet gorgeous work of art that you will not regret checking out.

“Twice Around the Sun” by Ugly (UK)

Six-piece Cambridge band Ugly create an incredibly unique experience on their latest project, “Twice Around the Sun.” The project combines styles of choral singing, modern post-rock and 60s and 70s folk, creating a real rural, barnyard feel to the entire project. One of the really standout parts of this project is that all of the songs start really innocent, but grow to monstrous proportions throughout.

The first song, “The Wheel”, is a great example of their amazing progression. The song starts with some cute group singing, with light percussion and strings in the background. This may be a strange comparison, but this part feels like I am having a picnic with all the drawings I made in kindergarten. But then there’s an abrupt and loud halt in the momentum and the beat completely switches up. Now, it sounds like TOOL got a hold of these twangy instruments and are summoning a portal to the underworld with this psychedelic groove. It all feels so natural too, which makes it even more impressive.

This EP has some of the best synergy I have heard between members in quite a long time. All of the choral sections, guitar, and percussion all feel like one driving unit in this music. It really ends up making creating such a powerful noise after it all.

One of my favorite songs off of this EP though has to be “I’m Happy You’re Here”. It really takes its time and grows to such giant and beautiful heights. The harmonies are incredible, the end hook feels like you are waltzing on air into the clouds. It is definitely a strong contender of my song of they year.

Ugly’s “Twice Around the Sun” is one of the most interesting little pieces of music you could get your hands on this year, with a perfect vibe to enjoy throughout this pleasant, hot summer.

Weekly Charts

Jazz Charts 6/10/24

Jazz Charts

1KAMASI WASHINGTONFearless MovementYoung
5JAKE LECKIEPlanter of SeedsSelf-Released
6JOE MARCINEK BAND1 River StreetVintage League
7ANDY MILNETime Will TellSunnyside
8IVANNA CUESTAA Letter To The EarthOrenda
9TROY ROBERTSGreen LightsToy Robot
10BK TRIOGroovin OnFlat7Always

Jazz Adds

1KAMASI WASHINGTONFearless MovementYoung
Weekly Charts

Underground Charts 6/10/24

Underground Charts

1MILAN RINGMangosAstral People/PIAS
3HALIMAEXU [EP]drink sum wtr
4YAYA BEYTen FoldBig Dada
5POTATOHEAD PEOPLEEat Your Heart OutBastard Jazz
6JAHAH“Exclusively (Make It Official)” [Single]Self-Released
7NALIJ“89 Escobar” [Single]Self-Released
8DOPE PROSE“Never Had It” [Single]Self-Released
9MYLO MUSerato Audio Effect Series Beat TapeSelf-Released
10DANNY MILESBeautiful MusicUrbnet

Underground Adds

1DENZEL CURRY“Hot Ones” feat. TiaCorine & A$AP Ferg [Single]Loma Vista/Concord
2KHAL!LHEART: Melodies Of The Eternal FlameEQ
3GROOVYCrying In The Club [EP]Warner
4MO TURK“Refresh (Single)” [Single]Self-Released
5TIKI JENKINS“Who Told You (Single)” [Single]Self-Released
Weekly Charts

Top Charts 6/10/24

Top Charts

2STALEFISHStalefish Does AmericaHappen Twice
3YUNGATITAShoelace & A KnotSelf-Released
4MEAN JEANSBlastedFat Wreck Chords
6EDO. GWe Do GoodRed Line
7ERIK THE ARCHITECTI’ve Never Been Here BeforeArchitect
10ARLO PARKSMy Soft Machine (Deluxe)Transgressive/PIAS
11ATMOSPHERETalk Talk [EP]Rhymesayers
13BRISTLERCascades At Play [EP]Mint 400
14BUILT TO SPILLWhen The Wind Forgets Your NameSelf-Released
15BUTCHER BROWNSolar MusicConcord Jazz/Concord
16CAKES DA KILLABlack SheepYoung Art
17CHUCK STRANGERSA Forsaken Lover’s PleaLex
19CZARFACECzartificial IntelligenceSilver Age/Virgin
20DANNY BROWNQuarantaWarp
21FLY ANAKINSkinemaxxx (Side B)Lex
22GOAT GIRLBelow The WasteRough Trade
23HANA VURomanticismGhostly International/Secretly Group
24KILLER MIKE“EXIT 9” feat. Blxst (Clean) [Single]Concord
25LIME GARDENOne More ThingSo Young
26LIP CRITICHex DealerPartisan
27MAMALARKYPocket FantasyFire Talk
28MILAN RINGMangosAstral People/PIAS
29MINT FIELDAprender A SerFelte
30OMNISouvenirSub Pop

Top Adds

1HABIBIDreamachineKill Rock Stars
2SABRINA SONGYou Could Stay In One Spot, and I’d Love You The SameSelf-Released
3BONE HAUSIn MourningSelf-Released
4SOCCER MOMMY“Lost” [Single]Loma Vista/Concord
5MAGGIE GENTLYWherever You Want To GoSelf-Released
6TEENS IN TROUBLEWhat’s MineAsian Man
7IDAHOLapseArts & Crafts

Music Education

What is Sasscore? A Genre Field Guide

It’s been a while since I’ve jumped into another genre that sounds made up.

A kaleidoscope of influences — hardcore, post-hardcore, metal, new wave, disco, etc. — consistently infused with cheeky irreverence and borderline-effeminate vocality, sasscore is a truly magnificent musical monstrosity that spits in the face of hypermasculinity. Hipsters before hipsters were uncool.

The Compendium of Sass

A “compendium of sass” posted to the now-defunct website “Stuff You Will Hate” described sasscore as “all about tight pants, pink, snotty attitudes, sweaty dance parties, keyboards, androgynous Asian band members and explicit homoeroticism.”

According to the compendium’s anonymous author, sasscore is, plainly put, “Hardcore for the angry skinny boys full of sexual tension and a great collection of skinny ties and thrift store slim-fit suit jackets before those were even a thing that cool people wore.”

Scathing commentary aside, sasscore seems to perfectly encapsulate a highly-specific and lamentably short-lived era of late 90’s and early 2000’s aesthesis.

Screamo band Ostraca performing live in 2015. Licensed CC BY-SA 4.0

Just as “twee” describes a brief-but-irrefutably punctuating period of Moldy Peaches-listening, Oxford-wearing, tote bag-carrying proto-hipsterism, sasscore highlights the intersection of “hipster-scenester” male sexuality, “femme arthouse stuff,” and alternative music long before “hipster” became a derogatory term.

And it was polarizing, for sure. People either loved sasscore or absolutely hated it (evidently enough to psychoanalyze its fans on troll websites).

Why Hate Sass?

The anonymous author speculated that one reason the genre was met with such fervent resistance was due to the “latent discomfort hardcore has always had with male sexuality, be it heterosexual or homosexual.”

While there are certainly some points in the author’s manifesto that strike me as conjecture rather than analysis, I do agree that sasscore seems to find its roots in its opposition to the hegemonic masculinity of the hardcore scene.

Cover for “Black Eyes” by “Black Eyes”

As we’ve seen with other genres like riot grrrl, queer/homocore and egg punk, the “boy’s club” atmosphere of the hardcore scene is, to put it plainly, highly divisive. While nonconformity is the alleged crux of punk ethos, the veneration of hypermasculinity overshadows the scene’s diversity.

In a way, sasscore is the antithesis of the hypermasculine. While still majorly male-dominated, sasscore artists never shy away from the “feminine,” dressing somewhere between punks, hipsters and scene kids and infusing their instrumentation and stylistics with audacious and experimental styles.

The Emergence of Sass

Sass rose as a movement in the early 2000s with the work of bands like The Crimson Curse, Orchid, The Blood Brothers, Black Eyes (one of my favorite sass bands) and The Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower.

Cover for “Dance Tonight! Revolution Tomorrow!” by Orchid

At the same time, other bands such as Destroyer Destroyer, Tower of Rome and many others excluded sasscore’s post-hardcore influences, instead fusing sasscore with mathcore and grindcore. The resulting genre became known as white belt.

Some newer white belt bands that mix hardcore, slam, grind and metalcore revival include SeeYouSpaceCowboy, The Callous Daoboys, and .gif from god (who I saw live last year)

The Sound of Sass

According to Phillip Stounn of DIY Conspiracy, sasscore incorporates elements from genres within and outside of punk and is generally considered a post-hardcore style.

Key stylistic features include an “over-the-top, spastic edge, dissonant, chaotic guitars, occastional dance rhythms, synths and blast beats.”

In 2017, writer Ellie Kovach (influenced by “the compendium of sass”) described the genre’s “lisping vocals shouting incredibly erotic lyrics over chaotic guitar runs and keyboards” and “flamboyant, homoerotic clothing and behavior” as being primarily directed at hardcore’s “tough-guy” culture and “the PC crowd’s stifling lack of ability to have fun.”

Final Thoughts

I’m always a sucker for a genre that counters counterculture, and I always jump at the opportunity to elicit some early-2000’s nostalgia.

While sasscore certainly isn’t for everybody, I find that it’s my particular flavor of so-weird-it’s-almost-bad music. Would I play Black Eyes for my family? Probably not. But have I listened through their self-titled album more times than I can count? Absolutely.

If you’re someone interested in music with a “spastic edge,” then perhaps you should check out sasscore. If you like things a bit on the heavier side, check out white belt.