Some endearing releases you might’ve missed from the first quarter of 2021

With the end of March, we’re already deep in the thick of 2021. Here’s some recent music to accompany that milestone


Photo Samuel Elliott

Four great independent records that show a sample of what’s to come in 2021.

Samuel Elliott, Staff Writer

Somehow, in spite of the sluggish pace at which the days seem to go by lately, we’ve found ourselves a quarter of the way through 2021. Jan. 1 seems so long ago, and yet so recent, a feeling worsened for those of us still in heavy lockdown from COVID-19.

But as for the musical landscape, the day seemed to arrived with the dawn for many artists during these first few months, with such landmark releases as Smiling With No Teeth, For The First Time and To See The Next Part of The Dream showing a glimpse of the creativity to come for this year of tentative regeneration.

But as has been the staple for all of music history, just as many masterpieces go unlauded as go championed. So I figured it’d be useful to highlight some of these unsung songs, to help shed some light on a tiny plot of the swaths of music waiting for their chance to be adored.

Asian Glow: Cull Ficle    (3/17/21)

Asian Glow: “Cull Ficle”

Not much is really known about Asian Glow. Or at least, not much can really be pulled from their Bandcamp page, or social media, especially if one doesn’t speak Korean. What can be confirmed is that they’re a solo musician in Seoul, making soulful guitar-based lofi music with a focus on layered production and inventive song structure (and they make really good cover art, I mean just look at that). Cull Ficle is Asian Glow’s second release, their debut album Nosferadoof having been released last year.

Relative to most artists, Asian Glow essentially came out of the blue—and remains in it, to an extent. I myself only discovered the album three days after it was released, surfing through Bandcamp’s new releases. As of now they only have 109 ratings on the music review website RateYourMusic, but with a noticeably high average; and deservedly so.

The album includes some of the best folk, noise pop and emo to come out in the last three years, and that’s said with no exaggeration. Glow’s songwriting jumps from concept to concept, melody to melody, piece to pace, all being tied down by their earnest, mumbly vocals buried interestingly deep into the mix. Most of the time you can’t make out what they’re saying, but luckily the lyrics are listed under each track to provide some insight on the wonderful stream-of-consciousness emotions that are poured out with every track (save a few instrumentals).

Some may say that this noisy sound and twinkly Tokumaru-esque riffage is a hallmark of the oncoming “fifth wave” emo scene; however, the semantics of such a denomination fail to categorize the nuance that is apparent in Cull Ficle. “Sounds like rollin clay,” as Asian Glow puts it.

Top Tracks: “Circumstances Telling Me Who I Am,” “5:21:2000”

Cull Ficle is available on most streaming platforms, and English translations of some of the track titles can be found on YouTube. It’s getting a limited cassette release on Michigan-based indie label Longinus Recordings, who also released the acclaimed record by fellow Korean 파란노을 (Parannoul) earlier this year. So, look out for that.

Fishpaste: In Space The Rats Just Dissolve    (3/14/21)

Fishpaste: “In Space The Rats Just Dissolve”

In space, the rats just dissolve. The sheep disintegrate. The crabs liquify. The pigs become spheres. The chickens lose their shape. The kangaroos drown in their own saliva.

But why?

Such are the seven tracks on Fishpaste’s indie label debut, In Space The Rats Just Dissolve. A concept album about… something, apparently. To give a little more context, Fishpaste is a teenage musician from Atlanta, Georgia, who’s made music under various pseudonyms (and degrees of seriousness) for the past three years. His sound has developed considerably since his early stuff, enough for him to get picked up by burgeoning online label Dismiss Yourself for his latest release.

To describe Fishpaste’s sound would be somewhat easy; hypnagogic sequencer & tracker plunderphonics with digi-hardcore vocals, sifted through a lobit, near HexD aesthetic (yes, those are all real words). But such a surface-level description fails to capture it all; one has to look deeper, into the aesthetics and the story, and the seemingly millions of vocal samples layered through this work.

In Space The Rats Just Dissolve keeps somewhat of a bit-crushed “wall of sound” in its impression on the listener, fitting for the loose concept that this is a journey through space at ten bazillion km/h. Fish’s use of sampling is phenomenal, and probably the secret spice that makes the record. Everything from birds, jazz records, cartoon characters, to even stock sound effects are used here, all to a wholly previously unimagined potential.

To some extent, this is a modern equivalent to what 90’s/00’s IDM artists were trying to do on records like Richard D. James Album, the idea of making something interesting, fun and totally out of left field, but pared down enough to result in a succinct package that seems both digestible, and somewhat of an actual statement. The slightly somber closer but why” ends up, in this manner, being the perfect closer to Fishpaste’s half-hour excursion through the wormhole.

Top Tracks: “In Space The Rats Just Dissolve,” “The Pigs Become Spheres”

In Space The Rats Just Dissolve is available on a good portion of streaming services, as well as Youtube. Physical cassettes are available on Dismiss Yourself’s Bandcamp page.

Dealers of God: Visions of Fuel    (1/1/21)

Dealers of God: Visions of Fuel

If anything on this list could be considered an “epic,” Visions of Fuel would deserve such a descriptor the most. Described by the Dealers as a record in which “DEALERS OF GOD DESTROY THE CRIME GAME FOREVER. SECRET ALIEN KNOWLEDGE & INTERSTELLAR BRAIN FUTURE,” you can kind of already see where this is heading. And man, does it go far.

Dealers of God is, reportedly, a notorious Australian crime gang comprised of seven members, who have extraordinary criminal abilities derived from their excessive consumption of crack cocaine. Or at least that’s what their website says. In the past, these extraordinary criminal abilities have been put to use in such heists as stealing the Declaration of Independence, but with Visions of Fuel, the Dealers have set their sights on a new goal: The Land of Resources, which holds enough pure fuel to give them a net GDP higher than Canada.

But when they’re not committing crimes, or stocking up on diesel for the day Antarctica becomes a national superpower, the Dealers make some pretty great music too. Visions of Fuel is their debut record, and clocking in at nearly two and a half hours long, is quite the mammoth undertaking. The album’s stylistic palette ranges widely: mainly a sound collage of ethereal sounding dream pop and abstract hip hop, with elements of ambient dub and neo-psychedelia floating over the seven members’ bars. The rapping itself is one of the highlights of the record; drugged-out Australian mumbling with the occasional clear vocal, delivered between peculiar samples ranging from the Earthbound soundtrack, to David Attenborough’s narration, to even a tv spot for a Mythbusters episode.

There seems to be three types of songs on the record: three to seven minute, well-developed “pop” tracks (see “The Value of Beer”), 11-24 minute free flowing compositions which could easily be entire beat tapes on their own (see “Alien Meth”) and less than one to two minute interludes, mainly skits and sketches (see “Eating a Bag”). All three types work together to create an incredibly disorienting listening experience, perfectly replicating the aesthetic found all over the record and providing a listen like no other.

Top Tracks: “The Value of Beer,” “Walking Through Fields of Hemp”

Anthony1: ???

Visions of Fuel is available from the Dealers’ Bandcamp and Soundcloud pages, as well as on YouTube. A fair warning that this record contains some explicit themes and language, the only item on this list to do so. Listen at one’s own discretion.

Anthony1: ???    (2/13/21)

If emo music, video game music and whatever Visions of Fuel was wasn’t enough variety, why not add some trance music, the hypnotic EDM spinoff that dominated much of the late 90’s-early 00’s European club scene? More specifically, ??? is a “hard trance” or “freeform hardcore” album, a genre characterized by its use of thumping 4/4 beats and faster tempos than normal trance, while retaining the uplifting sounds and buildups that make trance, well, trance.

To the vast majority of people (myself included, up until hearing this) who don’t know anything about trance music, just looking at the cover will give you a good sense of what’s going on here. Aesthetics are the name of the game, and this album is just as icy and hyper-sounding as the cover would imply.

Anthony1 is a Chilean producer, debuting here on the burgeoning Dismiss Yourself label alongside the aforementioned Fishpaste. Dismiss Yourself seems to be the hub for all things HexD, a relatively recent genre of music production that utilizes bitcrushing and sample-reducing to create a murky, somewhat nostalgic sound, like a really low quality mp3 file, or rotted cd-r.

The HexD influence works to great effect on ???, amplifying the hypnotic nature of the music and creating an impenetrable density like one would encounter listening to trance played live in the EDM nightclubs of the 00’s. I’d say ???‘s sequencing is it’s strongest aspect; composed of six 3-6 minute tracks that flow freely into each other, the album feels closer to a dj set than an lp, never seeming to drag on or be cut short any more than is needed.

Overall, Anthony1’s label debut provides both a solid listen for the most hardcore of trance fanatics, and a great entry point for those not well versed in the genre. Not only that, but by returning back to the pillars of 00’s electronic music, one can really gain an appreciation for the influence it has on modern hyperpop and glitchcore phenomena, such as 100 Gecs and Black Dresses.

Top Tracks: “Sinotrans,” “Sveiki”

??? is available on almost all streaming platforms, and sounds best in bassy headphones and car stereos. Try to refrain from playing it too loud, its addictive nature might leave one feeling a little deaf by the end of the album.