A group of turquoise-haired Tumblr-ers recently staged a collective hashtag attack on Barbadian singer, Rihanna, for looking too “seapunk” in a public appearance. The electronica microscene was apparently furious she adopted their style and hence violated the anti-mainstream spirit of their subculture.
Hipster teen ennui aside — that’s right, ‘seapunk’. If you never knew how exactly to categorise that particular aesthetic of tie-dyed t-shirts, moss-green locks and Yin-Yang symbols, now you do.
First profiled on the New York Times in 2011, the term ‘seapunk’ was coined by a DJ who said it came to him in a “surreal dream”. The subculture shares its name with a genre of art and music that utilises a very specifically aqua-themed array of 1990s cyberpunk imagery (dolphins, pyramids, beaches, dreamscapes, ocean sounds, etc.).
The resulting aesthetic straddles the line between ‘90s kitschness and… an admittedly appealing pastel whimsicality. Now that we’ve learnt seapunk is a genre of music and not an aquatic species of amphibious angsty musicians, we took the time to look into some other obscure genres with equally Dadaist names:
Apparently, ‘rape gaze’ is sister to the equally politically-incorrect ‘slutwave’ and is dripping with slimy goth hipsterdom. Marriages between ‘shoe gaze’ and violently dark themes are not all that unholy it seems, and the demon spawn produced from this genre is what they call ‘rape gaze’.
‘Rape gaze’ music would be interesting enough and have enough sonic depth without its pretensions; supposedly bands like Creep or Salem somehow project some postmodern, ha-ha-ironic, super subversive femininist drive through serenading us about raping and murdering women. Uh, we don’t get it. It’s like someone took the Riot Grrl movement and fed it through the Human Centipede.
Listen to: ‘King Night’ by Salem
[youtube width=”457″ height=”343″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kwMc91DQXHU[/youtube]
‘Unfolk’, or ‘Antifolk’, has been around for a while, so one can’t say it’s exactly obscure. But what is ‘antifolk’ anti about exactly? Beck is part of a movement of musicians determined to run against the grain of 1960s politically charged folk music, as well as ditties crooning about depressive love and Wisconsin winters.
Acoustic, raw, and lyrically quirky (e.g. The Moldy Peaches), it generally mocks the earnestness and pretension it sees in the established mainstream music scene. Fair enough, except when we consider that it was started by musicians reacting against being unable to gain gigs at established folk venues, it just reeks of petty bitterness rather than truly subversive ingenuity.
Listen to: ‘Vampire’ by Antsy Pants
[youtube width=”457″ height=”343″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w5ngc_VQMSw[/youtube]
Some of your favourite musicians like Woods, Cocorosie, Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear, and singer-harpist, Joanna Newsom, all fall under ‘Freak Folk’. A scary name for not-so-scary music, except maybe Joanna Newsom’s ghoulish wails.
‘Freak folk’ is only freaky because it employs unusual sounds (e.g. baroque, psychedlic), waxes lyrical about outre themes, and uses avant garde vocal styles on a template of folk music.
Listen to: ‘Peach Plum Pear’ by Joanna Newsom
[youtube width=”457″ height=”343″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KcHjAUhtSrk[/youtube]
minimal ambient music. either sublimely pure or amazingly dull. sounds like the inside of a womb or a seashell.
Listen to: ‘Stars Of Ice’ by Steven Roden. Turn up your volumes.
[youtube width=”457″ height=”343″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mq-flsYeX40[/youtube]
Not the sound of a punctured air bed, the onomatopoeic name echoes the act of “squeeezing out” the most interesting sounds possible in the production process, primarily from vintage synthesisers.
Originating from Sweden and Finland, ‘Skweee’ combines simple synthesiser or chiptune leads and basslines with funk, R&B or soul-like rhythms. The result is a mostly instrumental, stripped-down funky sound — like videogames transformed into weird Scandinavian aural magic.
Listen to: ‘Monkey Pee Monkey Poo’ by Daniel Savio
[youtube width=”457″ height=”343″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ts7fcKSF24[/youtube]
If 8-bit chiptunes in ‘Skweee’ music are too “soft” for you, ‘Nintendocore’ imbibes it with some hardcore bells and whistles so you can truly feel like Mario in a studded leather boiler suit. It’s Gameboy music fed through a grimy, metalcore filter. Our favourite nintendocore musicians: Crystal Castles.
Listen to: ‘Alice Practice’ by Crystal Castles
[youtube width=”457″ height=”343″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2H61navg3-c[/youtube]
Music not of your Hansel and Gretel candyhouse variety. Originally coined as a joke by Travis Egedy and friends to describe the occult-based house music they produced and later adopted completely unironically by bands like †††, ‘Witchhouse’ is what a zombie DJ would be spinning if you were clubbing in the Addams’ family house.
And don’t bother Googling †††, because you won’t get any results*. Apparently this typographical (and hence search engine) elusion is common among witchhouse bands to keep the scene as underground as possible. And you thought dance-punk band !!! (‘Chk Chk Chk’) was obscure.
Listen to: ‘Cobainen’ by Blvck Ceiling
[youtube width=”457″ height=”343″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WP457VyBF4w[/youtube]
And if you’re into listening to bands that don’t even exist yet, you might be interested in exploring some other obscure genres like Spacesynth, Schranz, Cowpunk, and Dementia.
*However, try Googling “Crosses band” instead.
By Zixin Lin