Slutwave, Tumblr Rap, Rape Gaze: Obscure Musical Genres Explained
In our music feature this week, Jason Roche dissects heavy metal by subgenre, running down everything from black metal to thrash to death 'n roll and pornogrind.
Yes, all of those are real things, and metal is far from the only musical discipline full of this kind of stuff. In fact, music geeks take pride in name-dropping (and coining) exceedingly obscure handles to describe sound. Which is why, below, we're giving you entree into this exclusive, nerdy club, offering explanations of eleven of the most strangely named musical genres. Thanks to Jena Ardell for her illustrations, and to rape gaze for already having gone out of vogue.
This strain of soupy, sometimes bracing and gorgeous alternative rock was born of yes, mopey Brits staring at their feet. They were probably doing so because of flagship bands like My Bloody Valentine and Ride's walls of echoing noise. (Fortunately, the music is equally ideal for gazing at your naked bedmate as much as bunion-watching.) At its deepest, shoegaze sounds like great songs dunked in water and fed through some kind of sonar tracking device. On Slowdive's seminal "Alison" for instance, the effect is disembodied androgynous voices, or something akin to whale songs. -Dan Weiss
Tumblr rappers barely exist outside of their namesake social networking site, where teens decamped after their parents discovered Twitter. Starry-eyed adolescents upload videos of themselves rapping in their bedrooms; Odd Future paved a path, but many in this subset have never played an actual show in their lives. The genre's budding star is Kitty Pryde, a disarmingly earnest 19-year-old Florida white girl rapper, whose lyrics are like a cross between a diary and a scrapbook -- confessional yet full of references to The Ramones, Waka Flocka Flame, and the Powerpuff Girls. She's a breakout success, and has even played a real concert in New York! It's enough to get A&Rs sifting through Tumblr memes. -Rebecca Haithcoat
Chillwave is dream-pop that's been floating in a backyard pool and left out in the sun to dry off and fade a little. As its name suggests, synths and eroded samples flutter up in waves to resemble seafaring movements or glistening waterfalls, with hazy vocals struggling to be made out clearly. Home-recording practitioners like Ariel Pink, Washed Out and Neon Indian play EZ-listening muzak and synth-pop as if you're hearing it through an old VCR or Talkboy tape recorder. Branded "glo-fi" and "hypnagogic pop" early on, it's really just new age with a nostalgia fetish. Grab an NES controller and buckle up. -Dan Weiss
For some extreme metal bands, it's not enough to pummel you into submission with down-tuned guitar riffs, jackhammer beats and constipated-demon vocals. They need to add a little death, dismemberment and decomposition into the mix, too. Welcome to goregrind, a subgenre of metal with lyrics and album art so disgusting, it makes the Saw movies look like Breakfast at Tiffany's. Goregrind classics include such gut-churners as Carcass' "Vomited Anal Tract," Repulsion's "Splattered Cadavers" and Cattle Decapitation's "Writhe in Putrescence." -Andy Hermann
Initially a neologism of the snarky music criticism blog Hipster Runoff, slutwave describes the hyper-sexualized female pop acts who sing of kissing and telling while being dressed, well, provocatively. Slutwave isn't anything new -- the sub-genre's godmother is Madonna, she having ushered in a powerful era of female sexuality in pop music, and the torch is being carried on by Rihanna, Katy Perry, Britney Spears, Ke$ha, Miley Cyrus and Lana Del Rey (above). Slutwave may sound like negative branding, but these ladies are just vocalizing and embodying sex in a way their male counterparts have been doing for years. -K.C. Libman
Coined last June by a Brooklyn DJ named Lil Internet after he had a dream about a leather jacket with barnacles instead of studs, Seapunk came to life after he and some Twitter friends began exchanging jokes followed by "#seapunk." By fall, Soulja Boy, Kreayshawn and Azealia Banks had begun using the hashtag. Meanwhile, a producer named Albert Redwine started a label called Coral Records Internazionale dedicated to the sound: electronic music heavily influenced by both Southern rap and '90s house/techno/trance. Seapunk leapt off the Internet to make a splash in real life at parties in L.A., Chicago and New York, where the fans show up in the genre's stylistic elements -- hair dyed aquamarine, blue face paint and clothing bearing aquatic cartoon characters. Even Lady Gaga and Katy Perry seem to have dived in, what with their turquoise hair. -Rebecca Haithcoat
On a Sunday night in 1976, a Washington, D.C., radio intern named Melvin Lindsey was unexpectedly called to fill in at a station called WHUR. Though he was inexperienced, his satiny voice and his mellow soul and R&B records made him a local favorite. His show was dubbed "The Quiet Storm" after the introspective album from Smokey Robinson (above), and the format took off across the country, the aural equivalent of a glass of wine after a long day. In the mid-'80s, L.A.'s KUTE even boasted an all quiet storm format, and it soldiers on today with KJLH's Kevin Nash spinning genre hallmark artists like Anita Baker, Marvin Gaye and Sade, as well as newer torch carriers like Jill Scott, Maxwell and Raheem DeVaughn. -Rebecca Haithcoat
Sometimes punk just ain't enough; that's the driving force behind hardcore. It can always be faster, louder rougher and shorter. But what happens when hardcore isn't enough? The answer: Powerviolence. Super heavy and ultra fast, powerviolence first appeared in the late '80s with bands like No Comment and Crossed Out, who thrived on no-bullshit hardcore punk distilled down to its most basic elements. Powerviolence began in California, and the SoCal scene is overwhelmingly Latino, but it enjoys popularity around the world. Devotees clamor for the heavy feedback, sludgy mosh breakdowns, intense vocal delivery and (often) disturbing clips from cholo gangster movies. -Nicholas Pell
Apocalyptic folk originated in the 1980's from England's post-industrial circle of closely connected bands including Current 93, Death in June and Sol Invictus. The music is characterized by acoustic instrumentation often with industrial, synth or experimental elements. Current 93's David Tibet (above) coined the term, identifying it as music created by 'apocalyptic folk' and stemming from Tibet's diverse interests including death, mysticism, Christ, Crowleyism and Tibetan Buddhism. The term "neofolk" is more broadly used, and includes contemporary artists such as Of the Wand & the Moon, Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio and Rome (who perform at Bar Sinister on July 21). Currently most neofolk bands and labels are based in Europe. -Alex Westhoff
Popular at raves from Brussels to Detroit, breakcore expanded the boundaries of what electronic music could be, incorporating mash-ups and noise with jungle beats and breaks into an unholy brew sure to piss off your parents. It specializes in incorporating the Amen break in a super fast and aggressive way. The genre has fragmented into a thousand pieces, with some preferring the chaotic element of the sound and others gravitating toward the happy hardcore influences and mash-up silliness. A 2006 documentary on the scene, called Notes on Breakcore attempted to attract mainstream attention, but none but the most dedicated scenesters saw it. -Nicholas Pell
Rape gaze caused an outbreak of blog chatter in 2010, after a Brooklyn act called Creep invented the term, in jest, to describe their sound. (This photo gives a rough approximation of the look they were referencing.) "[W]e take a lot of pictures and we look super serious and we kind of call that our 'rape gaze.' Some people might call it 'bedroom eyes,' said duo member DJ Lauren Flax. More accurately, but hardly less bizarre, Creep's music could have been called witch house, a slow, noisy, drone with roots in the glacial-paced hip-hop remix style of Houston's DJ Screw. Witch house, of course, was also coined as a joke. -Ben Westhoff
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