Are you bored of hearing the same, semi-whispered, vaguely English sounding female singer that pronounces every ‘s’ as ‘zsh’? Interested in expanding your musical horizons so far that you may just find yourself in another universe? Check out these fringe musical genres, shed the notion that ‘current’ and ‘new’ means ‘good’ and you may just find your newest old jam… this is not a suggestion that you eat twelve-year-old jam. Enjoy.
Taking existing songs and re-imagining them within a different, often older genre has been a view-generator online for a while now (check out the views gathered by Scott Bradlee’s). This trend is normally limited to taking contemporary songs and making them seem like songs of a by-gone 20th century style. What if we go back further? Much further? Welcome to the beautifully weird world of Bardcore.
Where nostalgia could be considered the main driver for the success of retrofication of modern pop songs, who is going to feel nostalgic for music from the medieval era? In part, it’s exposure to this little-known era and the accessibility of the modern song that allows for listening to Bardcore to be as much of a journey of discovery as simply listening to good music. Before long, you’ll forget the original lyrics to Lady GaGa’s ‘Hips Don’t Lie’ and find yourself singing Hildegard von Blingin’s version instead:
‘I want thy horror, I want thy design/Thou art a criminal whilst thou art mine’.
This genre is great when you want to relax and fall asleep. It is also great when you want to sit down and study. It is also great to wake up to instead of a shrill, jangling alarm clock. This genre is so chill, so laid back, it is hard not to like. One cannot imagine a person who really hates hard on chillhop (unless you don’t understand that definitions of art are not generated by any given individual). It is conversely difficult to imagine a person whose whole life is defined by listening to this microgenre in the same way as a punk or a metal-head. That is the beauty of chillhop; don’t think too hard for a while, recharge your batteries, Wagner can wait. Right now, stick those ear pods in, hold your mug of coffee close, close your eyes and get ready for whatever comes next.
Let’s cut out all this blissed-out ceiling gazing shall we? Let’s get some blood pumping! Japan has a solid pedigree when it comes to extreme, avant-garde metal. This is most evident in the amorphous, ever evolving genre of Japanoise (Japan—Noise).
Noise music is hard to get into. Most people do not have a proclivity for enjoying ‘extreme’ musical genres. Japanoise bands have always felt slightly more accessible to non metalheads due to the worth the put on musical competence as well as innovation. Still, it may be a tough sell if you want your grandma to listen. Try to imagine listening to bands like ‘Merzbow’ or ‘Melt Banana’ as similar to attending a good, immersive conceptual art exhibition (they do exist, promise). You don’t have to love it, but try to let the complexity and the discord make you think.
7 Gypsy Punk
When you listen to Django Reinhardt’s recordings, it feels revolutionary for the time. It sounds explosive when you consider that his music was published around the same time as Cole Porter and Bing Crosby were topping the charts stateside. The stripped back, free, joyful sounds that Reinhardt gave the world, drawing on tradition Romani music, is still getting banged out and getting people moving in the form of gypsy punk.
The cultural influences go beyond Romani music—polka, klezmer, rockabilly, English folk, it really is the ‘world music’ of punk. One of the main themes you’ll find is the notion of life being about seeking new experiences, allowing for wanderlust to drive your impulses. Next time you get married, make sure the band is a gypsy punk outfit and you can ensure the party will be remembered forever.
6 Traditional Georgian Folk Music
Beauty, they say, is in the eye of the beholder. In the case of this age-old musical tradition, beauty will be in the ear of the listener.
The history of polyphonic folk singing in Georgia dates back into antiquity, pre-dating Christianity coming to Georgia in the 4th Century. Back in 2001, Georgian polyphonic music was listed as one of the first entrances to UNESCOs list of ‘Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity’. Both Werner Herzog and the Coen Brothers have made use of the genre in their movies, offsetting their counter-culture films with songs that not only sound as though they’re from a time before we knew what time was, but also sound as though they come down from heaven itself. Hamlet Gonashvili, owner of one of the sweetest voices ever recorded, was a huge star within the genre. In 1985, at the height of his fame and gaining acknowledgment outside his native land, Gonashvili died from injuries after a fall from an apple tree. When you listen to the atmospheric, tragic-sounding songs he recorded, you’ll realise how fitting this way of dying seems.
5 Witch House
This is what Blade sticks on after a long day of pumping vampires full of silver. This is the music the CIA should blast at buildings housing key targets they wish to flush out. Good goat-headed god, this music is disconcerting. And yet…
The unholy marriage of EBM (electric body music), trance and industrial metal is haunting in every sense of the word. Why is it so difficult to stop listening to this stuff? Maybe it is infused with black magic that ensnares your soul and binds it to the tunes? Or maybe, if you can get over the overwhelming sense of foreboding and the uncanny, they’re pretty good tunes. Great as a soundtrack for your next community sacrifice, goat or baby!
Lots of people hate ‘prog rock’. People who love prog often claim that any hate levelled at bands like ‘Emerson, Lake and Palmer’ or ‘Yes’, must be coming from a position of ignorance; you just don’t get it, loser. This elitism and unapologetic embrace of intellectualism can be off-putting to the uninitiated, much as the bar-wrecking, foul-mouthed, saliva drenched crowds of weird looking teens were a barrier for many with regards to punk. The barrier to entry into the ‘Zeuhl’ sub-genre of prog? Well, avant-garde musician and writer Dominique Leone summed it up quite well: ‘Zeuhl’ is “about what you’d expect an alien rock opera to sound like”. You’re human, how could you possibly ‘get’ it?
Originating in late 60s France, Zeuhl means ‘celestial’ in the ‘Kobaïan’ language, an invented, ‘alien’ tongue created by Christian Vander, a drummer with the band ‘Magma’. The vibratory nature of the music really does conjure a sense of otherworldliness (or perhaps that should be offworldliness) along with a feeling of vastness which reflects the limitlessness of the universe… or something like that. Cosmic.
3 Italian Occult Psychadelia
Horror is a genre that works well in literature. Horror works, arguably, better in film (if we consider that the goal of the horror genre is to scare, the visual nature of film allows for the fear to get in to the bloodstream quicker, so to speak). It tends to suck in music. When a band dons the ‘horror’ motif, it is usually cheesy (overuse of fake blood, crappy costumes and groan-worthy band names) or overly reliant on a sense fandomish homage. It is not scary.
Italian Occult Psychadelia seems to have solved that problem. This music can be truly unnerving, even frightening, whilst avoiding a loss in the translation from the literary and filmic tropes that inform the music, especially the work of legendary Italian film director Dario Argento, Federico Fellini and Pier Paolo Pasolini, along with the banned ‘Cannibal’ movies of the 70s and 80s, and even Spaghetti Westerns. You’ll either love it, embracing the chills that’ll run up and down your spine, or throw your ear pods against a wall and run and hide in a cupboard (which is exactly where the serial killer wants you to hide).
2 Time Lord Rock
When Led Zeppelin took great inspiration from the work of J.R.R. Tolkien, they opened up Middle Earth for hordes of rock music lovers as a great accompaniment for their music, along with cannabis and not cutting your hair. Will bands like ‘Chameleon Circuit’ do the same for Doctor Who? Definitely not. But as far as IP-fan driven music goes, ‘Time Lord Rock’ isn’t half bad. Why does it hurt to write that?
The best way to enjoy this is to try and forget Doctor Who exists (unless you’re a fan, then you’ll be in heaven). It beats most other types of fandom pop into a cocked hat; these bands are pretty good. It also proves once and for all that Potterheads are the least creative, least open to new experiences and least talented people in all fandom culture.
1 Dark Cabaret
This is maybe the most commercial of all the genres on the list (maybe), having made a splash with 1998’s hit musical ‘Shockheaded Peter’ by the group Tiger Lilies who sing about crucifying Jesus (edgy!), or the popularity of bands like the ‘Dresden Dolls’. Still, one cannot imagine this type of music occupying spots 10-1 in the Billboard Chart. Unless, of course we, we go through some sort of Armageddon, allowing for the new, dark troubadours to wander the wasteland and delight us with accordion-driven songs about man’s follies. So, there’s hope, I guess.
About The Author: C.J. Phillips is a storyteller, actor and writer living in rural West Wales. He is a little obsessed with lists.