Muthoni the Drummer Queen in the video for “Nai Ni Ya Who?”
Muthoni the Drummer Queen in the video for “Nai Ni Ya Who?”

Philip Montoro, Reader music editor

Vukari at Ultra Lounge on Sat 11/2 In June, when local atmospheric black-metal band Vukari self-released its debut full-length, Matriarch, it was a studio-only project led by guitarist, vocalist, and composer Marek Cimochowicz. I was lucky enough to see the band’s first live set, which I’m sure fans will still be talking about years from now—the furiously melodic, flawlessly paced, hair-raisingly beautiful songs made the leap to the stage with barely a hiccup. Cimochowicz’s bemused, befuddled demeanor and utterly unmetal appearance were just gravy.

Tarbaby at Constellation on Fri 11/8 Pianist Orrin Evans, bassist Eric Revis, and drummer Nasheet Waits play music full of rhythmic slippages and shattered phrases that still manages to groove like hell, tricking your brain into thinking you’re listening to jazz, blues, or even gospel even though it never resolves into any of them. With sly, dry wit and slippery self-effacing humor, Tarbaby stays just out of reach.

Muthoni the Drummer Queen, “Nai Ni Ya Who?” I discovered Kenyan rapper and drummer Muthoni Ndonga a couple years ago via the sultry, simmering “Mikono Kwenye Hewa.” Lately this certifiable badass has devoted much of her energy to organizing a popular east African outdoor concert series called Blankets & Wine, but since October she’s been releasing a new album, MDQ, by posting a song per week online. The infectious “Nai Ni Ya Who?” rides on a seesawing megaton electro-rap beat crowded with bubbling, chattering percussion, and the words to its defiant playground-chant hook mean “Whose Nairobi is this?” The right answer is pretty obvious.

Philip is curious what’s in the rotation of . . .

A still from Antwon’s video for “Dying in the Pussy”
A still from Antwon’s video for “Dying in the Pussy”

Carmelo Española, photographer, drummer in Sämber

Vassafor, The Obsidian Codex At Chaos in Tejas, I met a gentleman from New Zealand and mentioned that I like the blackened death metal coming out of his country: Diocletian, Witchrist, Heresiarch. He tipped me off to Vassafor, the black-­metal project of VK (formerly of Diocletian and currently a live member of Blasphemy). The Obsidian Codex floored me with its density, but its layers stayed distinct due to VK’s meticulous engineering. Largely ignored by the metal press, this album proves that New Zealand is a force to be reckoned with.

White Ring, Black Earth That Made Me Most witch house is just too damn boring, recycling the same beat/hand-clap/beat pattern. White Ring is probably the one such band to keep my attention lately. They caught my ear with a cover of Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, My My,” and their EP Black Earth That Made Me hasn’t left my iPod since—I listen to it weekly at least. Its hooks, Godfleshy beats, minimalist synths, and reverb-drenched vocals can keep the flecktarn-­parka-wearing/clove-smoking kids happy.

Antwon, “Dying in the Pussy” video In college I took video-editing classes where I had to watch selected clips at SAIC’s Video Data Bank, then write about them—and the kooky stuff I saw awakened my appreciation for the weirder things in life. Antwon’s video for “Dying in the Pussy” takes me back to those years with its low-budget genius. Green screen with clips of disasters, demolitions, and car accidents? Check. Ladies who could be extras in a Selena video? Check. Chunky beats, smooth flow, and memorable hooks? Check, check, check. This was the only music video I cared for all year.

Carmelo is curious what’s in the rotation of . . .

Aborym, <i>Fire Walk With Us</i>
Aborym, Fire Walk With Us

Adam Jennings, member of Winters in Osaka and Sick/Tired

Aborym, Fire Walk With Us Attila Csihar is better known for his role in Mayhem and his collaborations with Sunn O))), but it’s his performance on this bizarre 2001 album by Italian band Aborym that stands out as my favorite. The Hungarian madman croaks, groans, huffs, whispers, and screams throughout this underappreciated metal classic, which could be described as a psychedelic bastard cyberpunk love child of Ministry and Thorns . . . in space. The Burzum cover is incredible as well.

Rob’s soundtrack to the 2012 Maniac remake Though Elijah Wood’s performance is horrendous in this remake of the 1980 cult slasher film Maniac (which didn’t really need to be remade), I can’t write the movie off completely due to the fact that its soundtrack is brilliant. An artist who calls himself simply “Rob” provides total John Carpenter worship that should appeal to fans of the Death Waltz catalog, Steve Moore, recent Not Not Fun releases, and all-around wonderful synth music.

Mala I have a feeling that 2013 will go down as the year of Mala. Already considered a dubstep pioneer, last year he dropped an amazing album called Mala in Cuba, which blends his trademark sub­frequency bass style with traditional Cuban music; this April he did a wonderful mix for BBC Radio 1’s Essential Mix that features plenty of reggae mixed in with tracks from Cuba. Plus he absolutely smashed it at Smart Bar over the summer. Mala remains one of the only artists breathing fresh life into this genre.

Philip Montoro

Philip Montoro has been an editorial employee of the Reader since 1996 and its music editor since 2004. Pieces he has edited have appeared in Da Capo’s annual Best Music Writing anthologies in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011. He shared two Lisagor Awards in 2019 for a story on gospel pioneer Lou Della Evans-Reid and another in 2021 for Leor Galil's history of Neo, and he’s also split three national awards from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia: one for multimedia in 2019 for his work on the TRiiBE collaboration the Block Beat, and two (in 2020 and 2022) for editing the music writing of Reader staffer Leor Galil. Philip has played scrap metal in Lozenge, drummed with the Disasters, the Afflictions, and Brilliant Pebbles, and sung for the White Outs. He wrote the column Beer and Metal from 2012 till 2015, and hopes to do so again one day. You can also follow him on Twitter.