In the last several years, there's been an explosion of small-scale DIY music. Altered Zones is a team of 14 music blogs dedicated to exploring these emerging musical worlds, traversing genres from psych and drone to electronic and underground pop. Our mission is to highlight the most notable and adventurous new artists, and to serve as a focal point for the flood of creativity coming from deep within the music underground.

To launch the site, we've each chosen one favorite track, cassette, and album from the first half of this year. Today we open with tracks, cassettes will be covered tomorrow, and albums will run on Friday. Our regular posting schedule begins Monday. We hope you enjoy reading and listening.

Welcome to Altered Zones.


WU LYF: "Heavy Pop"


Transparent says:
We love this song for its convulsive negative electricity and cracked beauty. It's quite a feat for a song this insanely loose to be so hard-hitting and emphatic, but "Heavy Pop" somehow manages, rattling along on heroically punch-drunk percussion but retaining a peculiar stateliness in its faraway funeral chords and cathedral echo. Then there's that voice to get over-- that excoriating, hell-scorched, torture-rack, dream-stalking strangled howl of a voice.

MP3: WU LYF: "Heavy Pop"

Concrete Gold/Heavy Pop 12" is available now at wulyf.org (limited to 500)


Raw Moans: "Rose Bath"

Don't Die Wondering says:
I was first introduced to Raw Moans' re-imagining of forgotten hip-hop classics into soulful bedroom hymns by "Fuck the Day," a tender, yet fey interpretation of an old Snoop jam. That song's follow-up, "Rose Bath", seems to encapsulate even more expressively the record's title: "We Want It Beautiful Not Real." A mantra completely lacking any sense of irony or bravado, such a sense of yearning for something transient or completely non-existent is perfectly borne out in the twisted melodies, ghostly falsettos and funereal synths of these songs.

MP3: Raw Moans: "Rose Bath"

Raw Moans CD-R is forthcoming on Disaro


Dead Luke: "The Best Drug I've Ever Done"

Raven Sings the Blues says:
Hailing from the Madison, WI experimental scene that produced Zola Jesus and Julian Lynch, Dead Luke's first proper LP, American Haircut, is a psychedelic opus that culminates in the swirling, murky pools of album closer, "The Best Drug I've Ever Done." This track seems to encapsulate everything that's come before; it's a deep, slow burn, building on shimmer and drone. And rather than explode into chaotic waves of climax, it simply melts away into the ether, leaving you wondering what audio specter just transpired.

MP3: Dead Luke: "The Best Drug I've Ever Done"

American Haircut LP is out now on Florida's Dying (limited to 500)


Echo Lake: "In Dreams"

20 Jazz Funk Greats says:
We just had a baby. He’s our first.

His eyes, pale blue horizonless seas of unfocused consciousness. His hands, frantic, uncoordinated attempts at spatial awareness. It's difficult not to anthropomorphise what's in his newly formed cortex of neurons, blowing miniature electrostatic kisses at each other for the very first time.

We listened to this song a lot during the final days of my wife's pregnancy. Its naive, tentative lullaby qualities and hopeful nature seemed to fit with the change about to come, and I like to think it's what our boy is now trying to sing to us-- the sound from in there.

MP3: Echo Lake: "In Dreams"


Mind Spiders: "World's Destroyed"

Weekly Tape Deck says:
Their power-pop steez and addictive hum-along hook put Denton's Mind Spiders right at home in the Dirtnap Records catalog. The two opening chords of "World's Destroyed" are a concentrated tease, only alluding to the pop madness about to be unleashed. One of four offerings from Marked Men guitarist/vocalist Mark Ryan's debut solo EP, this is proof that the North Texas scene is holding strong.

MP3: Mind Spiders: "World's Destroyed"

Mind Spiders 7" is out now on Dirtnap


Ariel Pink with Added Pizzazz: "In the Heat of the Night"

Gorilla vs. Bear says:
Ariel Pink
's first post-Before Today output comes in the form of "In the Heat of the Night," the opening track from his new collaborative 12" EP with avant-jazzers Yells at Eels (aka Added Pizzazz), a Dallas/Denton crew flanked by local legends the Gonzalez family. Previously heard on the abbreviated version of "Hot Body Rub" that kicks off Before Today, the free-jazz group showcases their steez on this woozy, slightly off-kilter jam, which was recently aptly summed up by an anonymous scribe as "Roxy Music on DMT."

MP3: Ariel Pink with Added Pizzazz: "In the Heat of the Night"

Ariel Pink with Added Pizzazz 12" is out July 9 on Free Dope and Fucking in the Streets


Up Died Sound: "Dust"

Visitation Rites says:
If you've ever taken music lessons, "Dust" by Brooklyn's Up Died Sound will return you to the time when you played your first harmonic minor scale and gasped as a new universe opened up before you-- the perfumed and half-imaginary unknown that Westerners once knew as "the Orient." Here, rock comes face to face with its non-Western alter ego, the hybrid of Anglo-American psych and traditional Arabesque music forged by Turkish legends Selda Bağcan and Erkin Koray. Perhaps psychedelia has always been about finding a way out, but this jam offers two modes of egress: one guitar arching upward like the ceiling of Alhambra, and another driving down toward the center of the earth, hoping to emerge on the other side.

MP3: Up Died Sound: "Dust"


D/R/U/G/S - "Love (Love/Lust)"

Get Off the Coast says:
This spiraling club sprawler slings you through a vortex of sound and emotion in instances that bleed between lines of reality and fiction, allowing you to sink into a semi-comatose state. D/R/U/G/S couldn't be a more appropriate name for the group, and this track's ability to leave you with an almost carnivorous desire for more leans towards lust more than love.

MP3: D/R/U/G/S: "Love (Love/Lust")

Get more D/R/U/G/S on Tumblr


Games: "Planet Party"

Friendship Bracelet says:
"Planet Party" soundtracks an artificial body's programmed inclination to get down. From standing position, muscular pistons churn and high horsepower heart chambers pump thick, oil-rich blood solution to the extremities. Inertia builds quickly, and for the following two and a half minutes, the intelligent body can do no wrong, impressing male and female bodies alike with its handclap-like heart sequence.

MP3: Games: "Planet Party"

Get more Games at Soundcloud


Oberhofer: "I Could Go"

Yours Truly says:
Sometimes I wish I was a kid again, as Ahmad once said. Back in the day, I didn't have a care in the world. Youthful naivete is bliss, and that’s what makes Oberhofer so great. At just 22, Brad Oberhofer is creating music at a level far beyond his years. His effortless blend of scream-sung lyrics, skip-along whistling, erratic percussion, and unexpected song dynamics is one that many bands attempt without success. But Oberhofer's approach feels genuine, and that's precisely what draws you in. It's that youthful flair, that unadulterated sound, that makes this music so appealing.

MP3: Oberhofer: "I Could Go"

o0O0o0O0o 7" is out August 3 and available for pre-order at Insound


Tennis: "Marathon"

Delicious Scopitone says:
It's pouring as I write this, and with my mind on "Marathon" by Tennis, I could drown in the wide puddles of water forming all around me. "Marathon" was written about the Denver-based husband/wife duo's experience sailing around the East Coast together, and listening to its breezy beauty makes it easy to imagine the feeling of being out at sea.

MP3: Tennis: "Marathon"

Marathon 7" is out later this month via Underwater Peoples


Velvet Davenport: "Lemon"

Chocolate Bobka says:
The last time I caught a glimpse of the underworld was on a rainy Spring afternoon. The rain had penetrated the roof of my building and flooded my kitchen, spraying the marble floor with glistening metallic drops. Closer examination proved they were not raindrops, but tiny other worlds, and I saw Velvet Davenport inside of one. These early psychedelic seekers and fractal dreamers sang a joyous tune, uniting the people in their enchanted bliss. "Lemon" was the song, and they told me it came from the mental vault of a visionary voyager who got lost somewhere along the way. Hopefully he/she will hear the song and find their way back to the droplet.

Velvet Davenport: "Lemon"

Lemon Drop Square Box cassette is out now on Moon Glyph (limited to 200)


Gobble Gobble: "Wrinklecarver"

The Road Goes Ever On says:
There was a short period when I thought I'd never hear another song that made that familiar smile grow across my face-- the one you get when you click play and immediately know you’ve found something special, something unique. Fortunately, the words of Gobble Gobble's Cecil Frena in "Wrinklecarver"("I don't wanna live without it/ I don’t wanna think about it") brought it back months ago. Bizarre synth textures and an unmatched vocal presence leave energy dripping from every second of this song, like honey oozing from the combs of an apiary long since farmed.

Gobble Gobble: "Wrinklecarver"

Follow Gobble Gobble on Tumblr


Sun Araw: "Deep Cover"

Rose Quartz says:
Cameron Stallones' smoked out dub-brooder feels positively anthemic. Set more in a trash heap of defunct soul feelings than in the neo-mystical ruins of previous endeavours, the vibes run real deep on this seven minute jammer. It's drenched in a type of dread that seems both antiquated and ultra modern; maybe he's found some tear in the cosmic tissue between his voice and the lost ones he tries to summon, maybe he's just speaking from the heart. Either way, those squelched drums and eerie-ass organ warbles make for some weird and powerful new gospel; drop in, drop out.

Sun Araw: "Deep Cover"

On Patrol CD is out now on Not Not Fun

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