Music is one of the freest forms of expression in the world. There are no boundaries in music so a musician can express themselves however they see fit. No matter the sound, there is a music genre for it. Music genres like pop and rap are common knowledge, but what are some of the more obscure genres out there? Here are a few lesser-known music genres you might not know about.
Vaporwave is a relatively new music genre that popped up in the early 2010s. It is a subgenre of electronic music that combines samples of 80s and 90s mood music such as smooth jazz and lounge with electro-pop elements. Vaporwave usually incorporates 80s and 90s pop culture sounds/references in it as well. It is common for people to describe Vaporwave as sounding nostalgic due to these retro-sounding elements. You might hear the sounds of a windows 98 computer booting up or a late 80s commercial jingle on loop in many vaporwave songs.
This obscure music genre is a product of 2010s internet culture. It was actually a form of an internet meme for a while. Vaporwave often satirizes people’s obsession with consumerism, capitalism, pop culture, and technology. The genre started to become more and more popular on websites like Reddit and 4chan. Eventually, Vaporwave artists such as James Ferraro and Macintosh Plus started to gain a following breaking the music genre out of the underground.
Today, Vaporwave still has a decent following but is not nearly as big as it once was. This might be due to the oversaturation of the music or the tons of super subgenres that came out of Vaporwave. The genre was not supposed to be taken seriously so once it had its 15 minutes of fame, it went back to its underground roots. Vaporwave is worth listening to if you are a fan of electro or ambient music.
Powerviolence is one of the most extreme forms of music to come out of the 1980s hardcore punk genre. It is one of the fastest and most aggressive music genres you will ever hear. If you put death metal and punk music in a blender with a bunch of Adderall, you would get Powerviolence. Many songs are under a minute long and are very chaotic. The tempo can go from blistering fast to very slow heavy breakdowns, back to blistering fast in a matter of seconds.
This chaotic genre started back in the late 80s and early 90s in California after the hardcore punk scene started to die off. Hardcore punk bands such as Siege and Infest helped create the Powerviolence sound in the mid to late 80s but it wasn’t really a music genre until bands like Spazz, Capitalist Casualties, Man is the Bastard, and Charles Bronson came out in the early 90s.
Powerviolence was pretty big in the underground punk scene during this time but slowly faded away in the early 2000s. By this time there were too many generic Powerviolence bands in the scene and most of the original bands broke up or changed their sound. There are still good Powerviolence bands out there but they are a dime a dozen. If you are a fan of extreme music like grindcore or thrash, you probably will want to check out Powerviolence.
Extratone is quite possibly the fastest music ever made. It is a subgenre of EDM that ranges from 1000 bpm (beats per minute) to over 10,000 bpm! Extratone is so fast that the bass drum tracks sound more like a futuristic machine gun going off more so than an actual drum. This type of electronic music is borderline Harsh Noise (more on that later) but distinguishes itself just enough to stand on its own. Extratone has a small cult following here in the United States but is a bit more popular in Europe.
This strange style of EDM was created in the late 90s by a Belgian DJ named DJ Einrich. Einrich was heavily influenced by the EDM subgenre speedcore which was viewed as the fastest form of EDM in the world at that time. His goal was to figure out how to use oscillators in order to make kick drums into notes. He was successful and created an even faster genre than speedcore. Einrich decided to call this new music genre Extratone. He came up with Extratone by combining 2 German words; extrahieren, which means extract, and tone, which means note. He is now viewed as the Godfather to the Extratone genre.
As you can probably tell, Extratone is an acquired taste. It is so fast and jumbled that it nearly turns into chaos. This both attracts and turns off fans. Some people love the total anarchy sound of the music while others view it as just noise. This has created an Extratone scene that’s very similar to the DIY punk scene from the late 70s and 80s. If you are into experimental EDM music and have an open mind, you might want to give Extratone a try.
Narcocorrido might be the most controversial music genre on this list. Mexico actually tried to ban Narcocorrido music due to its subject matter. Narcocorrido is a style of Mexican music that glorifies drug dealers and cartels. It comes from the traditional Mexican music genre of corrido. The lyrics are usually about criminal acts that local cartels or drug lords commit. This can range anywhere from murder to the arrest of a drug lord.
The Narcocorrido genre started back in the 1970s but did not receive mainstream success until the 1990s. This could be due to the rapid growth of drug smuggling and cartels during the 90s. Many Narcocorrido musicians would watch the news and write songs about drug lords or cartels that were receiving the most media coverage. Usually, the most violent cartels or drug lords received the most praise from Narcocorrido bands.
Narcocorrido musicians have to be very careful when they write songs about theses dangerous cartels. If they praise a certain cartel too highly, for example, they run the risk of angering a rival cartel. They also can’t say the names of the drug lords or give to much information about the criminal activity of a cartels organization. If they do, there can be serious consequences. 12 narcocorrido musicians were killed between 2006 and 2008. Many people think they were murdered by cartels that took offense at their song lyrics.
5. Harsh Noise
The Harsh Noise genre is just that, Harsh Noise. It consists of sounds like static and other strange noises put together to create one of the weirdest genres out there. Many people don’t view Harsh Noise as real music, but music is subjective so calling it anything less than music would be unfair. The genre has been around since the late 70s and has pushed the boundaries of music to its limit.
Harsh Noise can be made in a variety of different ways. Usually, different types of music peddles, effects boards, and other electronic equipment are used to create Harsh Noise. However, it’s not uncommon to use nonmusical items such as vacuum cleaners, oil drums, and dishes to create the Harsh Noise sound. Sometimes instruments are used but they are usually distorted by the many effects being played through or over the instrument.
Harsh Noise has fans all over the world but has the biggest following in Japan. There is even a subgenre of Harsh Noise called Japanoise focusing on the unique Japanese style of the genre. An artist named Merzbow is one of the leading Japanoise musicians in the subgenre. Merzbow is also one of the biggest names in the Noise genre umbrella. As stated before, Harsh Noise and Japanoise are not for everyone, but if you want something completely different then you might want to look into Noise music.