Iowa City-based underground jack-of-all-trades Samuel Locke Ward is one of those dudes around whom a scene seems to coalesce. He plays in numerous bands and one-off projects, maintains a busy slate of releasing new solo music, and recently dropped a full duo album with Mike Watt of Minutemen on which, not to put too fine a point on it, he served as the D. Boon-esque singer/songwriter/guitarist foil to Watt’s still-sick bass shredding.

There must be something in the water in the Quad Cities that makes absolute shredders out of its residents. I feel like every month, when I’m digging through local music on Bandcamp, some new project that I’ve never heard of before leaps out at me with a malevolent grin and says, “Here, take this masterful, fully realized [death metal] [black metal] [progressive metal] [grindcore] album that was probably recorded in some guy's home studio but that hits with rock-solid ideas and a professional level of production that can compete with the most high-budget release on a larger label.”

Once again, thanks to Bandcamp’s region-based search, I've happened upon an inexplicable pocket of highly technical metal nestled somewhere along the riverbanks of the Mississippi, this time courtesy of Davenport-based shredder Austin Korth. If the material he has here is any indicator, his self-proclaimed quest to "play and record as much music as possible" (as per his Bandcamp bio) shows plenty of promise for idiosyncratic Quad Cities home recording.

Whoa! Before discovering this gem on Bandcamp, I had no idea that living legend Mike Watt, the bassist and co-guiding force of seminal independent punk progenitors Minutemen and a whole host of other great projects from the '80s and beyond, had a duo with an Iowa-based musician – Iowa City’s jack-of-all-trades songwriter/singer/multi-instrumentalist Samuel Locke Ward (a.k.a. SLW). As you might expect from anything in Watt’s orbit, it rips.

Perhaps you’ll be surprised to learn that William Campbell, the composer of the film’s spectral, gorgeous soundtrack resides right here in lovely Davenport, Iowa – and that this isn’t even his first film to receive an Academy Award nomination, the first being 2018's Lifeboat. Quad Cities representing!

Well, I, for one, am glad that groups of plucky young musicians get together and decide to make jazz fusion in the year 2021. As an avowed devotee of late-'60s through -'70s fusion as pioneered by the likes of Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, and Mahavishnu Orchestra, I can’t help but smile when a contemporary band can hit with horn voices, electronics, and funk rhythms all at once. Iowa City’s four-piece band Wave Cage get there.

The rate at which prolific musicians in the Bandcamp era can churn out new material on a short notice will never cease to amaze me. The idea of an “album cycle” in which an artist drops one album a year, or even less frequently, and spends the time between proper releases promoting and performing based around one album’s material still exists in the upper echelons of the music industry.

Rock Island-based black-metal band Everlasting Light has been a favorite Quad Cities project of mine since the release of Heavy Sanctuary back in 2019. A project that revels in the extra layer of obfuscating scuzz that comes from a more informal approach to recording, they still always manage to hit a sweet spot between the high fidelity detail of a “proper” studio take and the more room-tone-soaked final product of a DIY demo tape.

Iowa City-based producer landethics’ release phantom tidepools appeared in the Reader’s pages back when it was released in May of 2020, and its lovely blend of post-video game OST melodicism and tonal choices, fused with a fine-tuned sense of beat programming, won my heart.

Bettendorf’s resident freak-noise-slash-post-rap industrial producer/vocalist VoidDweller has been trolling our eardrums with their aggro strain of free-for-all genre-mashing psychosis for a minute now, but the charmingly titled cum is probably their most fully formed and ultimately “complete” release to date.

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