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.

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.

Whoa. Here’s a nice surprise from a Quad Cities-based project that until this point has been nowhere near my personal radar. A five-track EP of mostly instrumental hip-hop beats from the Davenport duo Pariah and Robscire, Idle Hands perfectly scratches a sweet spot between the kinetic, proto-trap drum patterns and throbbing basslines of Memphis hip-hop staples such as Three 6 Mafia, and a strain of more tripped-out modern-rap beatmaking closer to, say, Death Grips.

The Davenport-based horror-score psych-rock experimental crew Giallows dropped a new track called “Lost Boy” on the most recent iteration of Bandcamp on March 5 – the first Friday of the month being the day the music-hosting platform cedes its usual share of profits directly to the artists, which has caused a huge monthly spike in both artist output and fan purchasing.

It took me, like, a minute into the first track on Iowa City experimental rock crew Nraakors’ album Hoppel Poppel to decide that I frickin' love this band.

Troll Trax Studios’ fiery compilation of Quad Cities technical death metal and grind core titled The Cave Compilation landed in January and laid out an entire roster of like-minded Midwest metal freaks that all proved capable of shredding our guts to pieces.

In the wake of Princess Dismal, December 2020’s album’s worth of outtakes that proved just as compelling as his typical “proper” album material, Rock Island’s resident drone kingpin and improbably prolific composer Terry Skaggs hovers back into view with a new batch of extended ambient meditations titled My Atlas of Never-Taken Paths.

Late in 2019, Iowa City's ZUUL dragged a large pile of small amps into a warehouse in Washington, Iowa. Even with a half-dozen amplifiers, an organ, drums, and sundry recording equipment, the three-piece barely took up more than a corner. The intention: to capture the minimalist intensity of their howling noise rock in a cavernous empty space, with microphones placed at intervals near and far to catch it all.